Sustainability Forestry

“The global demand for wood has increased every year since 1950 and continues to increase along with population. Most of the places in the world where wood is being grown is in plantations. There’s really only one place where trees are grown in a native ecosystem and that’s here in the Pacific North West.”

“This is the most environmentally sustainable place on earth to grow wood.”

-Dr. Thomas Maness, Dean of the College of Forestry,
Oregon State University

Buildings made of materials grown by the power of the sun are healthy, natural and renewable — requiring far less energy than man-made building materials.  Wood products that come from sustainably managed forests play an important role in protecting our climate.



Trees remove CO2 from the atmosphere by storing carbon in leaves, branches, and primarily in the trunk as wood.  Young, healthy, vigorously growing trees sequester carbon at a higher rate than older trees, which absorb less carbon as they mature. Healthy forests–both young and old–provide significant environmental benefits.  In fact, Pacific Coast forests provide 39% of all carbon storage in the U.S., the highest average carbon storage per acre in the United States.[1]

Washington’s forests and harvested wood products absorb and store 28% of the state’s total emissions.[2]

sustainModern, scientific forestry is sustainable and renewable.  Trees are harvested then replanted. (Nearly 100 million trees are replanted each year in Washington and Oregon managed forests, each one by hand). This cycle of harvesting and replanting stores carbon–not only in living trees in the forest, but in finished wood products such as lumber and furniture. Substituting wood for non-renewable resources such as concrete and steel can be a major factor in reducing greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.

Sustainable Forest Management

“In the long term, a sustainable forest management strategy aimed at maintaining or increasing forest carbon stocks, while producing an annual sustained yield of timber, fiber, or energy from the forest, will generate the largest sustained mitigation benefit.”

– Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 4th Assessment

Managed forests in the U.S. are making a difference.  There is nearly 60% more wood in our forests than there was 60 years ago.[3] Carbon stocks in domestic timberlands are, on average, growing at more than twice the rate of harvests. According to the United States Forest Service, from 2006 to 2011, the growth-to-removal ratio on these lands has increased from 1.7 to 2.1. In Washington that ratio is 2.2; in Oregon it is 1.96.[4]

Washington and Oregon Forestland Ownership

Washington and Oregon’s forests cover almost half of the state’s geography, mostly west of the Cascade Mountain Range.  These endless green canopies are home to a unique variety of trees, species, plants, and animals.  Foresters study local conditions and customize scientific forestry programs that protect the native species in each local region, while harvesting timber to produce renewable wood products.

Oregon and Washington’s forest landownership has evolved over the years. Today about two-thirds of the state’s forestland is managed by state, federal and tribal governments; and one-third is privately owned. This diversity of ownership allows our forests to fulfill many economic, social, and environmental needs. Private forests provide about 75% of the wood harvested each year. Oregon and Washington combined produce 30% of the nation’s softwood lumber.

In our state and national parks, wilderness areas and wildlife refuges, forests continue to flourish as they have for centuries.  In our working forests, trees are grown, harvested and replanted in a continuous cycle, sustainably providing the forest and paper products we use every day. Drag your mouse over the pie chart for details.

National Forest

Gross Acres
Timber Harvest

The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of the present and future generations. They work to achieve quality land management under the sustainable multiple-use management concept.

Federal Wilderness

Gross Acres
Timber Harvest

Wilderness designations are granted by an Act of Congress for Federal land that retains a “primeval character” and that has no human habitation or development. The United States was the first country to officially designate land as “wilderness” through the Wilderness Act of 1964.

Federal Parks, Scenic, Wildlife Refuge and other

Gross Acres
Timber Harvest

The first National Park was Yellowstone, established in 1872, for the enjoyment, education, inspiration and for future generations. Federal and state governments establish land use designations for specific purposes, such as Wild & Scenic Areas, National Parks & Monuments and Wildlife Refuges.

Bureau of Land Management

Gross Acres
Timber Harvest

In Oregon about 2.4 million acres were set aside in 1937 to provide revenue to 18 counties in western Oregon from timber production.

State Forestland

Gross Acres
Timber Harvest

At statehood, Congress granted “trust” lands to generate timber revenues, primarily supporting public schools. The lands are managed by the State of Washington Department of Natural Resources and Oregon State’s Board of Forestry.

