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FAQs For Investors

What regulatory policies govern the forest management activities of the lands I want to invest in?

Forests vary greatly from region to region because of climate, geography, and ecological factors. Different tree species are adapted to specific climates, soils, and elevations. Because of this variability, a single landscape-wide standard for sustainability does not exist.

However, forestry practices in the U.S. are often considered superior due to a combination of factors. Overlapping and mutually reinforcing local, state, and federal environmental laws and regulations, state-approved forestry best management practices (BMPs), and third-party forest management and wood fiber sourcing certification programs ensure our forests are sustainably managed.

The large scale of private working forest ownership, 47% of all forests, along with strong public interest and engagement in forestry issues, further contributes to a robust and progressive forestry sector, placing U.S. forestry at the forefront of combining economic productivity with environmental stewardship.

Because of the modern and sustainable forestry practices implemented by forest owners, the U.S. enjoys some of the most abundant and productive forest resources in the world.

Learn more about assurances and certification programs.

Do commercial harvests in the U.S. disturb old growth forests?

No, U.S. private working forest owners do not harvest old growth or other sensitive sites as part of their standard operations. Most of our nation’s old growth forests were harvested for settlement and industrialization long before any of us were alive. Old growth forests still exist, but nearly all are publicly owned. Private working forests provide 90% of forest products produced in the U.S.. These forests are managed for successive cycles of growth, harvests, and regrowth to yield products. As a result, they include trees of a variety of ages and sizes, from seedlings to mature trees.

In the U.S., assurances are in place to verify that our forests are sustainably managed and climate smart through a mosaic of overlapping and mutually reinforcing local, state, and federal environmental laws and regulations, state-approved forestry best management practices (BMPs), and third-party forest management and wood fiber sourcing certification programs. Learn more about assurances here.

Harvesting and other forest management activities in or near old growth are typically done for wildfire mitigation and forest health to protect the oldest trees. If a harvest occurs in or near old growth, it is likely in response to a wildfire emergency or some other natural disturbance. Nearly all old growth is protected, and harvesting exceptionally large trees (like old growth) is economically and physically impractical. Most modern harvesting equipment, transportation, and mills are only able to process smaller diameter logs.

How does using wood impact climate change and sustainability?

Sustainably managed forests and the wood products they provide are powerful tools for mitigating climate change. Many consider forests and forest products the most powerful natural climate solution available. As trees grow, they pull carbon from the atmosphere through the natural process of photosynthesis. This carbon is stored in their leaves, branches, and wood, as well as the forest floor, including the soil. There is no better land use for climate mitigation than a forest, and no better technology for capturing carbon than a forest.

In addition to the benefits provided by our forests, the production of new forest products adds roughly 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) each year to the 10 billion metric tons of CO2e already stored in existing harvested wood products.

Using wood products in place of more carbon-intensive materials can improve climate outcomes. If steel and concrete were a country, their combined emissions would be the third largest in the world after the U.S. and China. The more wood we use in place of these and other carbon-intensive materials, the better – as long as we’re maintaining our forests.

Learn more about forests and climate change at ForestCarbonDataViz.org.

Are harvested sites replanted?

Working forests are regrown after harvests, either by planting or natural regeneration. Each year in the U.S., forest owners of all types plant more than 1 billion seedlings.

In some forests, natural regeneration rather than planting is the most effective and ecologically sound method for regrowing forests. Natural regeneration techniques are determined before harvest and tailored to specific conditions within a forest landscape.

Sustainable forest management has helped total forest acreage in the U.S. to remain stable since the 1950s. At the same time, the total volume of wood grown in our forests has increased by roughly 60%. A core principle of sustainable forest management is the continuous cycle of growth, harvest, and regrowth to optimize forest productivity and resilience and to keep forests intact. The standard practice is to replant within a year to have a healthy and reestablished forest within five years of a harvest.

Whether planted or naturally regenerated, the key is reestablishing the forest after harvesting.

Is there scientific evidence that forest management practices lead to beneficial carbon outcomes?

