Forest Products, Services and You
The forest products industry contributes more than $132 billion to the South’s economy. Timber and its many by-products are the primary resource generated by well-managed forests. But increasingly, the environmental services provided by forests are becoming recognized and given value.
Pulpwood for paper, lumber, poles, and veneer logs are valuable timber commodities to the South's economy. These are the products most people think of and value in terms of tree products since they are used for the building, furniture, pencil, and paper products we use daily. Check your state forestry agency for a list of forest products industries in your state.
Trees also provide us with non-timber products including pine straw, firewood, food, and other specialty forest products. Contact your state forestry agency to learn about specialty products in your state.
Forested land has significant environmental benefits including protecting air and water quality, capturing and filtering storm water, storing carbon, providing renewable energy, reducing energy consumption and delivering quality of life benefits. Environmental and financial innovations, such as carbon offset and biofuels, have created new revenue streams for southern forests and added incentives to maintain land in forests.
Forests and Climate Change
One of the most important services forests provide is helping maintain the carbon balance in the earth’s atmosphere. Concern is mounting over increased emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) altering this balance and leading to negative climate change consequences such as temperature extremes, drought, and severe weather.
Healthy, growing trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, releasing oxygen and storing carbon in their wood. This can offset the effects of GHG emissions from the burning of fossil fuels for heating, energy generation, and transportation.
Forest landowners can now enhance the positive role of forests in climate change and profit from the carbon stored in their forest lands. Once the amount of carbon is determined, it can be sold on the open market as “offset credits.” The Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) allows these credits to be traded similar to the way stocks are traded on the New York Stock Exchange. CCX member companies that are unable to meet voluntary annual GHG emissions reductions must purchase additional credits. These can come from other companies or through offsets, such as those from forests.
While increasing the amount of forest land, promoting sustainable forests, and encouraging carbon storage in wood products, the carbon credits program is also providing an additional source of income for landowners. Courtesy: Texas Forest Service
Forests and the Market for Carbon Credits
By purchasing carbon credits, businesses and other entities can offset their CO2 emissions with the activities of others, such as planting trees or conserving forests. This purchase may allow forest owners to gain financially from their contribution to the forest carbon sink. Organizations including the Chicago Climate Exchange, The Environmental Resources Trust, and TFS Green are working to provide the framework to market forest carbon offsets. Prices for carbon credits on the Chicago Climate Exchange have ranged from $1-$5 per metric ton of CO2 equivalent in the past year.
Forest owners gain access to most carbon markets through carbon aggregators, brokers who take care of enrolling forest land in the program. Aggregators charge a service fee from the annual sale proceeds to cover administrative expenses associated with managing the program. For all markets, either national, regional, or state, the minimum requirements for a landowner to participate include the development of a forest management plan. Once the plan is developed, offset aggregation and verification procedures vary dependent upon the market being pursued.
For more information on carbon offsets, markets, and protocols, view the SGSF publication, Guiding Principles for a Practical and Sustainable Approach to Forest Carbon Sequestration Projects in the Southern United States and visit Carbon Trading: A primer for forest landowners.
Forest biomass, tree residue from managed forests and wood waste from urban areas, can be converted to energy-producing ethanol and wood pellets. It can be managed as one of a large number of goods and services that come from forests. Replacing fossil fuels with clean, renewable fuels to produce energy will offset CO2 buildup, boost economy and improve forest health. In addition, the use of renewable, sustainable forest biomass for bio-based products may help decrease the risk of wildfires. An overabundance of fuel wood is a primary reason for the recent high incidence of wildfires. Removing brush, small diameter trees, damaged trees, and other fuel sources can lessen the possibility of large, high intensity wildfires.
- Biomass Core Principles for Renewable Energy Policy
- Wood to Energy case studies, produced by the Centers for Urban and Interface Forestry, show challenges and benefits of utilities, industries, and facilities that are using or planning to use wood for energy.
- Burning Sawdust for Heat and Power [PDF]
- Challenges of Obtaining a Wood Supply [PDF]
- Co-firing with Wood and Sugarcane Waste [PDF]
- Co-firing with Wood and Switchgrass [PDF]
- Converting from Natural Gas to Waste Wood [PDF]
- Forest Industry Creates Its Own Power [PDF]
- Innovative Fuel Sources Generate Success [PDF]
- Powering the Grid with Waste [PDF]
- Power to the People [PDF]
- Using a Mix of Fuels to Produce Heat and Power [PDF]
- Waste-to-Energy Program [PDF]
- Wood and Paper Trim the Energy Bill [PDF]
- Wood Power Heats a Public School [PDF]
- Wood-powered Whiskey [PDF]