County & Municipal

Gross Acres
Timber Harvest

In Washington the Forest Board was created in 1923 to manage lands acquired through tax foreclosures to be managed for timber production.

Native American

Gross Acres
Timber Harvest

Tribal forestland includes commercial forestland that is actively managed and producing forest products, as well as lands that are valued for their cultural and spiritual significance.

Forest Industry Lands (Industrial Private)

Gross Acres
Timber Harvest

Private forest landowners practice sustainable forestry and provide most of the wood harvested each year, 74% in 2013. Oregon and Washington lead the nation in the production of softwood lumber providing 30% of the nation’s lumber output.

Family Forest Landowners (Nonindustrial Private)

Gross Acres
Timber Harvest

Family forest landowners manage their forests for timber, other forest products, recreation, aesthetics, fish and wildlife. Family forests range from a few acres up to 5,000 acres.

Washington Forestland
(22.4 million acres)
Public = 57%
(12,813,000 acres)
Private = 36%
(7,926,000 acres)
Tribal = 7%
(1,621,000 acres)
Oregon Forestland
(30 million acres)
Public = 64%
(19,200,700 acres)
Private = 34%
(10,308,200 acres)
Tribal = 2%
(475,100 acres)

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Working Forests: A Win-Win for the Economy and Environment

sustain2While over half of Washington State is forested (about 23 million acres), some 53% of the acreage is restricted from timber harvesting. On much of the remaining land, working forests make up the backbone of our state’s wood products industry.  It’s an industry that supports more than 107,000 workers, generating more than $4.5 billion in wages annually. In a sustainably managed forest, harvested trees are replanted. On average, three seedlings are planted for each tree harvested.

In addition to supporting rural economies, working forests are a source of clean water and healthy habitat for fish and wildlife. These forests also store carbon in their trees, and in the wood products that come from trees, reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in our earth’s atmosphere. Working forests are also a source of renewable biomass used to create green energy.

Private forest landowners maintain this valuable natural resource through sustainable and scientific forest practices, creating green jobs that are vital to our state’s economy and environment.

Working Forest Lands: Managed for Sustainability

State, federal and tribal governments manage some two-thirds of Oregon and Washington’s 53 million acres of forested land.  About one-third is privately owned.  In an average year, private forestlands supply about 75% of the timber that is harvested to produce wood products.

Only about 2% of commercial forestland is actively harvested at any given time. For every 100 acres of working forests, 98 acres are currently in the growth phase, dedicated to re-growing a new forest.  In fact, more than 100 million trees are replanted each year in Washington and Oregon’s forests.  this yields generation after generation of renewable, sustainable wood and wood products through stewardship of working forest lands.


2013 Timber Harvest:

Private                 74%

State & County    13%

Tribal                    5%

Federal                 8%




Working Forest Lands: Economic Impact

map-FWith proper incentives our private forests can continue to offer their many benefits: Providing a sustainable natural resource; sequestering carbon from the atmosphere; protecting soil and clean water; creating wildlife habitat; and serving as the source of responsible green products.

Equally important, these healthy working forests provide an economic base for rural communities, with family-wage jobs for some 107,000 workers  which in turn generate millions in tax revenue to local and state government. Clearly, it is in the best interest of the region, from urban to rural communities, to support our sustainably managed, working forests.

“For forest ownership and stewardship to remain viable it must remain economically rewarding as well for landowners. By generating rural wealth, we can make it possible again for landowners to sustain our forests and our working landscapes.”

– Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

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Sustainable Forestry Certification

The United States’ forestry regulations adhere to the highest environmental standards in the world. Unfortunately, many of the forests around the world lack North America’s strong governance. While many landowners find value for their customers in third-party certification programs, less than 2% of the forest area in African, Asian, and tropical forests are certified, where the threat of deforestation is the greatest.

– The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Ch. 11 Pg. 868

Eighty-four percent of the world’s certified forests are located in North America and Europe. While a variety of forest certification programs are recognized in the marketplace, they all seek to assure the consumer that the wood and paper products we use come from responsibly managed sustainable forests.

