It is a distinct privilege to address all of you great loggers through the American Loggers Council Newsletter. I’d like to start my comments with an abbreviated version of a speech I’ve written for President Obama, or Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, or anyone in a high ranking office that can muster an audience. It goes something like this:
“America is truly a country of great achievement. Nothing underscores this more than a quick review of some facts. America leads the world in food production. Today, U.S. farmers export 45% of their wheat, 34% of their soybeans and 71% of their almonds. In 2011, U.S. farmers produced $388 billion of goods, with approximately one third of that being exported. America truly helps feed the world.
In the 1970’s, America decided it was time to shed its reliance on foreign oil. The American people said, “Enough is enough,” and Washington was listening. Today America is undergoing a revolution in energy production, a revolution so dynamic that the International Energy Agency predicts that the U.S. will surpass Russia and Saudi Arabia as the world’s top oil producer by the end of this year.
America’s pride of achievement is showcased in so many other fields, including space exploration, medicine, and athletic prowess.
Today I’d like to issue a challenge to an industry that helped build this country, an industry that produced the railroad ties that linked our country together, and provides the raw material that builds our homes, our schools, and our offices. Today, this great industry, the timber industry, is languishing. America leads in exporting so many goods and services to the world, and yet is now the second leading importer of lumber in the world (we were number one up until 2012, when China became the leading importer). California, the Golden State, blessed with over 33 million acres of forestland imports over 75% of its wood products.
How can this be? One third of our nation is covered in forestland. We have arguably the best growing climate for timber production in the world. Our timber industry is second to none when it comes to technological know-how and work ethic.
When the American people put their heart and soul into something, they achieve it. It’s time to bring homegrown timber products back to our hardware stores and lumberyards. If we all work together, America can become a leading exporter of timber-related goods and services. We should not accept anything less.”
If that speech was given, could we rise to the challenge of retooling and expanding our industry? Does the United States have access to enough homegrown timber to feed our annual lumber appetite of 40 – 65 billion board feet a year? The answer is, “Yes we do – in spades.”
According to data from the Western Wood Products Association and the Forest Service Inventory and Analysis Group, the standing net volume in America’s forests is approaching 2.25 trillion board feet. Annual growth on this inventory is approximately 150 billion board feet. This easily meets our nation’s lumber demand. The truth is, the United States has 750 million acres of forestland growing enough timber to meet our own lumber needs, export billions of board feet to other countries, while continually adding inventory to our forests.
In addition to prodigious timber growth, two-thirds of our nation’s drinking water comes from our forests. On average, once acre of trees annually consumes the amount of carbon dioxide equivalent to that produced by driving an average car for 26,000 miles. That same acre of trees also produces enough oxygen for 18 people to breathe for a year.
Economically, there is no better investment than forestry. Every $1 million invested in forestry creates approximately 40 jobs. That is almost double the next highest investment sector of mass transit and freight rail construction where $1 million invested creates approximately 22 jobs.
Unfortunately, these facts are not what I hear talked about at the landing, at coffee shops, or at conventions and meetings. Instead, it’s usually acres burned, mills closed, government regulations, environmental lawsuits, and jobs lost. The Associated California Loggers just finished our annual meeting. At an evening banquet, my wife, Vicki, looked around the room of 250 plus folks and said, “Wow, there are a lot of young people here.” There were indeed young loggers and their wives, many sitting with their moms and dads.
These young people are hungry for inspiration, and our association, the American Loggers Council, must remain the prime source of that inspiration. We need to talk more about acres harvested, mills reopened, new laws to support our industry, and environmental groups that support our goal of healthy forests.
For the older generation, our charge is to inspire this new generation of loggers to continue not only to work hard and smart, but to understand and promote the proud and positive facts about our forests and our industry. Let’s face it, if we are going to rejuvenate America’s timber industry, it will be on their watch. With their help, America can trade the stigma of being a leading lumber importer with her overgrown forests burning to the ground, for the pride of supplying lumber to the world.
Mike Albrecht is co-owner of Sierra Resource Management, Inc., located in Jamestown, California. Mike was selected as the American Loggers Council National Logger Activist of the Year in 2014. For more information, please contact the ALC office at 409-625-0206 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.