Forest Sustainability Reporting in the United States
Contact Information
You are here: Home / Criteria and Indicators / Criterion 6
Criterion 6: Maintenance and Enhancement of Long-Term Multiple Socioeconomic Benefits To Meet the Needs of Societies
Figure 25-3: Graph of wood energy produced, by consumer, 1950–2006 Figure 27-3: Map of total payments for environmental services in 2007

While Criteria 1 through 5 mostly describe biophysical conditions in our Nation’s forested ecosystems, Criterion 6 covers a broad range of factors associated with social and economic benefits that are closely linked to forested ecosystems, their health and their management. The criterion includes 20 indicators divided into five subcriteria. These are:

  1. Production and consumption
  2. Investment in the forest sector
  3. Employment and community needs
  4. Recreation and tourism
  5. Cultural, social, and spiritual needs and values

Each will be summarized in turn below.

Production and consumption. Indicators in this subcriterion track changes in the provision of traditional wood and paper products, nonwood forest products, and, various ecosystem services.

Information on traditional wood products is largely available from the U.S. Department of Commerce, including the Census Bureau’s periodic Economic Census and annual Survey of Manufacturers, which provide periodic or annual data sometimes at the State level.

Nontimber forest products, on the other hand, encompass a broad array of forest herbs, mushrooms, and related products that are not tracked in standard industrial reporting statistics— with the exception of some trade statistics—and are not always fully integrated into the cash economy. Reporting in this category is significantly more challenging. Nevertheless, through the compilation of data not available to the 2003 report, we have substantially improved our reporting for products in this category.

A new indicator (Indicator 6.27) tracks revenue derived from ecosystem services such as water quality enhancement, carbon storage, or the provision of green-space. The work presented in relation to this indicator lays the foundation for future reporting by defining terms, identifying sources of quantifiable data, and explicitly recognizing activities that are not captured by these data.

The indicators covering timber and wood products (Indicators 6.25, 6.28, 6.30, 6.32, and 6.33) show that both timber harvest and wood products production are down slightly relative to 2003. At a little more than 20 billion cubic feet, consumption has remained relatively stable, although levels dropped off in 2006 when the housing construction market slowed. More severe effects reflecting the recent crises in the housing market can be expected, but it is unclear whether these changes will manifest themselves simply in a temporary downturn or in a long-term shift in consumption and production patterns.32 The long-term impact of the recession will be something to watch for in the next iteration of this report, anticipated in 2015.

The difference between production and consumption has been filled increasingly by imports, which now total 5.4 billion cubic feet, or 26 percent of total consumption. The recovery of recycled paper products has also increased its contribution to fiber supply in the United States. The total volume of recovered fiber now equals about one-half of total domestic paper consumption. A growing proportion of recycled paper is exported, however, so domestic use of recycled fiber in paper products has remained stable at about 38 percent for the past decade. Most of the developments described here follow long-term trends established in the last decades of the past century.

Production and trade figures for nontimber forest products (Indicators 6.26, 6.29, and 6.31) present a more complicated picture. Although the total value of production in this category is down 30 percent relative to 1998, exports are up 38 percent since 2003. Much of this may be related to difficulties in measurement and the dominant role of specific products (e.g., fuelwood in the case of production and pecans in the case of exports). In any case, the values reported for these indicators in 2007 are substantial, with a total estimated retail value of production of $1.4 billion and exports exceeding $450 million.

Payments for environmental services are also substantial. The indicator identifies payments of $553 million for ecosystem services in 2007 from public and private entities, but it also stresses the fact that these estimates are incomplete. While Federal payments have been relatively stable, payments from private entities in the form of carbon offset purchases, conservation easements and outright land purchases for conservation objectives are growing rapidly, increasing 38 percent in the past 3 years alone and now accounting for more than one-third of total payments identified in this report.

Investments in forestry and the forest sector. This subcriterion contains two indicators that call for measures of investments in forest-related economic sectors, and in research and education, respectively. These indicators point to investments whose effects will play out over many years, and, consequently, they constitute two of the most forward-looking indicators in the entire Montréal Process indicator set.