Sustainable forest management can maximize a forest’s natural ability to sequester (capture from the atmosphere) and store carbon. When you include carbon-storing wood products, the potential benefits are even greater.

As trees grow, they convert carbon dioxide (CO2) to carbon and store it in their trunks, roots, branches, and leaves – much of it as wood and fiber that we use to make forest products. This process also releases oxygen, which is good for humans who like to breathe.

Forests do not sequester carbon at a linear rate over their lifetimes. Eventually, forests will grow and sequester carbon more slowly until they become net sources of carbon emissions. Sustainable forest management yields a mosaic of forest conditions, including young forests that grow vigorously, helping to pull carbon out of the atmosphere today. It also focuses on promoting forest health that enable trees to grow to maturity, ultimately producing wood products which continue to store carbon in the built environment through homes, buildings, kitchen tables, hardwood floors, and other long-lived wood products.

As stated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “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.”

Private working forests make up 47% of the overall forest acreage of the U.S. These forests provide outsized carbon benefits, accounting for approximately 80% of the total net carbon sequestration and 51% of the carbon stored in all forests.

Learn more at ForestCarbonDataViz.org, which primarily uses data sourced from the EPA’s Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2021, the U.S. Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program, and the U.S. Forest Service’s 2020 RPA Assessment.

Do the sustainability and climate risks associated with international (tropical) forests apply to North American (temperate) forests?

The US and Canada are considered “low-risk” for timber illegality according to Timber Risk Assessment tool. They also are considered low-risk for deforestation by World Wildlife Foundation’s Wood Risk Tool. In fact, the U.S. and Canada have some of the highest sustainability assurances in the world. In terms of climate risks, however, they are experiencing stressors like the rest of the world, including fire, insects, drought, and extreme weather events.

Is there a standard way to quantify the carbon and climate benefits of wood products across regions and countries?

Yes. Product carbon emissions are calculated through life cycle assessments and reported through Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs).

The American Wood Council makes EPDs & Transparency Briefs available for popular wood products used in construction.

Do forest management practices address resilience, climate mitigation, watershed factors, wildlife conservation, and the economic health of rural communities?

Yes. Modern forestry practices and sustainable forest management are nearly universally applied in the United States. Sustainable forest management requires long-term care and stewardship to balance and maintain environmental, economic, and social benefits through careful planning decades into the future. Such planning typically incorporates scientifically rigorous standards, systems, policies, and procedures provided through local, state, and federal laws and regulations, best management practices (BMPs) for soil, water quality, and species management, and may also include forest certification standards. The end results are healthy and resilient forest systems that are unmatched in their ability to provide both economic and environmental benefits, including climate benefits at scale.

Is it better or worse to source from Canada or overseas? Are the standards comparable?

Of the top 10 countries producing coniferous sawlog and veneer log (the types of logs from which most wood used in construction are made), seven (United States, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Czechia, and New Zealand) are considered “low risk” for timber illegality by Preferred by Nature's Timber Risk Assessment tool.

UNITED STATES

U.S. forest management applies some of the highest standards of sustainable forest management in the world, making U.S. forests a responsible choice for material sourcing. Forestry practices in the U.S. are often considered superior due to a combination of factors. The U.S. benefits from a diverse range of forest ecosystems, enabling specialized and adaptive management practices. Sustainable forestry results from a mature and stable market for forest products, a comprehensive regulatory framework that balances environmental, economic, and social interests, and third-party forest management and wood fiber sourcing certification programs. These factors place U.S. forestry at the forefront of combining economic productivity and environmental stewardship. Learn more about assurances.

CANADA

Canada’s lands are mostly “crown” lands owned by the provinces and managed through long-term sustainable management agreements. 80% of production lands in Canada are certified to a sustainable forest management certification, such as The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) or The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

OTHER

In many parts of the world, most notably in the tropics, deforestation is still an ongoing challenge.

Climate-Smart Forestry Resources

Find tools for calculating carbon impact, educational downloads, and more.

Confused About Forest Carbon?

This award-winning data visualization helps make concepts like carbon storage and sequestration less… painful. Learn more about the remarkable climate mitigation impacts of working forests.