Pennsylvania Forest and Industry Facts

Forest Benefits

  • The forests of Pennsylvania are a renewable resource that supports a forest products industry that employs about 64,000 Pennsylvanians and produces over $36 billion in total economic impact.
  • Pennsylvania’s forests also provide habitat for a diverse variety of plants, animals, birds and fish. They are a source of beauty and provide tourism and recreational opportunities. They help purify the air we breathe and the water we drink. Management and harvesting of forest resources provides improved wildlife habitat, accelerated air purification and increased carbon capture, improving our environment.
  • Trees are a renewable resource that is naturally beautiful, carbon neutral and easily recyclable. Hardwood trees in Pennsylvania regenerate naturally, meaning that replanting is not usually necessary.

Forest Land Base

  • Today, Pennsylvania has 16.6 million acres of forest, covering approximately 58% of the state’s land area. Pennsylvania has more forest than it did 100 years ago.
  • About 97% is classified as timberland, while the remaining forest includes reserved forests or under-producing forestlands.
  • The state’s total forested area is stable, with a slight growth (>1%) in the amount of forest land in the state since 2004. There have been some losses of acreage to development and other uses, but these loses have been mostly offset by farmland and other lands naturally reverting back to forests.

Composition and Structure

  • Pennsylvania has the nation’s largest concentrations of hardwood growing stock, which accounts for about 90% of Pennsylvania’s total sawtimber volume.
  • Prevalent hardwood species include red and white oak, black cherry, red and sugar maple, and poplar.
  • The current sawtimber inventory on Pennsylvania’s timberland is 121 billion board feet, the highest recorded since the inception of the U.S. Forest Service inventory. Since 1955, sawtimber volume has increased by more than five times, and continues to increase at a net rate of approximately 2 billion board feet per year.
  • Pennsylvania’s forests are predominately even aged and comprised of mature, large, high-quality sawtimber trees. The state has an overabundance of older and larger tree stands, and a shrinking number of trees in the age classes between 1 year and 60 years.

Forest Ownership

  • More than 70% of the forest in Pennsylvania is privately owned. There are over 750,000 private owners of forest in Pennsylvania.
  • A breakdown of forest ownership in Pennsylvania:
  • Private Ownership

    Families and Individuals 53%
    Forest Industry/TIMOs 3%
    Misc. Corporate 10%
    Non-Corporate 4%
    Total Private Ownership 70%

    Government Ownership

    Federal 4%
    State 23%
    Local 3%
    Total Government Ownership 30%

  • Public ownership of forest has increased about 11% since 1989, primarily due to land acquisitions by state agencies.
  • Our forests are increasing in size. The Federal Forest Inventory shows 20% growth in the last decade.

  • A majority of family forest owners own less than ten acres of forest. Only 5% of families own forest tracts of 100 acres or more, but they account for 49% of the family forest acres.

Forest Health Issues

  • Several non-native, invasive pests and diseases threaten the health and productivity of Pennsylvania’s forests. These include gypsy moth, hemlock wooly adelgid, beech bark disease, emerald ash borer, walnut thousand cankers disease, syrex woodwasp and spotted lanternfly.
  • In some parts of the state, a continued overpopulation of deer is limiting the ability for the forest to regenerate.
  • Invasive vegetation, weather events, changes in acid deposition and air pollution are other factors that can impact the health and productivity of Pennsylvania’s forests.

Forest Sustainability

  • Pennsylvania’s forests are growing at more than twice the rate of their removal ratio.
  • Pennsylvania is a national leader in the implementation and promotion of sustainable forestry practices that provide renewable resources to support the forest products industry while ensuring sustainability of our forests for future generations.
  • The Pennsylvania Forest Products Association administers Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI®) through an Implementation Committee, which conducts logger training, landowner education and public outreach to achieve continuous improvement in forestry and harvesting practices.
  • More than 2.4 million acres of State Forest and private lands is certified as “well-managed” according to the criteria of the Forest Stewardship Council. Pennsylvania is a leading producer of FSC-certified lumber and forest products.
  • The American Tree Farm System, Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry, Penn State Cooperative Extension, local landowner groups, private and industrial forestry professionals and other organizations are also available to assist landowners.
  • As of 2019, Pennsylvania now has 2,279,105 acres certified to the SFI Forest Management Standard. State forest lands in Pennsylvania have been certified under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) since 1998 and will continue to be FSC certified, in addition to SFI.

Forest Product Industry Facts

  • Employment: About 64,000 Pennsylvanians
  • Businesses: Nearly 2,100 Establishments
  • Output (sales): $11.5 billion annually
  • Total Economic Impact: $21.5 billion annually (direct); $36 billion annually (indirect)
  • Total Logs, Lumber, Furniture & Paper Exports: $1.26 billion annually
  • Annual Pennsylvania Hardwood Lumber Production (est.): Approximately one billion board feet