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April 22, 2014

MADISON -- Wisconsin's strengths in sustainably managed forests, premium hardwood production and engineered wood products offer state residents something to celebrate during April, which the Legislature has designated as Forestry and Paper Products Month.

Steve Hubbard, forest products services team leader for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, says the nation's recovering housing market is providing an important boost for state mills that specialize in high quality flooring, trim and veneer wood. While Wisconsin also produces the pine 2-by-4s used to frame single family homes, Hubbard says it is the quality of the state's hardwoods such as oak, hickory and maple that truly stand out.

Just how good is Wisconsin wood? NCAA basketball fans saw it in action as teams competing in recent regional tournament games jumped, dribbled and ran on meticulously crafted maple originating from Menomonee Tribal Enterprises.

"This is not to say we don't produce significant quantities of fiberboard and other commodities, but where we win is with the quality of our hardwoods," Hubbard says.

Wisconsin also remains the nation's No. 1 paper producer, a title the state has claimed for more than 50 years. While the paper industry continues to face challenges worldwide, Hubbard says Wisconsin's sustainable forestry practices have given producers here a competitive business advantage.

Wisconsin now ranks among the nation's leaders in terms of the number of pulpwood forests certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and Forest Stewardship Council. These certifications have played a critical role in recent contracts between state producers and industry leaders such as Time Warner that have goals for using sustainably sourced paper in magazines and catalogs, Hubbard says.

"We now manage more than 7 million acres of third-party environmentally certified forest land in the state," he says. "Our management practices have allowed us to benefit from consumer trends."

The future of forestry and paper products in Wisconsin promises to be no less dynamic. For example, nanocrystalline cellulose - made from the tiny crystals that give wood its strength - can be engineered with the stiffness of steel at just a fraction of the weight.

Research now underway at the U.S. Forest Products Laboratory (exit DNR) in Madison and at a handful of state companies promises to usher in completely new categories of products ranging from high-strength, lightweight fabrics that could be used in bullet proof vests to new automotive components.

"The sky is the limit for our trees," Hubbard says. "Going forward, we anticipate new forestry and paper products industries to grow alongside our existing manufacturers in the sector."

With total production valued at nearly $19 billion each year and employment of more than 46,800 based on numbers from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., the economic importance of Wisconsin's forestry and paper products industries is clear. Despite this level of productivity, Hubbard says, residents may be reassured to know that the number of forested acres in the state continues to grow.

"While other states incur losses, Wisconsin's forest lands have increased since 1983 and now total more than 17 million acres," Hubbard says. "Each year, we grow more wood than industry removes; our forests produce about 490 million cubic feet of growth each year, while about 332 million cubic feet is removed.''

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Steve Hubbard, (608) 231-9329,; Jennifer Sereno, communications, (608) 770-8084.

Last Revised: Tuesday, April 22, 2014

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