Every year on March 21, the International Day of Forests reminds us of the numerous environmental benefits trees provide. Forest benefits include oxygen production, erosion reduction and habitat protection. Trees are a major source of water, can sequester carbon and can even help cool the air.
Forests also are beautiful, offering a host of recreational opportunities and a reprieve from the stresses of everyday life. Camping, boating, hiking, bird watching, foraging and cross-country skiing are just a few of the forest benefits that people can enjoy.
It’s easy to focus on environmental and recreational forest benefits. But did you know forests also offer a broad range of economic benefits?
Forest Benefits Make Dollars and Cents
For companies like Domtar and the many individuals who rely on trees for their livelihood, forests have a long history of providing economic benefits. Just how big a role do forests play in the North American economy?
Many communities across America have relied on forest product manufacturers to support their families for generations. These companies not only provide income to individual families but also help support entire regions of the country. According to the American Forest & Paper Association, the forest products industry:
- Manufactures more than $200 billion worth of products annually
- Employs approximately 900,000 U.S. workers
- Is among the top 10 manufacturing employers in 45 states
- Supports 2.4 million jobs through its supply chain
Combined, the forest products industry represents nearly 4 percent of the U.S. manufacturing gross domestic product, making it a major contributor to the nation’s economy.
Economic Engine for Canada
The story is similar for Canada. The forest industry is one of Canada’s most important manufacturing sectors. According to a 2016 report by Natural Resources Canada, the industry:
- Accounted for approximately 7 percent of Canada’s total exports
- Injected about $23 billion into Canada’s economy
- Directly supported more than 211,000 jobs across the country, including employment for an estimated 9,700 indigenous people
- Generated more than $1 billion in revenue in 2015 for provincial and territorial government
The forest industry is critical to the Canadian economy and often serves as the lifeblood of rural economies.
Financial Gain for Landowners
Because of the great economic benefits associated with forests, the forest products industry is sometimes misunderstood. Some people think that it exploits this natural resource for financial gain, leaving fewer forests standing for future generations. In fact, the opposite is true.
A study by Dovetail Partners, Inc. found regions with the highest levels of timber harvest for forest products are actually the regions with the lowest rates of deforestation. This makes sense, as many private landowners rely on harvests as a periodic source of income. Without a financial incentive to maintain their forests, landowners might consider other land uses that don’t include trees, such as agriculture or development.
Domtar’s Financial Impact
For its part, Domtar shares the economic impact of its forestry and manufacturing activities through tools like The Paper Trail®, which offers financial data associated with its facilities. This includes industry employment, tax information and more. The tool highlights the positive economic impact that comes from running 13 mills and multiple external paper converters throughout the United States and Canada, generating nearly 9,000 North American jobs.
To learn more about environmental and economic forest benefits, visit the United Nations International Day of Forests website.