Forest Products Industry Has Proud Heritage

Posted: October 28, 2011

Source: Helena Independent Record  By Julie Altemus

Montana Forest ProductsThis week marks the first “Montana Forest Products Industry Week.” The third week of October was set aside by the 62nd Montana Legislature in conjunction with the National Forest Products Week dedicated by Congress 51 years ago, to observe the importance of forests and their products. Congress recognized that forests touch and inspire each citizen with majestic beauty and practical use through the wise management, constant replanting and growth of our vital resources. Emphasizing to each citizen the importance and heritage of our vast forest resources, which are inseparably tied to our present and ourfuture.

House Joint Resolution 6 declared the observance of an annual “Montana Forest Products Industry Week” was timely and necessary and encouraged the governor, state and local agencies, community-based organizations, private businesses, corporations and all people to set aside the third week of October each year as a time to recognize the importance of the industry in Montana.

Historically, Montana’s wood products industry primarily focused on providing dimensional lumber for building and pulp and paper. Today, the industry is well integrated, with over 160 wood manufacturing businesses, employing approximately 7,000 people, and providing labor income of roughly $265 million annually, and product sales of over $325 million every year. Montana’s wood products industry consists of sawmills, plywood, fiberboard, and particleboard plants, pellet mills, biomaterial and sustainable building material companies, log and furniture manufacturers, planers and woodworks.

These businesses produce dimensional lumber, studs, finger joints, trusses, paneling, siding, decking, guardrails and railroad ties, post and poles, landscape bark, and liquid resins for energy, food, cosmetic and medical products and industrial uses. Not to mention, with a new five-year research grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, potentially jet fuel!

Existing use of forest products in the United States supports more than 1 million direct jobs, contributing more than $100 billion in labor income and sales to the Gross Domestic Product. A recent report by the U.S. Forest Service entitled “Science Supporting the Economic and Environmental Benefits of Using Wood and Wood Products in Green Building Construction” suggests the launch of a new national “green” building initiative, will grow the forest products industry to $176 billion by 2015.

USDA Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak states, “Wood should be a major component of American building and energy design. The use of wood provides substantial environmental benefits, provides incentives for private landowners to maintain forest land, and provides a critical source of jobs in rural America.” Sustainable forest management produces healthier forests that serve as a “carbon sink” absorbing greenhouse gases and purifying drinking water for wildlife and municipal water systems.

Utilizing wood harvested through sustainable forestry practices in “green” building applications promotes a healthy environment and a strong economy.

The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) for wood as a “green” product has long been recognized by the wood products industry nationwide. The life cycle analysis is a well-established set of methods for measuring the environmental impacts of a product or service across its entire life cycle, identifying the flow of materials and energy through the various stages from the point of harvesting raw material, through manufacturing, construction, use, and finally, disposal. This “cradle-to-grave” assessment demonstrates using lumber or wood products in residential and nonresidential construction leaves one of the smallest carbon footprints. In addition, when the entire life cycle of lumber is accounted for, each ton of wood carbon replaces up to 2.1 tons of atmospheric carbon.

Past life cycle analyses and the recent report have found that “harvesting, transporting, manufacturing and using wood in lumber and panel products in building yields fewer air emissions — including greenhouse gases — than the resource extraction, manufacture and use of other common building materials. In fact, wood-based wall systems can require significantly less total energy for manufacturing than thermally comparable houses using other materials.”

In addition to producing a wide variety of sustainably harvested wood manufactured and value-added products, Montana’s forest products industry provides the workforce for trail restoration, wildlife habitat enhancement, forest and riparian restoration, hazardous fuels reduction, fire suppression and many other activities.

Montana’s wood products industry is proud to promote healthy forests and healthy communities through the management of Montana’s forests. Each member recognizes the importance and heritage of our vast forest resources, which are inseparably tied to our present and our future.