working forests MYTH BUSTER

Absolutely. Washington’s working forests plant three trees for every one tree harvested, ensuring a renewable supply of timber products for generations to come.

The carbon a tree stores while it is growing in the forest remains locked in the trunk, branches, roots and leaves even after it is harvested. In fact, stored carbon makes up half of wood’s weight, making durable timber products like buildings, furniture, toys, musical instruments and anything else made of wood carbon sinks.

Absolutely. Trees are a renewable resource. In fact, the trees harvested from Washington’s working forests today were planted 30 to 50 years ago knowing that they would one day be gathered to provide society with an environmentally friendly material for shelter, public infrastructure and other products that enhance our quality of life. It is this forward-thinking approach that ensures a sustainable supply of timber and other wood products for future generations.

That is an oversimplification that falls short of accurately describing the sustainable forestry approaches Washington’s working forests adhere to. Before a planned harvest, working forests identify riparian buffers, wetlands, steep slopes and other protected areas to avoid. Once these safeguarded areas are set aside, working forests sustainably harvest the land.

No. In forestry speak, the process of cutting trees on working forest lands is called harvesting. It is part of continual cycle of planting, harvesting and replanting to provide a sustainable supply of wood and wood products that benefit communities, our economy, the environment and wildlife.

Untrue. Manufacturing steel, concrete and plastic are high energy-intensive and carbon-intensive processes. Timber, on the other hand, is renewable and environmentally friendly because it takes far less energy and fossil fuel to produce wood products.

Absolutely. Sustainable timber harvesting mimic natural disturbances, benefiting small and large animals. For example, open areas created after provide grass and small plants for large mammals like elk to forage. In protected areas, working forests use science-backed approaches to both keep our state’s endangered and threatened species safe and keep wildlife habitat healthy.

Sustainable forestry is not about leaving forests untouched. Washington’s working forests strike a commonsense balance benefit the environment, wildlife, economy and society through responsible and sustainable forest management approaches.

Definitely not. The past decade of large-scale wildfires has made abundantly clear that leaving forests untouched and unmanaged can lead to catastrophic consequences. We need look no further than federally owned forests where densely packed forests have created dangerous fuel loads. Managed forests are healthy forests that are more resilient during times of stress like drought, extreme heat, infestation and disease.

Our Current Focus

22.4 mm acres of WA FOREST LAND

In Washington nearly 175,000 acres burned in 2022. Average wildfires in Washington (2014-2018) emitted 14.7 metric tons of CO2 per acre annually, equivalent to driving 3.2 cars all year. We’d need to take nearly 560,000 cars off the road and lock them in a garage for a year to compensate for the emissions from fire, or nearly 20% of the 2.98 million registered cars in Washington. 

Managed working forests = climate mitigation

Healthy, growing trees are the fastest way to remove carbon from the atmosphere. Washington has some of the best growing soils in the country and 9.2 billion living trees in our forests, helping us move toward the goal of carbon neutrality.

If we don’t take care of the forest, trees lose their vitality and ability to pull carbon from the atmosphere. There are more than 650 million standing dead trees in the state and 55% are on formerly managed National Forests, releasing carbon and increasing the risk of wildfire. That is 80 dead and dying trees for every person in the state, moving us away from the goal of carbon neutrality.

MANAGED WORKING FORESTS PROVIDE A SOLUTION. We can have both, healthy growing forests, and beautiful forest products that lock carbon away in wood products, keeping carbon out of the atmosphere. 

On average, each acre of managed Forest Industry lands, sequester 4.9 tons of CO2 annually and transfer more than half of that stored carbon to harvested wood products. Compare this to 2.9 tons of CO2 sequestered on formerly managed National Forests, where 70% of the annual growth is lost to dead and dying trees, which emit carbon. If the forest burns, carbon stored in the trees is released back into the atmosphere all at once.

Source: Ganguly, I., L. Droog, F. Pierobon. 2023. Global Warming Mitigating Role of Forests in Washington State, by Land Ownership Type.

Do trees emit carbon when they are harvested?

Whether trees are standing tall in the forest, or the wood is used to build homes and skyscrapers, trees store carbon in the wood. 

When trees are harvested, carbon stays in the wood, branches, needles and bark.

The facts: Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the air as they grow, store carbon in the solid form of the tree, and the carbon is not released unless trees or wood decay or burn.

The solid carbon in wood is not emitted when a tree is cut. It is stored in wood and when used in building products, stays in the built environment.

Building operations and materials have the  largest carbon impact of all sectors, nearly 40%. When we use lower energy wood which also stores carbon, we help reduce the carbon footprint of buildings

Sustainable Forestry is a Natural Carbon Solution

The Legislature took historic action on climate change, passing both a cap & trade program and a low carbon fuels standard. This action makes Washington only one of two states to adopt both policies. Both are complicated bills, but the bottom line is that policies contained in the forest sector carbon bill is reflected in these enactments that recognizes the essential role Washington state’s forestry industry and working forests play in removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. 

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Salmon Journey

Forest landowners are doing their part for salmon recovery, but forestry is just one part of the salmon life cycle. All activities in a watershed that affects streams must do their part to protect riparian areas and remove fish passage barriers for fish to thrive.