It is 5:00 AM in any given time zone across these United States. While many are hitting the snooze alarm, or enjoying their first cup of coffee, a dedicated group of professionals is already on the job. They are America's loggers, harvesters of the timber that will eventually make its way into every American home in the form of building materials, the morning newspaper, paper towels, an egg carton, cereal box or those two time-honored morning rituals: brushing teeth or, well, you know.
Thousands of everyday products - including many pharmaceuticals - contain wood in one processed form or another. Not one of these products would ever reach your home were it not for loggers, the first link in an impressive supply chain that restocks your pantry, bedroom, bathroom, nursery, workshop and kitchen cupboards every time you visit a store that sells groceries, pharmaceuticals, furniture, clothing or building materials.
About 100,000 men and women are employed in logging and forestry operations in America's timbered regions: the West, Southeast, Great Lakes and Northeast. Although tree species and products vary from region to region, the job does not. Logging, replanting and tree management are all parts of an unending cycle that insures that our nation will never run out of trees and consumers will never run out of the products they consume in such abundance.
The nation's logging and forestry payroll tops $3 billion - is by far the largest "green" job pool we have in our country. Add in pulp and paper manufacturers, saw mills that process lumber and companies that manufacture engineered panels, sheeting, trusses and biomass for energy and you have an industry that annually generates 4.5 percent of total U.S. manufacturing GDP [gross domestic product]. This same technologically advanced industry is among the Top 10 manufacturers in 47 states.
Every day, each of Earth's 5.4 billion inhabitants consumes, on average, the equivalent of a four-pound block of wood. But the average American uses 3.5 times this amount - about 14 pounds, the weight of a full grocery bag. About 91 percent of this wood comes from America's privately owned managed forests. State and Indian-owned forests contribute another 6 percent and the nation's federally-owned forests, which are no longer managed for timber, contribute a scant two percent.
Thanks to private capital and advancements in the forest sciences the United States has 20 percent more forest than it did when our nation first celebrated Earth Day in 1970 - and fully two-thirds as much forestland as it had when the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620. Perhaps you've seen the bumper sticker that reads, "For America's Foresters Every Day is Earth Day."
More than 56 percent of U.S. forests are privately owned, much of it by families who manage their lands to create or maintain wildlife habitat. Increasingly, these lands are certified as being sustainably managed by third-party organizations that grade management quality on site. Small wonder then that between the years 2000 and 2005 our nation's forested land base grew by two million acres.
Long before logging begins, the next tree planting has been planned and budgeted. Every day, decisions are made on-the-ground by trained professionals - foresters and loggers alike - whose livelihoods and reputations turn on their ability to sustainably manage timber and deliver logs to wood processors who transform the nation's forest abundance into thousands of products that add to the comfort and safety of your family's daily life. Always remember that long before the logging begins, the next tree planting will occur in a matter of months, just as soon as the ground is prepared for a new crop of seedlings.
I invite you to get to know America's loggers - perhaps for the first time in your life. I believe that you will enjoy their underappreciated story as much as they enjoy serving so many of your family's needs.
Jim Petersen is a co-founder of the non-profit Evergreen Foundation, and publisher of Evergreen, the Foundation's periodic journal. The Foundation was established in Medford, Oregon in 1986 to help advance public understanding and support for science based forestry and forest policy. For more information, visit their web site at www.evergreenmagazine.com.
The American Loggers Council is a non-profit 501(c) (6) corporation representing professional timber harvesters in 30 states across the US. For more information, visit their web site atwww.americanloggers.org or contact their office at 409-625-0206.
"Save for encountering a logging truck on a highway, most Americans have no interaction with the industry that supplies most of the building products, paper and packaging materials they consume daily. That's a shame because loggers - America's "invisible" workforce - make significant contributions to the nation's economic and environmental well-being." - Jim Petersen-Evergreen Foundation