Working Forests as Part of a Carbon Solution

Working forests benefit our economy and our environment

Whether we’re driven by a desire to economical or by a concern for changes in our climate, more of us share a goal of reducing carbon emissions than ever before.

Maintaining actively managed working forests is an important—in fact, essential—way that we in Washington support an industry that creates family-wage jobs while achieving that common objective.

The forest industry is part of a carbon-friendly solution.

Managed forests and wood products are a naturally occurring part of the solution to address goals for reducing carbon emissions by storing carbon in the forest and wood products.

Scientific research has demonstrated that forests provide environmental values, including removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere that non-forested landscapes cannot.

As we search for ways to reduce the amount of carbon in our environment, the cycle of growth and harvest in working forests is a real solution. In scientific lingo, the process is often called carbon sequestration, and it’s based on science most of us mastered in grade school.

Healthy, growing trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, then store that carbon as tree biomass. (Non-scientists call it “wood.”) Simple enough.

The process continues with more carbon being stored during a tree’s high-growth period and less being stored in older phases of growth. After harvest, the wood continues to store the carbon as lumber, wood and paper products.

Wait. It gets even better.

Responsibly managed forests absorb carbon sustainable forestry increases CO2 absorption from the atmosphere as a result of young trees absorbing higher levels of carbon dioxide than older trees, making the forest act as a carbon sink. In other words, there are a lot of great reasons to preserve old growth timber, but concern for climate change is not among them.

Responsibly managed forests provide drinking water, a healthy climate, wildlife habitat, and green jobs in rural economies. Managed forests increase CO2 absorption and prevent catastrophic fire, disease and insects that kill trees and emit carbon dioxide.

Bioenergy and tall wood buildings are big pieces of the green puzzle.

Wood used in long-lived products provides the greatest reduction in fossil fuel use and emissions. On average, when we substitute wood for energy-intensive building products, we offset two tons of carbon emissions for every dry metric ton of wood used. This occurs because we are eliminating fossil fuel emissions that would have been released into the air had we used more energy-intensive materials, thus adding to the net benefit of wood.

Couple that clear positive impact with the fact that the net carbon stored in wood products is far greater than alternative materials and it becomes clear; wood has the lowest carbon impact among building materials. Builders, therefore, have a great opportunity to mitigate carbon emissions by choosing wood products over steel, concrete and plastics.

Healthy working forests are essential to these natural and science-based solutions having their full positive on the challenges we face. Through better collaboration we can harness the power of the forest industry to meet the demands for wood while following sustainable forestry practices to achieve our broader goals.