Indicator 6.34 includes both private sector and public sector investments in productive capacity (e.g., buildings and machinery) and forest management activities. Private sector capital investments in the wood products industry are extremely volatile, following both broad market cycle fluctuations and developments specific to the wood products sector. Investments in the wood products and pulp and paper sectors totaled $10.9 billion in 2006, up from $7.5 billion in 2003 but still substantial lower than the $13.6 billion reported for 1997 (all figures are in constant 2005 dollars). Indicator 6.34 also tracks substantial investments in silviculture, forest management, and recreation management on the part of public agencies like the Forest Service. These public investments are driven by the political process and have been much more stable than the private sector investments listed above.

Investments in research, extension services, and education (Indicator 6.35) rely primarily on public sources for their funding. Forest Service research expenditures and academic research funding from Federal sources are the primary investment streams reported for this indicator. Overall, research funding in these categories totaled $608 million in 2006, an increase of 18 percent in inflation adjusted terms since 2000. These expenditures, however, are only one piece of a larger pie involving State, local and private investments in research and extension.

The number of baccalaureate and post-graduate degrees are a measure of investment in human capital, and, in contrast to research funding, these numbers have declined from 2,263 to 1,810 degrees in the 2001-to-2006 time period, but this may represent a shift to environmental studies and similar programs rather than an absolute reduction in scholarship and training related to forest resource management. The sustainable management of forests can benefit from both areas of training. The decline in forestry-specific degrees, however, may carry important implications for future management of forests for timber production.

Employment and community needs. The indicators in this subcriterion track economic and social developments that directly affect individuals and communities that depend on forests for their livelihood and important aspects of their quality of life. They include economic measures such as employment and income in the forest sector, which are generally available from standard statistical reporting sources, but they also include more complex indicators involving concepts of community resiliency, wealth distribution, and the amount of resources available to support subsistence activities.

Employment in the forest sector, measured in Indicator 6.36, includes a broad range of activities. Major categories covered in this report include public agencies engaged in forest management activities at the Federal and State levels (data for counties and municipalities, although certainly important, was not available for this report), employees in the solid wood products and paper products sectors, and workers in the forest-based recreation sector. Forest products industry employment, which currently stands at 1.3 million employees, decreased by about 15 percent since 1997, with much of the drop concentrated in the pulp and paper sector. This decline reflects stable to slightly declining production levels (see Indicator 6.25) in combination with increasing labor productivity requiring fewer workers to produce the same quantity of goods. Once again, the recent recession has no doubt exacerbated these declines. Public sector forest management employment is about one-tenth of that in the forest products sector and has been relatively stable with the notable exception of the Forest Service, which has declined to around 23,000 employees from a recent peak of 31,000 in 1991. The 2003 report estimated that forest-based recreation directly generated 1.1 million jobs, and it is assumed that this number has grown along with recreation participation in the intervening years.

Private sector wages in these major employment categories (Indicator 6.37) have generally been increasing, but at a relatively slow rate, especially in the lumber and wood products sector, where wages are currently well below the United States average for all manufacturing. Public sector wages have fared better in recent years. Injury rates in the wood products industry have continued a long-term decline with the exception of the furniture industry, which has experienced an uptick in the past few years—a development that bears watching.

Indicator 6.38 addresses the resilience of forest-dependent communities and is the only indicator that directly assesses community conditions and well-being. This complex indicator requires considerable effort both in conceptual development and in practical application. In 2003, we used county level census and employment data to develop indexes for vitality and adaptability. Although this was a logical and cost-effective approach, it was widely deemed inadequate for capturing the many dimensions that characterize the well-being of forest-dependent communities. Also, counties proved to be a poor surrogate for communities. For the revised indicator (the concept of resiliency has been substituted for vitality and adaptability in the indicator title), the 2010 report has taken a different tack, relying on survey and community assessment techniques to characterize the resiliency of individual communities. The work presented in this report is a pilot effort, and, although survey and analysis protocols have been developed, only five sample community assessments were available for inclusion in this report.

