Sustainable forest management involves using our forests efficiently today while protecting future generations’ opportunity to use the forests for their needs. Over the long term, we should harvest no more than what the forest can re-grow. When mature hardwoods are harvested, younger trees and saplings have more access to sunlight and other resources and then grow to maturity without the need for human intervention. Wood is the greenest building material available, because unlike alternatives such as steel that are produced from finite supplies of fossil fuels, wood is continually regenerated by forests as long as they are managed responsibly.
Despite the fact that the population of the United States has tripled over the last century, the U.S. has even more forests today than it did a hundred years ago. Forests cover approximately 766 million acres, or about a third of the country.
[U.S. Forest Resource Facts and Historical Trends]
There is a misconception among some people that we are running out of trees, but in North America that is far from the truth. Every year since the 1940s, total forest growth in the United States has exceeded the amount harvested. [Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations ] The annual hardwood growth rate surpasses harvest by a remarkable 70%. [HFF] 1.7 billion trees are planted in the United States each year; that’s more than five trees for each person in the country. [HFF]
Canada has approximately 857 million acres of forest land, a number that has remained steady for decades. Between 1990 and 2015, Canada’s forest area decreased by just one-third of one percent. [Natural Resources Canada] In fact, Canada could sustainably harvest 226 million cubic meters of timber annually, but actually harvests only about 70% of that amount. [Natural Resources Canada]
The United States and Canada have some of the best forest management practices in the world, as confirmed by multiple third-party certification programs. Forest companies can certify their forests through programs such as the American Tree Farm System (ATFS), Canadian Standards Association’s Sustainable Forest Management Standard (CSA), Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) to demonstrate their responsible forestry practices. Annual inspections by these independent programs verify that certified forests adhere to high standards of sustainable forest management, including environmental conservation such as protection for wildlife and clean soil and water. The United States and Canada contain more than 480 million acres of certified forests; together, they are home to more than half the certified forests in the world. [Sustainable Forestry in North America]
North American forests are among the best managed in the world. Thanks to responsible forestry practices, the amount of forestland in the United States and Canada has stayed relatively constant over the last century. Wood is a natural, renewable resource, and a green choice.
Source for graph data: U.S. Forest Resource Facts and Historical Trends