On September 15, 1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a proclamation declaring the week following the third Sunday in October as National Forest Products Week. This week recognizes the role the forest products play in all aspects of our lives, the environment, and our economy.
For as far back as records exist, it is clear that humankind has depended on the forests. Where available, early man sourced everything from forest materials for shelter, food to eat, medicine, and even clean water. We still glean a lot of everyday resources from the forests. While some products are readily apparent, others we probably don’t even realize come from the forest. We’ll explore a range of these products in this article.
Likely the first thing you think of when you consider forest products is wood. In most countries around the globe, there is a high demand for lumber and wood products. Popular wood products include roundwood, sawn softwood, sawn hardwood, particleboard, paperboard, and paper. Used to build houses, furniture, and other household goods, wood products are an integral part of our lives. However, with recent advancements in technology, we use less paper and newsprint than we did in the past. As a whole, we are doing more of our business online. Perhaps not surprisingly, the most commonly used paper product in the home is no longer the newspaper; it is household tissue.
The high demand for wood products worldwide has fueled international trade. Countries whose needs are greater than what they can produce for themselves must import wood from other countries. Countries such as New Zealand, Russia, Canada, and the United States profit every year from the sale and export of wood logs.
This lucrative market has led to problems with illegal logging and deforestation in tropical rainforests. Logging companies must use sustainable practices when harvesting this limited resource. While many wood products play an essential role in our modern lives, the trees serve many more purposes as part of a forest than we often realize.
The forest ecosystem is an essential source of food for animals and people alike. One of the most significant contributions from the forest to our food supply is honey. Some of the biggest producers of honey for human consumption are located near forests. In many cases, local governments allow communities neighboring forests to keep bees there as long as they don’t harm the forest in the process. The bees bring the added benefit of pollinating other flowering plants and trees nearby.
In many areas of the world, the forest is home to fruit-bearing trees. Naturally growing fruits may be readily gathered and used by local residents, sold in markets, or exported to other countries. These fruits include oranges, bananas, coconuts, pear, melons, jackfruit, and guava.
Forests also produce a whole host of mushrooms. While most, if not all, the mushrooms you see in the store are farmed, many edible mushrooms are collected in wild forests. Wild mushrooms are especially plentiful in the northwestern United States in Oregon, Idaho, and Washington. Just be sure you know your mushrooms if you decide to eat them, as many are poisonous.
The forest ecosystem is also home to many animals. Bear, deer, moose, and elk are just a few commonly found in these areas. While hunting these animals is strictly regulated, the wild game meat harvested each year from forests feeds people in many communities. People living in remote areas across the globe depend on these wild animals for food throughout the year.
Today, people are seeking out more natural products for their medical ailments. The forest is home to many of the plants and herbs from which these supplements are produced. Herbal remedies harvested from the forest make up the second-largest segment of the forest products market. Only timber and wood products make up a larger percentage. European countries are the biggest consumers of these products. Commonly used supplements produced from forest plants include Blue cohosh, Black cohosh, Witch hazel, Goldenseal, Oregon Grape, Hawthorne, and Ginseng. The market for these products is continuing to grow and looks promising for the future.
The term “forest products” applies to more than just what we produce from the forest for houses, furniture, and office supplies. It includes everything that the forest makes for us to use. Regardless of where you live, your life is influenced by the presence of healthy forests. The trees in the forest filter carbon dioxide out of the air giving us oxygen in return. They also help to filter our water. By trapping sediment, absorbing chemicals, and preventing erosion, they allow clear water to flow downstream to us. Trees even serve as a physical buffer for us when natural disasters hit. Celebrate National Forest Products Week by finding out what you can do to protect and preserve our forests.