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Oct 15, 2023

Celebrating Montana Forest Products Week: Extending Appreciation to the Forest Products Industry

Tags: Forestry

In 2011, the Montana Legislature established the third week of October as Montana Forest Products Week. The week is dedicated to honoring and extending appreciation to the forest products industry for providing locally-made wood products, stewardship of our private and public forests, and gainful employment. Learn more about the importance of the Montana Forest Products Industry below.

Stewardship of Forests

Providing stewardship of our forests is no small feat. According to the Montana Forest Action Plan, “Montana has over 23 million acres of forested land - spanning most of the state, both within and outside of communities.” Approximately 3.8 million of those acres have been identified by the Montana Forest Action Advisory Council as “priority areas for focused attention,” or areas with significant forest health issues in the greatest need of attention. 8.5 million acres were also identified as having “very high” or “high” wildfire risk.

A robust and viable forest products industry is essential in maintaining these forests, providing the infrastructure and economic support for state, federal and private landowners to manage the lands and restore and maintain healthy, sustainable forests. Unfortunately, over the past few years, multiple mill closures across Montana have presented an added challenge for forest managers, directly impacting their ability to maintain forests.

Gary Ellingson, a forester with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC), explains that “Without the infrastructure, we aren't able to be active in forest management. [...] One of the problems we are having right now is that every time we lose a sawmill, not only do we lose jobs, but we also lose the capacity to manage the forest and the economic driver that allows us to do it."

According to the 2023 Montana Economic Report, these challenges resulted in a 4% decrease in timber harvest between 2021 and 2022, dropping from 340 million board feet (MMBF) to 325 MMBF.

Gainful Employment

The forest products industry provides gainful employment for many Montanans. The Montana DNRC cites that “6,530 Montanans are employed in forest-based jobs,” helping provide economic stability and vitality for rural, local communities.

Locally-made, Sustainable Wood Products

Of course, the forest products industry also plays an essential role in building healthy communities. Wood products are one of the most sustainable building products available and are the only major building materials that are also a renewable resource. Additionally, wood products store carbon throughout their entire life cycle. In fact, according to the DNRC, wood “stores more carbon during growth than is emitted during harvest, processing, and transport combined.”

According to the University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research, the Montana Wood Products Industry produced 342 MMBF (million board feet) of lumber in 2022.

Looking to make a difference in Montana’s forest management and the timber products industry?

Visit the Montana Wood Products Association Foundation webpage to learn about how you can help support the forest products industry and the restoration of forest health in Montana.

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