AHEC Hosts European Journalists For Tour Of American Hardwood Forest

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American Hardwood forests stand as a compelling example of global reforestation in action, showcasing nature’s extraordinary capacity for regeneration. Over the last 50 years, the volume of standing timber in these forests has more than doubled, but unfortunately the success of forestry in America isn’t widely known outside of our industry. The American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) hosted a week-long press trip to Pennsylvania in October 2023 to explore the relationship between the forest products industry and a healthy forest. The journalists from Germany, the UK, and Italy had an opportunity to engage directly with modern forest management and the production of Hardwood products and understand how our practices are continually evolving to ensure the future of this incredible resource. This collaborative project with support from local companies and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has served to educate European writers, many of whom are focused on environmental policy and climate action, about the benefits of the American Hardwood industry from a green perspective.

Pennsylvania is recognized today as one of the most forested states in the Eastern US, but that’s not always been the case. The state was the focal point for timber extraction during the industrial development of the 1800s, and in fact, Williamsport was the center of the global lumber industry during this time. By the beginning of the 1900s, most of the state and others along the eastern seaboard had been heavily deforested. However, 120 years later those forests have grown back naturally and are now largely healthy and well managed. That’s not to say that there are no challenges. PA is an excellent example of how the Hardwood forests of the Eastern USA have regenerated with the help of a long-term strategy to ensure that they are protected for future generations. Rural communities and the people that live and work in these forests have played a central role in what they are today – a rich source of wildlife, biodiversity, clean water, food, recreation, and of course, timber.

This short and intense trip across PA from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia explored the National Forest, state forest, and private timberlands, all of which make up the composition of this resource. AHEC was able to introduce the journalists to private and state foresters, scientists, educators and researchers, loggers and sawmillers, and artisans who explained their work and gave insight into the complexity and resilience of these forests.

The first stop for our team of journalists was the Kane Experimental Research Forest to meet with the US Forest Service and learn about forest regeneration, management strategies like natural selection, and how they address the challenges of invasive species and climate change. With this knowledge in mind, the group visited a Hardwood logging site to see these management strategies in action. The second day itinerary focused on carbon sequestration, and featured presentations from Penn State University on how using wood products is an active way to meet human needs while fighting climate change. In the afternoon the group visited a multigenerational sawmill team who talked about the history of the area as the “lumber capital of the world” in the late 1800s and how things have changed since then. The next morning had an early start with a sawmill and logging site tour, then in the afternoon the group met with a local educator, forester, and musician, Van Wagner, for a performance and guided tour of his land. The last stop on our tour was the headquarters of the world-renowned Nakashima Woodworkers for a private tour and Q&A.

Healthy forests are essential to our very existence. The better we can understand them and be more informed on how we can restore them, protect them, and use them, the better we all will be not just as an industry, but as humans. This trip educated a key group of journalists who can reach millions through their writing. As timber regulations, environmental policy, and climate action becomes a larger part of the global picture for our Hardwood export markets, having writers who can clearly communicate this message is extremely important. This press mission was a strong step in the right direction, and we look forward to planning similar press missions in 2024.

By Michael Snow

By Michael Snow, Executive Director, American Hardwood Export Council, Sterling, Va 703-435-2900 www.ahec.org

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