The remaining two indicators in this subcriteria address the area of forests devoted to subsistence use and the distribution of forest-derived revenues (Indicators 6.39 and 6.40, respectively). Subsistence use of the forest typically includes hunting, fishing, and gathering for personal consumption, but for many users, particularly in the Native American community, it also denotes a lifestyle involving a deep connection to nature and cultural traditions. This is in addition to tangible economic benefits in terms of foregone purchases of food and similar items. As with several of the other MP indicators that call for measures of forest land devoted to specific activities, providing quantified measures for the subsistence indicator is complicated by the fact that much of the Nation’s public access forest lands are designated for multiple use, including, but not restricted to, subsistence activities.

Indicator 6.40, the distribution of forest-derived revenue, is a new indicator. In this report, we identify the major revenue sources as coming from wood products industry activity and from the sale of “stumpage,” or standing timber. Major recipients of forest-derived revenue include industry (via profits), labor (wages), government (taxes), and landowners (stumpage receipts). Payments to labor and nonindustrial landowners comprise most of revenues and come from the wood products industries and stumpage sales respectively.

Recreation and tourism. Recreation and tourism is a major and increasing use for the Nation’s forests. It provides direct benefits to citizens, contributes to a diverse and growing industry, and fosters appreciation for the importance of conservation and sound stewardship. The two indicators in this subcriterion track the availability of forest land for recreation activities (Indicator 6.41) and the number and type of these activities (Indicator 6.42).

Almost all U.S. public forest lands are available for a broad range of recreational activities, with some restrictions on uses that adversely impact the environment or the experiences of other users. Currently, 44 percent of forest land is in public ownership, much of it in Federal custody in the Western States. The remainder is in private hands, where family and individual ownerships predominate. Indicator 6.41 estimates that only about 15 percent of family forests are available to the public for recreation, and this number has been falling for at least the past two decades. Although the area of public forest lands have increased to a very slight degree since 2003, the falling percentage of private lands that are accessible for recreation use points to an overall decline in forest land available to recreation. This is increasingly important in the Eastern United States, where private forest lands predominate and large population centers mean higher demands for outdoor recreation activity.

At the same time that available lands for recreation are decreasing, recreation use has been rapidly increasing. As shown in Indicator 6.44, the number of recreational activity days has increased by 25 percent since 2000 and currently stands at 83 billion days. The number of people participating in these activities has increased at a slower pace—4.4 percent. An estimated 217 million people have participated in forest-based recreation activities in 2007 (both of these measures have specific definitions that need to be considered when comparing them with other measures—see the data report for details). Walking for pleasure and nature viewing are the most popular activities, and most of these occur on public lands.

Chapter 1 of Part I noted a growing alienation of urban populations, particularly the young, from forests and forest-based activities as one of the underlying forces driving forest policy and sustainability. The recreation numbers presented here do not provide explicit evidence of this shift, but major changes related to population demographics and cultural values take a long time to occur. Many of the indicators in Criterion 6, and the recreation indicators in particular, will provide an initial indication of the effects these potential changes will have on forest management and use.

Cultural, social, and spiritual needs and values. While the other subcriteria and respective indicators in Criterion 6 mostly measure specific outputs, values, and activities associated with forest ecosystems, the two indicators in this subcriteria seek to address the more intangible values and attachments people have to forests.

Indicator 6.43 calls for the measurement of land area protected specifically for cultural, social, and spiritual values. In this report, however, it simply measures the total amount of forest land in protected status of all types in the United States. The logical connection between protected status and cultural, social, and spiritual values lies in the fact that many people view natural landscapes as a source of spiritual renewal and their conservation as a transcendental goal. The indicator shows only a slight increase in protected public lands since 2003, but it also notes the rapid increase in protected private lands through mechanisms such as conservation easements and outright purchase (see Indicator 1.02 for additional information).

Indicator 6.44, a new indicator, seeks to measure the importance of forests to people. It involves considerable challenges both in conceptual development and in actual measurement. The pilot approach explored in this report relies on survey techniques to assess the various dimensions of people’s relationship to forests and the importance they attach to them. Because of the difficulty in obtaining a truly representative sample, the team tasked with addressing Indicator 6.44 opted for a focus group approach, and has conducted some 30 focus groups as of this writing. Results highlight the diversity of feelings people have for forests, and the fact that these are largely determined by cultural background.

Source: National Report on Sustainable Forests — 2010

Criterion 6 Indicators