Study: Wisconsin sees growth in forestry industry

Timber sales are increasing in Wisconsin and more people are working in the state’s forestry industry, according to a new national study.

The National Alliance of Forest Owners released a report last month that found employment in Wisconsin’s forestry sector grew by nearly five per cent from 2010 to 2016, totalling 174,848. The state’s timber sales increased by nearly 10 per cent to $21.6 billion in 2016, the most recent year that comprehensive data is available, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.

Wisconsin led the Midwest in both fields in 2016, as well as timberland acres, according to the study.

Growth in the state’s timber industry comes despite the closure of paper mills across Wisconsin in the last decade, said Henry Schienebeck, director of the Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association and chairman of the Wisconsin Council on Forestry.

He attributed that in part to the production of more saw timber, the high-quality wood that’s used in hardwood flooring and furniture.

“Some of our forests are getting a little older,” Schienebeck said. “What that means is we’ve actually got more saw timber that’s growing.”

The majority of the state’s 16.5 million timberland acres are privately owned, according to the study. Public lands account for about 4.7 million acres, while companies and individuals own the remaining 11.8 million.

The National Alliance of Forest Owners’ CEO, Dave Tenney, said creating healthy economies around forestry also protects forest lands because it becomes less likely that they’re sold or developed as farmland, among other uses.

“Anybody who owns and manages forests in the United States knows one thing: It’s a long-term commitment,” Tenney said. “And in order to make a long-term commitment with forests, they have to make investments today that won’t return a yield for 20, 30 or 40 years or longer.”