ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Georgia has more acres of privately owned forest land than any other state in the country. The industry is vital to the state's economy, and that industry seems to have a solid future.
You don't have to drive far in South Georgia to find forests. After all there are 24 million acres of forest in Georgia. All of those trees are critical to the state's economy.
"The timber industry in the state of Georgia contributes approximately 118,000 jobs," said Tom Lambert of the Georgia Forestry Commission.
The economies in more than one fifth of the counties in the state are closely tied to the timber industry, so figuring out how forests are doing is important.
Some findings in an annual report by the Georgia Forestry Commission and the U.S. Forest Service may surprise you.
"The survey revealed that there's been more wood raised than harvested since 1972 until 2010," said Lambert.
Much of that planting has been on the farm. With center pivots increasingly becoming the only way to water, once square plots of crops have lost their edges.
Lambert said, "the land that they've set aside and not utilized they've planted in trees."
While there has also been some growth in public ownership of land since the 1970s, that doesn't totally explain the higher number of trees.
Most of the acres of forested land are in the hands of private individuals or companies. Sometimes they're not quite sure what to do with all these acres that they have.
So there are companies that are there to help them. Companies such as this consulting firm, F & W Forestry in Albany.
"Initially we'll go out and assess the property, look at it. Determine the health of the timber on the property," said Chad Hancock of F & W Forestry.
Then they recommend solutions for the owner. While those recommendations vary, leaving it as forest is sometimes the best strategy and staying with that strategy is important.
Hancock said, "Forestry is not a quick fix. It takes time to manage a forest and get it in the proper condition."
Properly managed, land that's held on to could gain value in the near term. But even holding on to it for future generations has its benefits for the environment.
"Trees have always been there to se quest carbon out of the atmosphere," Chad Hancock said.
For Georgia's economic future as well.
You can see the latest forestry report on the Georgia Forestry Commission's web site.
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