While forests are dynamic eco-systems in which species composition will shift over time, regular forest inventories undertaken by the federal government demonstrate that there is rapid growth in the volume of nearly all commercial hardwoods in U.S. forests. This growth is also well distributed throughout the United States.
According to the latest statistical update by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA):
The rapid expansion of U.S. hardwood forest owes much to the fact that it is predominantly owned by a large number of private individuals and families whose primary motivation is usually not timber production or economics.
Of the total hardwood harvest in 2012, 90% came from privately owned lands and only 10% from public lands. In the Eastern States, which accounted for 98% of all U.S. hardwood harvested in 2012, there are 9.75 million forest owners, each with an average of 15 hectares. Only 5% of private forest area is owned by corporations and the average size of corporate holdings is only 133 hectares.
According to the National Woodland Owner Survey undertaken every five years by the US Forest Service, the most commonly cited reasons for owning family forests relate to the beauty and privacy the forests provide, along with wildlife and nature protection.
The owners of U.S. hardwood forests usually grow their forests on longer rotations and typically selectively harvest a few trees per hectare, rather than clear-felling. Furthermore, after harvesting, forest owners usually rely on natural regeneration, which is abundant in the deep fertile forest soils of the U.S. In 2012, natural forests accounted for 97% of the area of hardwood and mixed hardwood-softwood forest types in the U.S. and only 3% were plantations. Even in the plantations, no non-native “exotic” or genetically modified species are used.
The American Hardwood Forest Explorer provides more detailed information on hardwood forest volume, growth and harvest at state and county level throughout the United States.