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Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

cover.jpg - 15606 Bytes Understanding
the economic value
of Wisconsin's
forests

December 2005

Fast forestry facts

Know your trees from the roots to the leaves.

Natasha Kassulke and Katherine Esposito


Highlights

How much forested land does Wisconsin have?

Wisconsin's total land area is 34.7 million acres. Trees cover 16 million acres or 46 percent. Most forested land is in northern Wisconsin.

How old are Wisconsin's forests?

Many southern Wisconsin forests were cleared for agriculture by the late 1800s. Forests in the north were heavily cut for timber by the early 1900s. Therefore, almost all the mature trees you see today are less than 125 years old.

Contents

Who owns and cares for Wisconsin's forests?

Most forested land in Wisconsin – 57 percent – is owned by individual landowners. Another 32 percent is owned by federal, state, county or tribal governments and 11 percent is owned by forest industry or private corporations.

How much forested land does Wisconsin lose every year?

Wisconsin has been gaining, not losing, forest acreage. Since the 1930s, much marginal crop and pasture land has been planted with trees or reforested naturally, so the state now has more forestland than at any time since inventories began in 1936.

How much wood does the average person use in a year?

About 1,664 pounds, or one log 18 inches across and 25 feet long will meet the needs of an average person annually for building supplies, newsprint, paper, tissue paper, paper towels and more. Hundreds of products you might not think of contain wood fiber like toothpaste and football helmets.

Wisconsin has been gaining, not losing, forest acreage. Since th 1930s, much marginal crop and pastureland has been planted and the state now has more forestland than at any time since inventories began in 1936. © David L. Chesemore
Wisconsin has been gaining, not losing, forest acreage. Since the 1930s, much marginal crop and pastureland has been planted and the state now has more forestland than at any time since inventories began in 1936.

© David L. Chesemore

Can't we get our wood products from somewhere else?

Yes, but the alternative would be to use nonrenewable material or wood imported from places that, unlike Wisconsin, may not manage forests in a sustainable manner. By choosing products made from trees grown in other places we're exporting the environmental impacts of our consumption. Harvesting trees in Wisconsin to meet our wood product needs also provides jobs and revenue for the state's economy. History has shown that the Wisconsin forests are resilient and we have gained the knowledge and experience needed to manage our forests sustainably here. A key to meeting the ecological, social and economic demands on our forests in Wisconsin is maintaining a diversity of forest types and conditions, including reserved areas.

Why is the state's environmental agenda concerned about the forest industry?

In addition to the tremendous contributions of the forest products industry to Wisconsin's economy, the industry is also important to the ecological well-being of our forests. Without these markets, landowners would find it less financially viable to maintain large blocks of forests. Thus the loss of the industry would lead to parcelization and fragmentation of the forest resource. Additionally, forest landowners would be less willing to tackle other issues affecting the ecological health of the forests if the timber income was not available to support the other projects.

How do we know the condition of our forests?

The Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service provides information needed to assess America's forests. As the nation's continuous forest census, the program projects how forests are likely to appear 10 to 50 years from now.

The inventory information can be used in many ways, such as evaluating wildlife habitat conditions and identifying potential risks to forests. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources helps fund the inventory with the goal that it will meet the needs of Wisconsin forest planners and managers. The latest inventory of Wisconsin's forest resources began in 2000.

Highlights

  • Total forest land area has remained relatively stable at about 16.0 million acres since 1996. This is about 46 percent of total land area in Wisconsin.

  • The maple-basswood forest type remains the dominant forest type group in the state.

  • The volume of all live trees on forest land in Wisconsin has increased since 1996.

  • Aspen was the hardwood species group with the greatest net growing stock volume while northern red oak had the largest net sawtimber volume.

  • From 1996 to 2004, the average annual net growth of growing stock increased substantially while removals remained about the same. Growth continues to exceed removals by a wide margin.

  • The number of trees dying each year amount to about one percent of the number of growing trees.

  • Inventory data will soon be posted on the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource's Forestry website along with a history of the FIA program in Wisconsin, the scope of information gathered in the inventory process (landowner survey, timber product output, forest health monitoring and forest habitat classification), and information on the inventory process.

Where can I get more information about Wisconsin forests?

Wisconsin Forestry – a portal to information, programs and organizations related to forests in Wisconsin

Natasha Kassulke is associate editor of Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine. Katherine Esposito writes about environmental issues for WNR.