The many benefits of forests

Oregon depends on its forests in many ways. They help filter drinking water, provide habitat for a diverse array of plants and animals, supply oxygen, moderate temperatures and store atmospheric carbon. Forests are a wonderful playground and quiet outdoor retreat. By supplying us with timber, a renewable resource we use to make lumber, paper and heat, forests also support jobs for tens of thousands of Oregonians, especially in rural communities.

Forests provide environmental, social and economic benefits to all Oregonians, now and into the future.

Forest Fact Break: Sustainability

This 90-second animated video looks at forest sustainability. How do we protect our forests for the future, while also providing the wood and paper products we use every day? It’s a head-scratcher, isn’t it? Forest managers and scientists are working to find a balance to ensure long-term forest sustainability in Oregon. This video is part of OFRI’s Forest Fact Breaks series, which uses bold animated graphics, sound effects and narration to teach about natural resource topics in a fun, easy-to-understand way.

Environmental benefits

The environmental benefits of forests are numerous. Even urban forests, which include trees planted along city streets and those growing in parks or nature preserves, help reduce air pollution, filter rainwater and provide shade.

Most of Oregon’s municipal water systems rely on water from forested watersheds, where forest soils provide natural filtration to keep streams clean and water quality high. Through photosynthesis, the trees and plants in forests provide most of the oxygen that humans and animals breathe. Forests also absorb and reduce the presence in the atmosphere of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas and major contributor to climate change.

Beyond the many benefits to us, forests are vital habitat to numerous species of wildlife and fish.

Social benefits

While forests have great value to society by providing clean water, fresh air, carbon storage and timber, our forests are also valuable in other ways.

Oregon’s public forests, including forested parks, reserves and wilderness areas, are popular destinations for outdoor recreation, with visitors partaking in everything from camping and hiking to biking, swimming and fishing. The scenic beauty of the state’s forests attracts tourists and new residents, and has inspired generations of artists and photographers.

Many seek out the tranquility of forests as places to find solace, stress relief or spiritual sanctuary. The mental and physical benefits of exposure to nature are well documented for people of all ages. And spending time in a natural setting such as a forest can be particularly beneficial to children, for both learning and development.

Economic benefits

More than 60,000 Oregonians are employed in an array of jobs related to forests and wood products. This includes positions in forestry, millwork, cabinetmaking, engineering, hydrology, business management and academic research.

Economists estimate that each 1 million board feet of timber harvested in Oregon creates or retains about 11 jobs in what is known as the “forest sector.” In 2015, the average annual wage of such forest-related jobs was $50,000. This is 4 percent higher than the average wage of all Oregon employment.

The forest sector is especially vital to many rural Oregon communities. In some rural counties, the sector is responsible for nearly a third of the economic base.