Timber industry shows its impact with National Forest Products Week


There may not be a more energetic time for the timber industry around the country than National Forest Products Week. The annual event, always the third week of October, is a tribute to the country’s forest products industry and the 900,000 American workers who make the industry such a critical piece of the U.S. economy.

This years’s event, Oct. 19-25, includes timber tours, industry fairs, student training sessions, lectures and charity home builds, from Kentucky and Florida to Montana, Idaho and Oregon.

Jim Hannan, CEO and President of Georgia-Pacific, a pulp and paper company based in Atlanta, put it well this week:

It’s National Forest Products Week, a nationally designated time to recognize the contributions of forest products manufacturers to the lives of all American citizens. In my opinion, the U.S. forest products industry is one of our country’s greatest success stories.

The annual celebration was established by Congress in 1960 and leads to proclamations like this one from President Obama this year:

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim October 19 through October 25, 2014, as National Forest Products Week. I call on the people of the United States to join me in recognizing the dedicated individuals who are responsible for the stewardship of our forests and for the preservation, management, and use of these precious natural resources for the benefit of the American people.

In Flathead County, Mont., this year’s Forest Products Week was a chance for the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce to give political and business leaders a tour of actively managed local forests.

Paul McKenzie, the Lands and Resource Manager for F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber, said “he hopes this tour will play a critical role in building industry stability. His bottom-line message is that timber harvests and sales provide jobs,” according to NBC Montana.

“The 7 million board feet that are going to come off this (local) timber sale will run our sawmill a little over two months throughout this winter and in this next spring. That’s going to employ 120 employees that we operate on, on a daily basis,” McKenzie said.

But, with any industry, there are hurdles. That’s why organizers hope the business leaders and lawmakers who took the tour see the dollars and cents of timber.

At the University of Montana, the student chapter of the Society of American Foresters organized a series of displays on campus trees, showing each tree’s economic and environmental value, including carbon storage, air quality and energy savings. The price of each tree is listed, as well as the products that wood is used to build.

Jamie Kirby, (Coordinator of the school’s Urban Forestry Department), said this program is designed to show people in residential areas what role trees play in everyday life.

“We are trying to expose the public to how important having nature in our lives is,” Kirby said. “We feel these numbers are a great way to show how trees pay us back.”

Kirby said the week-long event isn’t just focusing on the benefits of live trees, but also the benefits dead trees provide. She said at the end of their lives, urban trees are often used in furniture, carpentry and special wood products.

U.S. Reps. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) wrote this week that National Forest Products Week is a commemoration of forest products workers.

It’s the smart and capable American men and women working in manufacturing facilities across the country making this (widespread wood products manufacturing and use) all happen. From front-line machine operators to pipefitters to engineers, the commitment to innovative products is a game-changer in this highly-competitive global industry.

The processes used to turn harvested fiber into products has become more innovative too, from an increased amount of recycled fiber content in paper-based packaging to cross-laminated timber that can match the strength of materials such as steel and concrete.

The success of these efforts is reflected in the industry’s continued economic vitality.  The forest products industry accounts for nearly four percent of the total U.S. manufacturing GDP, manufacturing approximately $210 billion in products annually.  It meets a payroll of approximately $50 billion annually and is among the top 10 manufacturing employers in 47 states. 

Ultimately, the congressmen write, Americans can show their support with their pocketbook.

The next time you use a paper product, think about its positive environmental track record, the 900,000 American jobs you are supporting, and share the good word with those around you.

Now, go celebrate National Forest Products Week by buying something. Chances are, it’s made with paper.