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More American Hardwood Now Than 50 Years Ago


American Hardwoods: Renewing, Abundant and Sustainable

American hardwoods have entered their fourth century of providing beauty and authenticity, warmth and integrity, lasting aesthetic and functional value to interiors. For floors, furniture, moldings, millwork, cabinetry and built-ins, they are quintessentially green materials in abundant and self-renewing supply.

American hardwoods are sustainable solutions for eco-effective design and building:

  • Harvesting levels are far below the levels of growth: Nearly twice as much hardwood grows each year as is harvested in the U.S. For this reason, the volume of hardwoods in American forests today is 90 percent larger than it was 50 years ago.

  • Hardwood foresters follow professional best practices that mirror natural forces. Individual trees are selected for harvest, encouraging forests to renew and regenerate themselves naturally and prolifically.

  • In addition to providing wildlife habitat and filtering the water supply, trees produce oxygen, remove carbon dioxide and store carbon, reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

  • Virtually every part of the log is used as lumber or by-products, and finished products are re-useable, recyclable and biodegradable.


   All hardwood forests in the continental United States are temperate–not tropical. They are home to the oaks, maples, cherry, ash, poplar and scores of other broad-leafed deciduous species, many of which grow nowhere else in the world. The term "hardwood" has no reference to the wood's actual hardness, which differs by species.


  Unlike the area blanketed by the evergreen conifers (softwoods), most hardwood forestland is in the eastern half of the country. Hardwood forests cover 279 million acres: the equivalent of hardwood trees covering every square inch of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. This resource is neither scarce nor finite.


  Collectively, across all hardwood trees in all American hardwood forests, there is nearly twice as much new wood growth as there is wood removed through harvesting. We are not running out of trees. The volume of hardwood in American forests is 352 billion cubic feet, and they are adding growth of 10.2 billion cubic feet a year. This compares to annual removal of 6 billion cubic feet.



   "Sustainability" is meeting today's needs, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. With hardwood growth well exceeding removal, the U.S. supply of hardwoods for flooring, furniture, cabinetry and millwork is–by definition–sustainable now and for future generations.


   Just as important, hardwoods are green design choices with the intrinsic beauty and versatility so lacking in recycled cartons, glued-up grass stalks and compressed grain husks.


7 Million Private American Hardwood Forestland Owners


  What or who is responsible for this renewing and eminently sustainable supply of American hardwoods? Those who own the forestland, their foresters and the forest management practices they employ.

  More than 7 million private individuals and families own fully 73 percent of all hardwood forestland in the United States.


  While individual private ownership of hardwood forestland predominates, the hardwood processing industry owns 11 percent, with 16 percent under the public ownership of the federal, state and local governments.


 Under their collective stewardship, the volume of hardwood in American forests has increased 90 percent since 1953. This is attributable to responsible and sustainable forestry practices that continue today.

  Significantly, this ongoing record of sustainability long pre-dates the fee-based, third-party certification programs established in the mid-1990s, which cover just a fraction of all sustainably managed U.S. hardwood forestland.

  In the woods, every day, professional foresters practice the complex science of silviculture. Their hardwood forest management plans reflect the profession's best practices for long-term sustainable timber production, and also address water quality, wildlife habitat, biodiversity, forest aesthetics and recreational opportunities.
Foresters adapt their practices and methods to the unique requirements and conditions of each site: What are the landowner's objectives? What is the species mix? How much new growth is there already? Are seeds well-distributed? Is there a stream? A slope? Are any trees diseased or dead? How will we minimize soil erosion, and avoid damage to unharvested trees and other vegetation?

  At the same time, all forestry operations are subject to federal, state and local laws and regulations designed to protect water quality as well as threatened and endangered species.

  The goal is improvement and sustainable renewal of the forest. Deforestation is the result of road-building, agriculture and development–not forestry.


