The forest-based economy of the states of Maine, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont is an important component of the region's economic health, according to new research by the North East State Foresters Association and the Northern Forest Center. Forest-based economic activity annually contributes more than $33 billion and provides 178,000 jobs to the four-state region.
"These reports show how integral the forests of the region are to the economic health of the Northeast," said Steve Sinclair, chair of the North East State Foresters Association and state forester of Vermont. "We hope that this new information can help people in the region gain a greater appreciation that, in addition to scenic beauty, a place to recreate, clean air, clean water and many other environmental benefits, our forests provide tens of thousands of jobs and are an important part of our economy."
The four reports and a regional summary are available online at www.nefainfo.org/publications.html and update data last compiled in 2011 for New Hampshire and 2007 for Vermont, New York and Maine. According to the reports, the annual value of sales from the region's forest products industry totals more than $18.8 billion, while the forest-based recreation economy is worth $14.3 billion.
The analysis includes gross output and jobs in the following categories: forestry, logging and trucking; wood products manufacturing; furniture and related product manufacturing; paper manufacturing; wood energy; Christmas trees and maple syrup; and forest recreation.
"The reports highlight the forest's economic role in our largely rural states," said Joe Short, vice president of the Northern Forest Center. "The forest is an incredible resource that — if we use it sustainably — can provide jobs and income to the region that would be hard to replace. We have 46 million acres of forestland here, and one of the best incentives to ensure forest conservation is to value the contribution it makes to our economy."
Including economic multipliers that show the ripple effect of the total forest-based economy, approximately 104,000 workers are employed in the forest products sector, including maple syrup and Christmas trees, while another 74,000 jobs are found in the sectors that include and support the forest recreation economy.
In addition to economic data for each established economic sector, the reports analyze forest composition and ownership; timber volumes and sustainability; carbon storage; inventory projections, and forest health, as well as the economic value of the ecological services the forest provides, such as clean air and water, wildlife habitat, biological diversity, scenic landscapes and carbon storage.
"Our forests are providing a rich mix of benefits and opportunities, some of which have clear, present economic value, others of which are new or not yet valued the way a finished product is valued," said Short. "For instance, this year's reports pay increased attention to carbon storage. Selling carbon offsets based on the carbon stored in forests could yield significant economic benefit as public policy and markets begin to value the contributions the forest makes toward mitigating greenhouse gas emissions."
The reports also cover how much wood flows in and out of each state's economy, accounting for domestic imports and exports as well as volume sent to and imported from Canada.
Beyond hard data, the reports review issues that may affect the future of the forest's economic contributions, including climate change, loss of markets, reduced state and federal support for forestry assistance programs, state and federal tax policies, cost of travel and removal of land from active forest management.
The following entities funded the four state reports on the economic importance of the forest economy: Maine Forest Service, Public Service Company of New Hampshire, New York Dept. of Environmental Conservation, U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, USDA Rural Development through the Northern Forest Center, and the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, with assistance from the Vermont Agency of Commerce, Vermont Woodlands Association, Vermont Wood Manufacturers Association, The New England Society of American Foresters, Innovative Natural Resource Solutions LLC and the Plum Creek Foundation.
The North East State Foresters Association is the state foresters of Vermont, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York cooperating with the U.S. Forest Service State and Private Forestry on issues of common interest.
The Northern Forest Center helps create economic opportunity and community vitality from healthy working forests in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York.