hroughout the history of the US, the forest products industry has
been intimately linked to
the development of the nation. Some of the first exports
from the original American Colonies were white pine trees,
destined to become ship masts for Britain's Royal Navy.
One of the first sawmills in the New World was built
in Berwick, Maine in 1631 and Vermont's first sawmill
began operating in 1738 or 1739. In early America, wood
was abundant and because of it's versatility, was used
for products ranging from houses and barns, to barrels
While wood has been replaced with other materials in
many products, the wood using industry is still very
important to the economy of Vermont and
the other states throughout the "maple region".
Forests dominate the landscape in Vermont,
covering 4.6 million acres, or over 78% of the state.
Since the peak period of land clearing for agriculture,
in the middle of the 19th century, forests have been
slowly reclaiming the land. After decades of increases,
the state currently has more acres of forest than at
any time in the last 100 years. There is 2% more forestland
today than in 1983, and 24% more than in 1948 when the
US Forest Service began collecting this data. The Forest
Service classifies 97% (4.5 million acres) of the forestland
as "timberland"; land which is physically capable
of growing timber crops and potentially available for
Not only has the acreage of forest
increased, but so have the average size and number of
trees in Vermont's forests.
In recent years, the term "sustainable" has been used by many
people, in many different contexts, to mean many different things. The
Vermont Forest Resources Plan defines sustainability as "the production
and use of resources to meet the needs of present generations without compromising
the ability of future generations to meet their needs". While
many factors contribute to "forest sustainability", foresters
have long realized that to sustain forests
over time, removals of wood must not exceed the rate of tree growth.
One of the key tools for assessing
the health and sustainability of Vermont's forests is
the Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) conducted by
the US Forest Service. The latest inventory, conducted
in 1997, found that Vermont's forests contain over 117
million cords of wood, an average of over 26 cords per
acre. Since 1966, the average diameter of these trees
has increased from 8.3 to 9.16 inches (diameter breast
height), and the average number of trees per acre has
increased from 170 to 187 (trees 5"or larger in
The FIA not only monitors growth, but
also assesses the level of removals from forests to calculate
a "growth-to-removals ratio". Net growth is
the total growth of trees plus gains from land coming
into forest, minus losses to mortality from insect and
disease outbreaks, and disturbances such as wind or ice
storms. Removals include harvesting as well as losses
due to land use change. Since 1948, the net growth of
trees has exceeded removals. In fact, about twice as
much wood has been grown as was cut or otherwise removed!
Sugar maple is Vermont's most abundant species, when ranked by volume,
followed by red maple.
Maple (sugar and red maple combined) also makes-up nearly 33% of the state's
total hardwood harvest (by volume)
roughly 116 thousand cords in
2001. While it seems like a huge number, the state's forests are growing
roughly three times as much maple as is cut annually. When judged
on the basis of growth and harvest levels, Vermont's maple resource is
certainly being utilized sustainably.
Maple is a mainstay of many of Vermont's commercial hardwood sawmills,
and is also a species commonly used species by the wood manufacturing
companies located in the state. From forests, to sawmills, to finished
products, the industry as a whole supports over 1000 companies. Our wood
products companies are incredibly diverse, producing:
- Lumber, veneer & plywood
- Finished furniture (custom and production)
- Furniture components
- Cabinetry and architectural millwork
- Clapboards and flooring
- Toys & novelties
- Pallets, crates and other packing and shipping materials
- Cutlery handles & other component parts
- Bowls, cutting boards & other household accessories
- Birdhouses & feeder
* Source: VT Wood Manufacturers Association
Vermont Forest Industry Facts **
Forest-based manufacturing contributed $964.3 million in
value of shipments to the Vermont economy in 1997. This
is 12% of the statewide value for manufacturing.
The forest-based, manufacturing economy provides employment
for almost 7,500 people and generates payrolls of almost
$200 million. This accounts for about 30% of payroll
and employees for all manufacturing industries in Vermont.
Vermont landowners received estimated stumpage (payments
for standing timber) revenue in 1997 of $30 million.
Total delivered value of these roundwood products was $85
Wood provides 6% of total energy use in Vermont. Revenues
from the sales of biomass chips totaled $2.4 million
in 1997. Sales of cordwood generated $25 million annually
between 1996 and 1997.
** Source: The Economic Importance
of Vermont's Forests; Northeast State Foresters
Assoc.; March 2001.