Single-tree Selection is Predominant Harvesting Method


  In American hardwood forestry, the predominant harvesting method is single-tree selection–not clear-cutting. Foresters choose individual trees for harvest based on a complex array of considerations.

  In practice for decades, this harvesting method mirrors the natural process of single trees or small groups of trees dying and falling, or being blown down by localized winds.

A well-planned harvest pays at least as much attention to the trees that will remain as to those that will be removed.


  American hardwood forests are not uniform plantations or even-aged, single species mono-cultures. They are instead complex ecosystems that are home to a diversity of tree species of varying ages: sprout, seedling and sapling, mature and aging; dying and decaying.


  In a hardwood forest, trees compete for the water and sunlight that come through the forest canopy–the leafy "roof" over the forest floor. Carefully removing individual trees creates openings in that canopy so that more precipitation, sunlight and nutrients reach the forest floor. This type of thinning improves growing conditions. No longer suppressed by larger trees, the seedlings and saplings are free to grow vigorously.

American Hardwood Forests Renew Themselves Naturally


In hardwood forests, the trees reproduce naturally and prolifically. This regeneration is irrepressible: it is not necessary to intervene and plant hardwood trees after a harvest.


In the cycle of natural self-replenishment, young hardwood trees sprout from roots, stumps and seeds, assuring the continuing diversity of species and tree ages in the forest. The single-tree selection method of harvesting reduces competition and gives this new growth more sunlight, water and nutrients. Hardwood forest renewal happens at its own, natural pace. Foresters work with the timeline that Nature dictates: sustained supply and ongoing replenishment are the result.


1. Emergent - A tree that grows above the general level of the forest canopy. These trees are exposed to the strongest sun and winds.


2. Canopy - This level forms the roof of the forest with crowns of the dominant trees and other vegetation.


3. Understory - This level receives little light. Many of these trees tolerate shade and remain at this level; others grow and replace older, fallen trees.


4. Forest Floor - This lowest level is made up of tree seedlings, dead leaves and needles, grasses, ferns, flowers, fungi and decaying plants and logs.


Growing Forests Produce Oxygen; Store Carbon


  Thanks to photosynthesis, healthy forests are net producers of oxygen. Growing trees take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and separate the carbon and oxygen atoms. Trees then return oxygen to the air and use the carbon to grow roots, trunk, branches and leaves. This process reduces greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.


  To grow a pound of wood, a tree uses 1.47 pounds of carbon dioxide and gives off 1.07 pounds of oxygen. Consequently, an acre of trees can remove about 13 tons of dust and gases from the atmosphere.


  Once a tree stops growing and begins to decay, the process reverses. For every pound of wood that decays, the tree uses 1.07 pounds of oxygen and releases 1.47 pounds of carbon dioxide into the air.

Growing forests also pump water up from the soil and back into the air through transpiration. A tree that's 100 feet tall with 200,000 leaves will take 11,000 gallons of water from the soil and transpire it into the air in a single growing season.


  This process not only cools the environment, but also plays a vital role in collecting and releasing water into natural channels and courses.


Sustainable Manufacturing


  Once trees are harvested and taken to the sawmill for primary processing, advanced manufacturing technology assures the least wood waste and greatest yield of lumber. As with the secondary manufacturing facilities where finished goods are made, all wood processing by-products have a use:

  • Tree bark is processed into mulch and soil conditioners.

  • Sawdust fuels the boilers that operate dry kilns or is sold for animal bedding.

  • Trimmings are chipped and processed into paper, among other products.

  • Small pieces are recovered and processed or finger-jointed into wood components or other products.

The next green steps are taken by architects, designers or specifiers who practice sustainable design and building.

* Information courtesy of Hardwood Manufacturers Association.


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Sustainable Hardwoods

More American Hardwood Now Than 50 Years Ago


7 Million Private American Hardwood Forestland Owners


Single-tree Selection is Predominant Harvesting Method

American Hardwood Forests Renew Themselves Naturally

Growing Forests Produce Oxygen; Store Carbon


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