What We’ve Learned
Many people have many opinions about our nation’s forests. Through the adventures of Heather and her friends, we are able to see what our forest are like and how they’ve come to be. With proper management and continued care, our forests will be with us forever. Here are a few things we’ve learned about our nation’s forests.
1) The Pacific Northwest has the largest area of harvested forests in the entire United States. Oregon state is composed of over 62.1 million acres. 28 million acres is forest. Each acre grows 400 trees. All together, there are over 11 billion trees in Oregon alone.
2) The U.S. has a 2.3 billion acre land base. There are 749 million acres of trees within that base. They are distributed as follows: 483 million acres are commercial timber land. 171 million acres are set aside in national parks, wildlife refuges and preserves; within these areas, no harvesting is allowed.
3) “Forest” has different meanings to different people. The textbook definition of a forest is: “A thick growth of trees and underbrush covering an extensive track of land.” There are various types of forest lands throughout the U.S. Commercial Timber Land comprises 21%, National Parks, Wildlife Refuges and other Preserves make up 7.6%, and Wilderness areas make up another 4.2%. As we know, for a percentage to include everything it must equal 100. Forest lands make up 32.8 % of all the land in the U.S. The other 67.2% is made up of other lands like farms, deserts and cities.
4) We have many natural resources such as water power, coal and soil. Many of these resources can only be used once. Trees the other hand, are a renewable natural resource. As trees are cut down for human beings to use, they can be replanted to grow and be used over and over again.
5) Some items made from wood include: Houses, paper, pencils, clocks, bookcases, chairs, fences and doors. Look around you right now and see all the things you use everyday that are made from wood or wood products.
6) Trees use carbon dioxide (CO2) as food to grow. In turn, they release oxygen (O2) into the air for us to breath. They are able to do this through a process of photosynthesis which requires sunlight for changing carbon dioxide into oxygen. A 100 foot tree can absorb up to 8000 pounds of carbon dioxide each year and turn it into 6000 pounds of oxygen.
7) Since 1940, through the process of managing our forests, which means not only cutting trees down, but planting and nurturing the trees, we have seen our forest lands grow. And though the acreage of trees may have actually shrunk, the number of healthy trees growing has increased.
8) There are different ways the forest can be harvested. Clear cutting is the most well known way because of the controversy that surrounds it. Clear cutting involves cutting down all growth in a selected area. Many people are against clear cutting because in these areas all trees are cut regardless of size or type of tree. Another type of harvesting is called selective cutting. This is a more acceptable means of harvesting. Though more expensive and time consuming, selective cutting allows for particular trees within an area to be cut down.
9) Tree bark has many uses in medicine and some varieties are edible such as cinnamon which comes from the bark of a Laurel tree.
10) Some of our natural resources are non-renewable. This means once they are used, they are gone forever. Some of our non-renewable resources that we rely on everyday include: plastic, which is made from petroleum; cement, made of burned lime and clay and steel made of iron alloy and other metals to make it hard.
11) We use many non-renewable resources as wood substitutes, however, since they are non-renewable they may not always be available to us. Additionally, these wood substitutes take more energy to work with than wood.
12) Trees are all unique even within the same type. Trees follow a life cycle similar to human beings. Unlike human beings, trees sprout from a seed that is in fertile soil. Once growing, a tree can live for hundreds of years. Throughout it’s life, however, the tree grows and matures like people and will eventually die.
13) Within the forest there are areas considered “new growth” which means they have been planted within the last XX years. Some forests are considered “old growth”. These must be older than XX years. In some areas, what has been thought to have been old growth because of the size and number of trees has actually been as young as 30 years. This is the case within the Lake James forest in North Carolina, featured in the film “Last of the Mohican’s”. Chosen for it’s old growth look, film makers were surprised to find the area had been clear cut and replanted just 19 years before.
14) New growth trees require more carbon dioxide and thus produce more oxygen than older trees.
15) Selective cutting in old growth areas actually helps young trees to grow better. This is because as trees grow older and larger, they often block the sun and other things younger trees need to grow strong and healthy.
16) The forest industry plants the majority of new growth in harvested areas. For every tree cut, an average of six seedlings are planted.
17) To help manage the forest, regulate harvesting and insure a never ending supply of wood, the U.S. Forest Service was established in 1905.
18) During the early 20th century much forest land was cleared to make room for agriculture and farm land in the mid-west. The U.S. Forest Service has helped to stop vast destruction and with their efforts, forest lands have actually increased since the 1920’s.
19) Better crop management, machinery and pesticides have helped farmers to grow better crops on fewer acres of land. This has helped to maintain forest size in rural areas.
20) An example of how effective the U.S. Forest Service has been comes from the Quachita National Forest in Arkansas. As vast areas were severely clear cut in the late 1800, the U.S. Forest Service restricted harvesting in the area. Now, after almost 100 years, the U.S. Forest Service has again allowed harvesting in the area since it has replenished and offers a good source of wood.
21) The leading cause of forest destruction today is fire. Four million acres of forest lands are destroyed by fire each year. This is actually an improvement. Less than 40 years ago, an average of 53 million acres were destroyed by fire each year.
22) Other leading killers of forest land and trees is insect infestation and disease. In harvested areas, we are able to monitor and inhibit this destruction with proper use of insecticides and pesticides. In harvested areas we are able to identify and combat disease and infestation. In wilderness areas and preserves no intervention is allowed.
23) By 1987, more than 34.5 million acres of productive forest land – an area about the size of the state of Florida – had been set aside in reserves where timber management is forbidden. In these areas, not only can trees not be cut, but they can not be protected from insects or disease.
24) Though proper forest management, many wildlife species have increased such as the whitetail deer, elk, pronghorn antelope and wild turkeys.
25) A mill is a wood factory where trees that have been cut are processed and made into building materials such as two-by-fours. All parts of the trees harvested are used. Bark, roots and leaves are made into wood pulp to be used in paper manufacturing and other industries.