– International Tropical Timber Organization: Forest Certification Trends Pg. 25

Woody Biomass and Green Energy

“Enabling clean, renewable heat and power generation from forest biomass not only creates jobs and economic activity in our timber-dependent communities, it supports our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase treatment of our forested lands for health and fire reduction,”

Gov. Jay Inslee, Aug 27, 2014

The 21st century world economy is searching for alternatives to fossil fuels for both environmental purposes and for energy independence. Forests help provide a solution through the conversion of woody biomass to green energy. Woody biomass (wood chips, sawdust, bark, shavings, and tree trimmings) is a renewable source of energy harvested from sustainably managed forests.

Bioenergy could emerge as a new and valuable world market for wood. (See the National Climate Assessment report on the potential of bioenergy.) As a secondary benefit, thinning the forest for bioenergy could aid in the restoration of forests threatened by drought, insects, and fire.

According to the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the majority of biomass energy is produced from wood and wood wastes.[5] Today, woody biomass is the #2 source of renewable energy in the country, second only to hydropower as a renewable energy solution, and ranking ahead of wind and solar energy.[6]

Source: This chart is derived from the US Energy Information Administration.

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The Crisis of Forest Health

Unnaturally overcrowded and unhealthy forests often suffer from insect and disease outbreaks, making them more susceptible to catastrophic, destructive crown fires. (A crown fire is an uncontrollable blaze that leaps from treetop to treetop). Annually, wildfires are responsible for 0.5% of Washington’s total carbon emissions.[7] Every 21,000 acres that burn produce emissions that are equal to a million cars on the road, for a year.  These unnatural fires burn at such high temperatures that it often turns rich soil into clay, and devastates the forest ecosystem.

A Zombie Tree Chart

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Avoiding Catastrophic Wildfire

Twenty-six percent of the annual wood growth in Washington and 30% in Oregon is lost each year due to mortality, or trees dying because of insects, diseases and fire. These unhealthy forest conditions result from untended, unmanaged forests.[8] Active forest management can minimize the damage of wildfires, and return the land to its natural forest conditions. When natural fire cycles occur, these fires (and their emissions) are minor compared to the catastrophic fire of a neglected forest, fueled by the kindling of dead trees and untended forest undergrowth. Experts agree that forest health is a pressing issue and if unresolved will pose a serious economic and environmental threat. In 1999, the Government Accounting Office recommended that a strategy was needed to remove surplus fuel loads on federal forests. It’s important to note that two-thirds of the U.S. forest health problem is on federal forests.[9]


“We must dramatically accelerate the scale and pace of forest stewardship here on both public and private lands. On our national forests, we must restore more acres more rapidly if we are to prevent catastrophic fires, insect outbreaks, and other threats, particularly as climate change makes those threats more potent.”

-Vilsack, Tom. National Forest Policy address. Seward Park. Seattle, 14 Aug. 2009.

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[1] USDA Forest Service GTR WO-59: Carbon Storage and Accumulation in United States Forest Ecosystems pgs. 4-6

[2] Washington Department of Ecology. 2007. Greenhouse Gas Inventory & Reference Case Projections, 1990-2020. Center for Climate Strategies, pgs. ES-5 and I-3.

[3] USDA Forest Resources of the United States, 2012 GTR WO-91, Table 20, Oct. 2014 A Technical Document Supporting the Forest Service Update of the 2010 RPA Assessment.

[4] USDA Forest Resources of the United States, 2012 GTR WO-91, Table 36, Oct. 2014 A Technical Document Supporting the Forest Service 2015 Update of the RPA Assessment.

[5] Temperate Forest Foundation. Biomass for Energy & Forest Fuel Reduction. Eco-Link, 13:3.

[6] Aguilar, F. Wood energy in developed economies: An overlooked renewable. Resources for the Future, pg. 188.

[7] Washington Department of Ecology. 2007. Greenhouse Gas Inventory & Reference Case Projections, 1990-2020. Center for Climate Strategies, pg. I-6.

[8] USDA Forest Resources of the United States, 2012 GTR WO-91, Table 36, Oct. 2014 A Technical Document Supporting the Forest Service 2015 Update of the RPA Assessment.

[9] Rummer, B. et. Al. 2003.A Strategic Assessment of Forest Biomass and Fuel Reduction Treatments in Western States. USDA Forest Service, Research and Development and the Western Forestry Leadership Coalition.