Facing the Facts
Article #296 August 2019
By Bill Cook
Almost everybody likes quick facts. Consider some of the following forest factoids. For more information about Michigan forests, visit the “Michigan Forests Forever” website.
National Forest Facts
About one-third of the United States, 737 million acres, is forested. About 490 million acres are classified as timberlands, or forests capable of growing commercial timber.
Forests cover about 67% as much of the USA as they did in 1600.
More than 270 million acres of federal land (11.5 percent of the USA) are set aside for use as wildlife refuges, parks, and wilderness areas.
Most of America's forest lies in the eastern states.
The USA is not running out of trees or forest. In fact, indicators show just the opposite. For now.
In 2012, our nation's timberlands had net annual growth of more than 26 billion cubic feet of timber (a cord pile over 250,000 miles long), which is more growth than 20 years before that (21 billion cubic feet). When compared to an annual timber harvest of 13 billion cubic feet (a cord pile about 123,000 miles long), net growth is about double the harvest volume.
There is enough standing timber volume in the USA to build a cord pile that would circle the Earth over 400 times.
Michigan Forest Facts
There are 14 billion trees in Michigan.
Michigan has about 20 million acres of forest, covering about 53% of the State. This is an increase of over a million acres since 1980.
Michigan was once about 95% forested prior to Euro-American settlement. The two main causes of deforestation are agriculture and construction of towns and cities. Logging, fires, and pollution do not result in deforestation, at least not in Michigan.
The largest tree in Michigan is a black willow. The tallest is a 179-foot red maple. The tallest known tree in the world is a California redwood at 380 feet.
Michigan's forest is among the top ten largest in area within the USA. We have more timberland than Alaska! Most of Alaska is not forested.
The most common tree species in Michigan are: sugar maple, red maple, red pine, northern white-cedar, northern red oak, quaking aspen, bigtooth aspen, black cherry, and hemlock. Together, they make up 70% of the total timber volume.
A well-stocked acre of northern hardwoods will have the equivalent of 30-40 cords. Most Michigan forest acres have less volume than that.
Michigan forests support 100,000 jobs and annually adds 20 billion dollars to the state economy ($500+ billion GDP). These statistics vary from source to source depending upon the criteria used for defining forest industry and related job classifications.
On the average, Michigan's trees have been getting older and larger for over 50 years. While this is true overall, there are important regional differences among tree species and forest types.
Annual harvest in Michigan would form a cord pile 3,500 miles long. Annual growth would form a pile 8,000 miles long. All the standing volume would stretch over 250,000 miles, which is more than the distance to the Moon!
The most serious threats to Michigan forests are loss of forest industry, invasive species, intensive browsing by deer, benign neglect (lack of management), climate change, and forest ownership parcelization.
Wood Use Facts
The average single-family home (2,000 sq.ft.) can contain 16,900 board feet of lumber and up to 10,000 square feet of panel products. In Michigan, that much wood might be equivalent of 3-7 acres of forest.
Each person annually uses wood and paper products equivalent to one 18-inch diameter 100-foot tree. On a daily basis, that's 4 to 4.5 pounds of wood, or the equivalent of roughly half a two-by-four.
We use more wood by weight than all other raw materials combined (e.g. plastics, steel, aluminum, concrete). Wood products make up 47% of all industrial raw materials manufactured in the USA, yet use only 4% of the energy needed to manufacture these industrial materials.
Wood is the third largest globally-traded primary commodity (by monetary value), behind petroleum and natural gas.
The forest industry ranks among the top 10 employers in 40 of the 50 states.
A century ago, wildfires annually burned across 20 to 50 million acres of the country, with devastating loss of life and property. Through education, prevention, and control, that amount has been reduced to about 2 to 10 million acres a year. Fire's contributions to forest health have also been studied and better understood.
Today, advanced technologies allow us to use every part of the tree for products. In addition to lumber and paper coming from the trunk of the tree, bark, resins, cellulose, scraps, and even sawdust are turned into products that range from camera cases to medicines to rugs. Some of the emerging products from wood-based carbon include plastic bottles, tires, and car bodies.
Forest industry is the third largest manufacturing sector in Michigan, behind automobiles and agriculture.
Environmental Benefit Facts
A large tree in full-leaf can daily "lift" well over a ton of water and carry it to every leaf. On that same day, that tree can cool as much air as six window-unit air conditioners.
A typical tree uses nearly a 1.5 pounds of carbon dioxide and gives off more than a pound of oxygen to grow one pound of wood. An acre of trees might grow 4,000 pounds of wood a year, use 5,880 pounds of CO2 and give off 4,280 pounds of oxygen. For every ton of wood grown, a forest removes 1.47 tons of CO2 and replaces it with 1.07 tons of oxygen.
Most of the Earth’s “fresh” oxygen is produced by the oceans, not terrestrial systems.
Clearcutting is the only effective means to regenerate forest types adapted to catastrophic disturbance and are intolerant of shade (e.g. aspen, jack pine).
Fall color timing is based mostly on photoperiod. Color intensity and persistence is influenced by forest health conditions, frosts, other weather factors.
Species such as white-tailed deer, turkeys, and wood ducks were almost extinct in the early 1900s. Wildlife conservation and habitat enhancement has resulted in flourishing populations of these and other species we now take almost for granted. Foresters work with other professionals to improve habitats and ensure survival of wildlife species.
Forest habitat is best manipulated through forest management. Not only can most habitat objectives be met, but they can be met without taxpayer or forestowner expense.
Every action, or lack of action, has consequences for wildlife, resulting in winners and losers. The choice belongs to forestowners and resource managers, whether intentional or unintentional.
Michigan has nearly 600 species of vertebrate wildlife. Most use forest for at least part of their needs. Birds are the most numerous taxonomic group.
There are probably more deer in Michigan today, than there were in all of North America 300 years ago.
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This website was created by a consortium of forestry groups to help streamline
information about forestry and coordinate forestry activities designed to benefit
the family forest owner and various publics that make up our Michigan citizenry.
This website is maintained by Bill Cook, Michigan State Extension Forester/Biologist.
Direct comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or 906-786-1575.
Michigan State University is an affirmative action equal opportunity institution. The U.S. Department of Agriculture prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, and marital status or family status. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.)