SANDPOINT — Trees provide more than 5,000 products that people use every day, according to data from the Idaho Department of Lands. Paper, toilet paper, furniture, toothpaste, tires — the list of products made from wood, wood-based chemicals and other wood by-products goes on and on.
Each year, National Forest Products Week is observed the third week of October. It is a time to recognize the many products that come from the forests, the people who work in and manage the forests, the businesses that make the products, and how each one contributes to the daily lives of American citizens.
"These forests are all in our backyard, especially here in North Idaho," said Betty Munis, director for the Idaho Forest Products Commission. "They are a local resource, and nature makes them renewable, but active management makes them sustainable. The forest products that we use, they help store carbon, they help restore and renew our forests — they help with so many things and they contribute to our economy."
From the foresters who manage the timber, the loggers who harvest the timber, the log truck drivers who haul the timber to the mills and the workers who make the products, more than 17,000 Idaho jobs were tied to the forest products industry in 2016. Of those, 12,479 were direct jobs, according to data collected by the University of Idaho’s policy analysis group.
According to 2015 data by the UI group, the forest industry provided $880 million in wages — $753 million in labor income and $127 million in support income from forestry, harvesting and manufacturing. Also according to 2015 data, the forest industry provided $1.3 billion to Idaho’s Gross State Product, $18 million in tax revenue, and in 2016, an estimated $2.67 billion in product sales.
Forests make up nearly 40 percent of the land in Idaho at 21.5 million acres. About 90 percent of timber harvested in Idaho is made into products in Idaho, and about 30 percent of the timber is made into products in the county it was harvested in, according the UI group.
"These are products that we use every hour of every day," said Erin Mader, community relations for Idaho Forest Group in Laclede. "We are surrounded by wood products in every building. Harvesting trees can be done very well and it’s essential to our lives. And it is probably some of the least environmentally impactful building products."
As per the proclamation for National Forest Products Week, wood is, in fact, one of the nation's most environmentally friendly building materials. Some of those building materials are produced right here in Bonner County, at mills like IFG and Stimson Lumber Company in Priest River.
More importantly, however, is the fact that the entire tree is utilized at these mills. The chips, sawdust, planer shavings and bark are referred to as "residuals." These are utilized by local companies for things like newsprint and stove fuels. While many area companies utilize residuals from the mills, some of the residuals make their way outside of the region as well.
For the trees that are harvested to make these products, it is imperative that forests are renewed through reforestation, according to IDL. The Idaho Forest Practices Act, which is administered by IDL, requires reforestation by planting new trees or allowing for natural regeneration after timber harvest. Fun fact — Idaho law requires every harvested acre must be successfully reforested within five years of harvest, with a minimum number of seedlings growing per acre.
Another fun fact, nearly three million tree seedlings were planted on Idaho endowment trust lands last year.
Stimson is a bit different in that the company owns land — more than 550,000 acres across Idaho, Montana, Washington and Oregon. David Balfanz, plant manager at the Priest River mill, said Stimson does a "considerable" amount of replanting on its own lands as well.
"We are looking at not only what we are doing now, but months and years down the road for the next generation,” Balfanz said. "... We planted 2.5 million seedlings this spring, so the sustainability is a big part of what we do."
Mary Malone can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.