two actions to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050:
  1. Cut carbon emissions.
  2. Capture and store carbon, keeping it out of the atmosphere.

Healthy, growing trees are the fastest way to remove carbon from the atmosphere. We have some of the best growing soils in the country and more than 9 billion living trees in our forests, making Washington a great place to grow trees and sequester carbon!

If we don’t take care of the forest, trees lose their vitality. Mismanaged forests become overcrowded, diseased and decay sets in so trees can’t grow well. Forests lose their ability to pull carbon from the atmosphere. We have more than 650 million standing dead trees in our state, 80 trees for each person.  Dead and dying trees release carbon, moving us away from our goal of carbon neutrality. We must restore our forests to health.

Warming climate accelerates the rate of decay in unmanaged forests, putting them at higher risk to unnaturally destructive wildfire. One year of wildfire smoke can erase decades of progress removing carbon from the atmosphere. Wildfire emits years of stored forest carbon, all at once. If we don’t take care of our forests, progress can be erased in just one fire season.

Washington’s working forests provide a solution.

We can have both, healthy growing forests, and beautiful forest products that lock carbon away in the wood, keeping it out of the atmosphere.

Just 2% of our working forests are harvested each year, and replanted in the next growing season. All working forests are in various ages of growth, providing a sustainable supply of carbon-storing wood products and healthy growing forests.

Faster growing, young trees sequester carbon quicker than older dying and diseased forests which emit carbon as they decay or burn. When wood products are substituted for concrete and steel, the carbon benefit is doubled. Using low carbon wood offsets emissions from these more energy intensive building materials.

Actively managed private and state forests maintain their vitality. Healthy forests sequester and store more carbon than unmanaged, unhealthy federal forests which emit carbon from mortality, disease and decay. Learn more in the charts below.

Sustainable forestry and wood products are essential to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. We must care and protect the vitality of our forests to ensure they are climate resilient and able to grow low carbon, renewable building materials for communities that need housing, and support timber jobs.

“In the long term, a sustainable forest management strategy aimed at maintaining or increasing forest carbon stocks, while producing an annual sustained yield of timber, fiber or energy from the forest, will generate the largest sustained mitigation benefit.”

There are 23 million acres of forests in WA State, 53% is unmanaged and 47% are managed working forests.

In 2021 nearly 3 billion board feet of timber was harvested. This is enough wood to build 350,000 average sized homes. With affordable housing in short supply, it is our obligation to society to produce a steady supply of low carbon wood and support timber jobs in rural economies. Working forests support more than 102,000 workers, with jobs in every county.

Carbon stored in old forest stocks was removed from the atmosphere hundreds of years ago. Natural old growth forests are not working forests, they are protected and remain vital for biodiversity. On the other hand, unmanaged and unhealthy federal working forests are overcrowded, emitting carbon at the fastest rate with 71% of annual growth, dying and releasing carbon. Wildfire releases forest carbon all at once. In some years carbon from wildfire smoke is among the largest source of emissions in the state.

When a tree is harvested, 82% goes into making wood products, and 18% remains on the forest floor.

Source: Ganguly, Indroneil, Pierobon, Francesca, Droog, Lieke. “Global warming profile of Washington State’s forests and substitution effects of wood products.” Presentation, Seattle, 2022.

“Sustainable forest management can maintain or enhance forest carbon stocks, and can maintain forest carbon sinks, including by transferring carbon to wood products. Where wood carbon is transferred to harvested wood products, these can store carbon over the long-term and can substitute for emissions-intensive materials reducing emissions in other sectors.”

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