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Forest Contributions Special Considerations
The Forest Plan Assistance


                         From the Michigan Society of American Foresters

Contributions of Michigan’s Forests

Michigan's forests contribute to the well‑being of society by enhancing environmental quality, maintaining habitat for wildlife, providing recreational opportunities and settings, growing timber, and creating jobs to produce and manufacture wood and wood products.

Although difficult to measure, Michigan's forests provide valuable environmental benefits by improving air and water quality and enhancing natural resource conservation.  Forests filter pollutants from ambient air.  A well-managed, growing forest in Michigan can sequester up to a ton or more of carbon per acre from the atmosphere each year until maturity.  This is an important ecosystem service that, among other things, can offset excess fossil fuel emissions of carbon dioxide.  Forests protect watersheds from erosion and degradation, filter runoff and recharge ground water, and shade streams and lakes.  They enhance the quality of Michigan's 36,350 miles of rivers and streams, its 11,037 inland lakes and its drinking water.

Forests help conserve many natural resources.  Threatened, endangered, or animals of special concern like the bald eagle, Kirtland's warbler, moose, gray wolf, pine marten, and fisher, along with many rare plants, are found within Michigan forests, especially in wetlands.  Some of our forests also serve as biological reserves to protect diverse habitats and genetic material.

Michigan forests provide habitat for wildlife, including the state's estimated 1.7 million deer, and watershed protection for its inland fishery.  In 2006, 1.7 million Michigan residents fished or hunted and 2.9 million residents participated in other wildlife-watching recreation.  Anglers spent $1.7 billion in Michigan in 2006, participants in hunting spent $916 million, and other wildlife watchers spent $1.6 billion.

Michigan has 7.2 million acres of state and federal forest land that can be used for outdoor recreation.  State forests hold 59% and national forests hold 41% of these lands.  State and federal wilderness areas total over 322,000 acres.  This land base provides opportunities for camping, hiking, skiing, stream and inland lake fishing, berry and mushroom picking, trail biking, and horseback riding.  Forests are the setting for many tourist-related activities.  Tourists spent $8.8 billion in 2000, much of it in forest-dependent counties.

Michigan produces a vast array of forest products, from paper to Christmas trees.  Industrial production of sawlogs, pulpwood, veneer logs, and other timber products totaled 373 million cubic feet in 2007 (Figure 7).  Additionally, domestic fuelwood production is increasing as costs of other forms of home heating are increasing.

Over 1,600 firms were involved in forest products harvesting, transporting, brokering, or manufacturing in Michigan in 2004.  Manufacturing accounted for about three‑quarters of these firms whose sales totaled $10.5 billion (Figure 8).  These sales, in turn, generated almost $9 billion in additional sales in Michigan’s economy.  Lumber and wood products, wood furniture, and pulp and paper products contributed over $3.4 billion in value added to Michigan's economy.  Pulp and paper products manufacturing contributed about 42% of this total.  In 2004 these industries, including logging, provided direct employment to over 46,000 people.  These jobs generated 58,200 additional jobs outside the forest products industry. 

In addition to the more traditional forest products and services, there is a renewed interest in wood-based energy and evolving roles for ecosystem services (carbon sequestration, nutrient cycling, etc.). These emerging markets herald a larger role for forests in Michigan’s economy.

Ecosystem services are all of the benefits that the environment provides to society.  Healthy forest ecosystems provide numerous services, including oxygen, watershed protection, timber production, energy, plant pollination, wildlife habitat, biodiversity, and scenic landscapes.  Landowners that practice sustainable forest management not only create healthy and resilient forests for their own use and enjoyment, they are also performing an activity that benefits all other citizens. 

Traditionally, ecosystem services have been seen as free services or “public goods” and have not had an economic value in society.  However, new markets are emerging that may be able to generate incentives for people who provide these services.  In the future, forest owners may be able to participate in markets and generate revenue that will help balance the costs of producing these benefits and increase the societal value of forest lands.



One example of these emerging markets is carbon trading.  As trees live and grow, they absorb carbon dioxide from the air and store, or sequester, it in their wood, in the soil, and in wood products.  Planting trees and managing forests in a way that encourages healthy and vigorous tree growth can help to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which will help to mitigate climate change.  In the future, carbon markets may allow forest owners to receive payments for forest management activities that will sequester additional carbon from the atmosphere. 

Forest land provides many rewards to the forest owner as well as services to society.  Michigan’s citizens and visitors benefit greatly from the nearly 20 million forested acres in the state.  Some of these benefits provide financial returns, such as those from forest products or hunting fees.  Other ecosystem services are equally important but are not as easy to market and sell, such as beauty, solitude, and the joy of being a steward over a part of nature.  With the possibility of new markets, forest owners may begin to see a return on investment for the ecosystem services that they have provided for free.  For example in 2008, investors received approximately $400,000 for sequestering carbon on their forest land.



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This website is maintained by Bill Cook, Michigan State University Extension Forest in the Upper Peninsula.  Comments, questions, and suggestions are gratefully accepted. 

Last update of this page was 9 January, 2014




This site is hosted by School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science at Michigan Technological University.

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