Forest Atlas Of The United States

Providing Quality Wood Products While Sustaining Our Forests

Before wood products can be manufactured, trees must be harvested from forests and the timber must be transported to manufacturing facilities. Timber resources and harvesting operations exist throughout the United States, but only a small proportion of forests are harvested intensively. Cutting trees for wood products can be accomplished sustainably to maintain renewable and resilient forests that regenerate into the future.

Harvesting timber (cutting trees) for wood products is an important piece of forest management and what shapes the forest. By selectively removing both live and dead trees from the forest, forest managers are better able to predict forest attributes and shape forests to meet the needs of current and future generations. Plant, animal, and human populations depend on forests for resources such as clean water, shelter, and food.

Trees are a renewable resource because they grow back after being harvested. Amongst a host of forest management goals and objectives, sustaining our forests includes carefully managing them so the sum of harvest and mortality levels does not exceed growth— this helps maintain the timber resource and ensures that harvested forests are enabled to regrow into the next forest.

Timber volume in forests is constantly in flux, and harvest plays an important role in shaping forests. This map shows that most counties have some timber harvest, but harvest volumes generally represent low percentages of standing timber volume.

timber harvest by ownership graph

The ownership of the lands being harvested has changed over time. This trend has been most pronounced in the West, where most forest resources reside on federal lands. Looking at California, Oregon, and Washington at three points in time, not only have overall harvest levels dramatically decreased, the ownership mix of timber harvest has shifted increasingly from public to private lands.

upper midwest region map

Timber harvest occurs all across the nation and in other countries. Because wood products are used all over the world, timber is often harvested and processed in one place, while the products may be used thousands of miles away.

This depiction of timber flow in the Upper Midwest illustrates harvest levels and the movement of logs to mills. Clearly, timber is moving all over the region, and some logs are even shipped overseas. Similar patterns exist in other parts of the country. This movement results from the complexity of wood product markets that connect landowners, loggers, mills, and consumers.

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TIMBER FLOW ( Thousand Cubic Feet) < 1 0 1 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 , 00 0 1 , 0 0 1 1 0 , 0 0 0 > 1 0 , 00 0 > 10,000 < 10 EXPORT AMOUNT (Thousand Cubic Feet)