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MADISON — If you’re looking for an example of a “growth” industry, look no further than Wisconsin’s wood and paper products sector, which is benefiting from a steadily increasing supply of state-grown timber. April, dubbed Forestry and Paper Products Month by the Legislature, offers an excellent opportunity to reflect on the positive impact of Wisconsin’s 17 million acres of forested lands and its millions of urban trees. Together, the trees enhance our quality of life, help protect our waters, improve the soil, provide a wide range of wildlife habitat and supply the raw material for one of the state’s most important economic drivers – the forest products industry, said Paul DeLong, chief state forester with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
What many people don’t realize is that Wisconsin forests grow one and a half times more wood than what is harvested each year, even with saw timber volume increasing by 140 million cubic feet annually. In 2014, for example, state forests contained 21.4 billion cubic feet of timber and grew by another 560 million cubic feet while timber harvests totaled 315 million cubic feet. The annual saw log growth alone represents enough wood to frame 105,000 homes, DeLong said.
Apart from providing wood headed to home builders and furniture makers, Wisconsin’s forests help propel our paper mills to the No. 1 spot in the nation – a title the state has held for more than 60 years. “The papermaking industry took root here three years before Wisconsin achieved statehood and today our papermakers employ some 31,000 people who earn more than $2.6 billion in annual wages,” DeLong said. “Beyond these current economic benefits, 7.2 million forested acres including county, state, tribal and privately held lands are independently certified as sustainably managed, meaning they are managed in a way to produce environmental and economic benefits for generations to come. Most of these public and private forest lands are also open for public uses including hunting, hiking, bird-watching and other recreational activities, so there are a variety of community benefits as well.”
In addition to the state’s papermaking prowess, Wisconsin’s workforce is strengthened by 24,669 lumber and wood products employees who earn more than $1.2 billion annually. At the same time, the state’s 4,242 forestry and logging workers earn more than $176.4 million annually, said Julie Ballweg, DNR forestry economist.
“Wisconsin leads the nation in millwork production and we are also a major source of veneer output for furniture,” Ballweg said. “With 1,292 companies in primary and secondary forest products businesses, the forest products industry touches every corner of the state. We’re fortunate to have longstanding public and private partnerships that encourage reinvestment in the industry and ensure a steady supply of timber.” To learn more, visit dnr.wi.gov and search “forestry and the Wisconsin economy.”