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Working forests work to enhance your daily life

PHOTO PROVIDED Pennsylvania boasts 16.6 million acres of forestland.

HARRISBURG — In honor of National Forests Products Week, take a moment to look around. Whether you are at home, work, or at play, chances are you will catch a glimpse of a wood product.

“Wood products are all around us,” says Nicholas Bisaccia, chairman of the board of Keystone Wood Products Association (KWPA), a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the industry. “In addition to the obvious items like flooring, furniture and cabinetry, wood by-products can be found in many household items. For example, cellulose can be found in toothpaste, nail polish and some brands of ice cream just to name a few.”

While wood products play an important role in our daily lives, the industry makes a concerted effort to protect the environment. When a tree is harvested, every part of it–right down to the cellulose fiber is utilized.

“We waste nothing,” says Nate Metzler, General Manager at Metzler Forest Products. “We take traditional waste like limbs and bark and transform them into animal bedding and mulch. We also collect sawdust so it can be processed into wood pellets. When you heat with pellets or firewood, you are using the only carbon neutral source of energy available. Wood powered energy emits as much carbon as it absorbs, making its environmental impact neutral.”

But the ecological benefits of forests go beyond just energy. Through photosynthesis, trees absorb carbon dioxide and pollutants ultimately reducing pollution while providing us with clean air to breathe. According to Bisaccia, harvested trees, which are transformed into products continue to play a role in reducing air pollution.

“When a tree is harvested, the benefits do not stop there. Carbon is stored for the life of the product,” he says. “Furthermore, when you look at manufacturing methods used to make products, using wood instead of alternative building materials like plastic and aluminum also lessens the carbon footprint.”

With a long list of benefits, some are concerned that the forest resource will be depleted.

“The forest will remain a steady resource in the future as long as trees are harvested sustainably,” says Chuck Coup, program manager at PA Sustainable Forestry Initiative Implementation Committee, “Working forests illustrate this perfectly.”

Defined as forestlands that are managed to provide a steady source of renewable wood for lumber, energy, paper, packaging and wood products, working forests were recently highlighted in a short educational video https://youtu.be/m4xhL0MEK2Y spearheaded by KWPA and funded via the Pennsylvania Hardwood Development Council.

Working forests manage competition for sunlight, soil nutrients and water. This optimizes the health of trees and ultimately their ability to sequester carbon and emit oxygen. Working forests also provide us with clean drinking water and a diverse habitat for wildlife.

“Sharing the importance of the working forest is critical to understanding the industry,” says Bisaccia.

As it stands, the industry employs over 65,000 Pennsylvanians. The state, which also leads the nation in the production of hardwood, boasts 16.6 million acres of forestland. Practicing sustainable forestry, annually the volume of Pennsylvania’s forest grows at least twice the harvest rate– ensuring the vitality of the industry.

“With such a significant environmental and economic impact, every week should be Forest Products Week,” concluded Bisaccia.

For more information on KWPA or to schedule a virtual educational presentation for your classroom or community group, visit www.whypahardwoods.com or contact Stephanie Phillips-Taggart at steph@keystonewoodpa.org, 570-601-7000.

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