The Whole Tree
Foresters are dedicated to maximizing the use of every tree that is harvested. Improvements in technology, science
and a skilled workforce have improved milling efficiency, resulting in greater lumber recovery and less waste. When
a tree is harvested, all parts of the tree are used. The lumber is used in carbon-storing building materials and
wood products. Pulp and paper are processed from wood chips. Energy is produced from sawmill and harvesting residue
in the form of biomass. More than 5,000 different products including resins, glues, cosmetics and food are produced
What other raw material has the beauty, strength and versatility of wood? It is affordable, durable, structurally
superior and elegant in its many applications.
Importantly, the forests that supply our wood also play a significant role in protecting our environment. They generate oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, locking carbon in the wood. About half the weight of dry wood is carbon, which remains in the wood for the life of the building product. While some carbon dioxide emissions are returned to the atmosphere when forests are harvested for products and energy, they are reabsorbed during the growth of the next generation. Young, fast-growing forests absorb carbon dioxide more rapidly than older forests. A neutral cycle of carbon release and uptake is the result.
In a sustainably managed forest, harvested trees are reforested. On average, three seedlings are planted for each tree harvested. As a result, the carbon storing cycle is continuously renewed.
Wood is a renewable resource that is created naturally. Other materials, such as steel, cement and plastic, are non-renewable products from factories powered by fossil fuels. Manufacturing these products generates far more air pollution, water pollution and solid waste than is generated in the production of wood products. Carbon emissions resulting from the production of steel (including 100% recycled steel), aluminum, concrete, and plastic are anywhere from 6 to 137 times higher than wood products. Clearly, wood is the smart environmental choice for building materials.
Policy: Recognizing the Value of Wood
Public policy has evolved in a way that, in many cases, discriminates against the use of wood as a green building material. Not all Green Building certification systems recognize the complete environmental value of building with wood. The fact is, all building materials made with wood should be granted State and Local certification—given wood products' unique and natural ability to sequester carbon for the life of the building product.
Forestry: A Preferred Land Use
It is important to keep our working forests working. A healthy working forest sequesters carbon and protects
wildlife habitat and water quality. They also add to the quality of our lives by maintaining open green space
across the landscape. Managing working forests through sustainable practices not only preserves natural resources
for subsequent generations, it provides green jobs, environmentally friendly products and renewable energy sources.
Yet today many of our private forests lands are at risk—due to economic factors that provide a higher financial return for the use of the land. Private forest landowners need markets for their products, which provides an incentive to maintain working forests to provide the economic and environmental benefits they return to society.
With proper incentives our private forests can remain sustainably managed working forests and continue their role in sequestering carbon, protecting soils, providing wildlife habitats as well as green products. Equally important, these healthy working forests will continue to support our rural communities and contribute to Washington State's economy. It is in the public's best interest to support sustainably managed, green working forests.
Policy: Keep Working Forests Working
Public policy that supports investment in managed forests is public policy that correctly recognizes that forestry is a green industry. While Washington's private forest landowners respect and abide by the state's strict regulation of forestland, it is important for policy makers to recognize and reward the enormous environmental benefits that forestland naturally provides to our state, our nation and our planet.