Timber Talk: An Introduction to Ohio's Forest Products Industry – Ohio Ag Net

By Jenna Reese, Executive Director, Ohio Forestry Association, Inc.

Ohio has nearly 8 million acres of forests, accounting for 31% of the state's total land use. As recently as the 1990s, only 10% of Ohio's landscape was forested. Since then, significant conservation and reforestation efforts have been made to reach Ohio's current level of 31%. Rumor has it that before European-American settlement, a squirrel could travel from the Ohio River to Lake Erie without ever touching the ground, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The slopes and poor soil quality of much of eastern Ohio make it unsuitable for farmland, which is why the majority of Ohio's forests are now found there. The majority of these 8 million hectares, 86%, are private family farms. 96.3% of these forests are made up of hardwood because native species thrive here.

Many do not consider Ohio to be a major hardwood producing state like some of our other Appalachian states, but Ohio ranks first in the nation in hardwood furniture production and is in the top ten in hardwood production volume. Ohio is also a leader in white oak barrel production. Most of bourbon's color and flavor comes from the charred barrel in which the liquor is aged and stored. Without the forestry industry in Ohio, there would be no bourbon.

The Ohio Forestry Association (OFA) is the only state organization representing the entire forestry industry in Ohio. Its 600 members include arborists, foresters, lumberjacks, paper mills, sawmills, hardwood manufacturers, equipment dealers and professional service providers. The latest Ohio Forest Economy data from The Ohio State University Extension shows the industry has an annual economic impact of $30.4 billion on the state of Ohio.

This number can be further broken down by industry segment. Logging and forestry services such as Ohio Master Logging Company, Wood Logging in Chillicothe and Legacy Forestry Consulting, LLC in Avon Lake generate $1.1 billion. Another $11.6 billion in lumber and wood products. These products range from hardwood-producing sawmills such as Superior Hardwoods of Ohio, with locations in Wellston, MacArthur, Barlow, Cambridge and Parkersburg, WV, to Speyside Bourbon Cooperage, a barrel maker in Jackson, to furniture wholesalers such as HW Chair in Millersburg. Another $14.5 billion is generated from domestic shipping and $1.1 billion from exports to foreign markets, including logs, lumber and hardwood products. Finally, with the largest overall contribution of $17.8 billion in paper products such as Pixelle Specialty Solutions, the paper mill in Chillicothe.

OFA also supports the management of Ohio's forests; Forest management has been proven to increase the health of forests. Healthy forests are better habitats for wildlife, safer for public recreation, and produce higher quality timber. Wood is Ohio's only naturally growing agricultural commodity. While most raw materials follow an annual cycle of manual planting and harvesting, wood grows much slower, 40-100 years. Hardwoods naturally regenerate by shedding thousands of seeds or nuts in the spring or fall, depending on the species. Only the seeds that are not eaten by local wildlife make it into the soil and potentially mature into seedlings. These seedlings fight invasive and other native species for limited resources and are exposed to pests and wildlife grazing, so only a handful of the thousands of seeds produced ever become a mature stand of wood. These opportunities increase dramatically through the inputs resulting from active forest management.

Implementing forest management practices costs money, time and labor. These practices alone are unsustainable and economically impossible unless there is a marketable product from which the landowner can generate income. Forest products are just as important as forest management because they provide income for landowners and contractors, continue to store carbon sequestered during tree growth, and are necessary for the quality of life we ​​enjoy. Without a thriving forestry industry, there can be no healthy forests.

Upcoming Events:

The Ohio Forestry Association Foundation hosts its annual forestry and wildlife camp, Camp Canopy, at Ohio FFA Camp Muskingum. This year it will take place from June 9th to 14th. College scholarships are awarded each year to students pursuing a degree in natural resources. Many of today's forestry, forestry, wildlife and conservation leaders are graduates of Camp Canopy, a testament to the enduring value this camp has provided to Ohio's forestry industry for well over 50 years. Visit for more details and to register!

Anna Harden

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