Thursday, September 25, 2008

Economic Impact of Forestry on Virginia - $23 Billion

The forestry sector in Virginia contributes $23 billion each year to the economy and supports 144,400 jobs. This is according to a study relased on September 24, 2008 by Governor Timothy M. Kaine on the economic impact of agriculture and forestry in Virginia. Together the agriculture and forestry sectors contribute about $79 billion annually to Virginia’s economy.

The report also noted that forests provide many values not accounted for in the study. “Forests provide benefits in the form of carbon sequestration, wildlife habitat and biodiversity, flood mitigation and improved water quality. Rural scenic amenities may also improve quality of life.”

One section of the report is especially worth reading – the section discussing the opportunities and challenges facing the forestry sector. Opportunities and challenges are discussed in the areas of forest management, production technology, consumer demand, energy prices, urban population growth, government policy, and the global economy.

The report mentions the increasing contribution of plantation management to the softwood supply, while pointing out that the hardwood resource supply is threatened by the following trends:

  • increasing fragmentation and parcelization,
  • non-industrial ownership patterns (and, I would add lack of sound management), and
  • forest health challenges from invasive pests, air pollution and ecological change due to fire suppression.

On the demand side the report offers a discussion of the role of housing demand, global competitiveness and rising energy prices. While rising energy prices act to increase the cost of production, they also offer a possible increase in demand for woody biomass, whether in traditional fuel or the potential cellulosic ethanol market.

The study was led Dr. Terry Rephann of The Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia. The full report can be accessed at the Department of Forestry website. I would recommend its reading to anyone interested in the future of forest resources in Virginia. The forestry section starts on page 17. The Economic Impact Of Agriculture And Forestry On The Commonwealth Of Virginia