Forests produce clean water and air, beautiful landscapes, recreation opportunities, fish and wildlife habitat, and sequester carbon that helps mitigate climate change. The U.S. is enriched by its abundant forests that in addition to their environmental benefits produce products ranging from lumber and paper to toothpaste and plastics that are an integral part of the daily lives of all Americans. The forest products industry is a major economic engine in the U.S., producing over $300 billion in timber and forest products annually. The forest products industry accounts for about 4% of the manufacturing GDP in the U.S. and employs over 950,000 workers. Forest products companies are among the top 10 manufacturing sector employers in 45 states. Damage caused by insects and disease threatens the sustainability of Americas’ forests which impacts the entire forest products supply chain from private and public forest landowners to manufacturers who use wood as a raw material to consumers who use forest products every day.
According to the USDA Forest Service, trees were dying from insects and diseases on more than 8.6 million acres across the U.S. in 2017.
- Mountain Pine Beetle in the West killed almost one-quarter of these trees;
- Gypsy Moth continues to spread, impacting 1.5 million acres in the East each year;
- Emerald Ash Borer is now killing trees in 965 counties in the U.S. from Maine to South Carolina to South Dakota and threatens the survival of all ash trees;
- Laurel wilt, an introduced disease, threatens to eradicate redbay, swamp bay, and sassafras trees in the South in the same way that Chestnut Blight and Dutch Elm Disease has essentially eliminated American Chestnut and American Elm from the landscape.
- Southern Pine Beetle has reached outbreak levels and threatens the forest product industry in the South that is worth more than $200 billion;
- Swiss Needle Cast disease annually impacts more than 300,000 acres of Douglas-fir in Washington and Oregon causing growth losses of 20 – 50%. The value of the lost growth exceeds $200 million annually.
- Needle Cast diseases were recently detected in Mississippi and Alabama and are already damaging southern pines on more than 350,000 acres in those two states.
A long-term strategy that will assure financial stability, intellectual continuity, a productive research pipeline, coordinated planting efforts, open information sharing, and outreach is needed. The Foundation will work with Member companies, associations, and other partners to identify and pursue avenues to meet this challenge.