By Jan Poling
AF&PA Vice President, General Counsel & Corporate Secretary
April 26 is Arbor Day, a holiday that celebrates trees and encourages people to plant them.
One-third of the U.S. is forested, and there are more trees on U.S. soil today than there were on the first Earth Day celebration nearly 50 years ago.
The U.S. paper industry has played an important role in that growth and continues to help keep forests as forests. Paper production gives landowners a viable reason to plant more trees--even in places where there are none now.
More than half of U.S. forestlands are privately owned and forest ownership can be expensive. Landowners pay annual property taxes and invest in sustainable forest management, as well as protection against fire, insect and disease infestations, invasive species, etc.
Many of these landowners need to make an income from their land and do so by harvesting and replanting of trees for timber sales. This often allows the land to pay for itself.
Harvesting (cutting) trees in itself does not cause deforestation. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization defines deforestation as "a non-temporary change of land use from forest to other land use or to the depletion of forest crown cover to less than 10 percent. Clear cuts (even with stump removal), if shortly followed by reforestation for forestry purposes, are not considered deforestation."
When landowners cannot make an income by growing and harvesting trees, they have no financial incentive to keep their land forested, increasing the likelihood that it will be permanently converted to other uses--ones that typically do not include the consistent growing and replanting of trees.
The major factors contributing to deforestation in the U.S. are urbanization, conversion to agriculture and natural disasters (such as forest fires).
Continued demand for paper and paper products means continued demand for trees. Using paper supports our nation's forests by giving landowners an incentive to keep growing trees.
To keep forests as forests, proudly use paper!
To learn more about how paper helps forests, read our Earth Day blog.