By Sens. John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.)
Originally published on TheHill.com
During this year’s National Forest Products Week, we salute the thousands of hardworking Americans who keep our forests healthy and vibrant places for economic growth. America’s forests not only help to keep our air and water clean, they are wildlife habitats, places for recreation, and the source for paper and manufactured products we all rely on every day.
As senators, we both represent states that each have more than 19 million acres of forested lands. To put that in perspective, that’s almost the entire size of South Carolina just in forestlands in our states.
These forests aren’t just an environmental treasure; they are an economic powerhouse. Our states’ forest products industries support nearly 20,000 jobs in Arkansas and more than 26,000 jobs in Michigan. Nationwide, forests provide more than 900,000 jobs, creating almost $240 billion in economic output every year.
This economic activity leads to new opportunities in rural communities around the country. That’s one reason why, as members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, we made sure the 2014 Farm Bill strengthened forestry programs and helped bolster rural economic development. By combining efforts through these types of public-private partnerships, we can foster new job growth opportunities across the country.
Forest product companies have been leaders in the effort to increase recycling. Today, 96 percent of all communities across the country have access to curbside or drop-off paper recycling programs. On top of that, the millions of Americans who recycle at home, work, and school have helped recover more than 60 percent of the paper consumed in the U.S. in each of the last three years. Picture this: each day our paper companies around the country recycle enough paper to fill a 15-mile-long boxcar train.
That type of leadership is great news for our planet and has some serious economic savings as well. Already more than 110 mills around the country are making paper using only recovered materials. And efforts are on track to recover more than 70 percent of all paper used by 2020. At the same time, paper can only be recycled a limited number of times, so it’s important that we sustain ongoing production of paper and forest products from our renewable forest resources.
Forest products can also help us become more energy independent. Companies use carbon-neutral biomass that comes from forest waste – materials like bark, wood scraps, by-products, and other unusable products – to help power their plants, reduce emissions, and save energy.
For all these reasons, we highlight this year’s National Forest Products Week as an opportunity to focus on a vital industry that is so important to our two states and the country overall. We applaud the thousands of hardworking Americans who are working hard every day to keep America as the leader in forest products.
Boozman is Arkansas’ senior senator, serving since 2011. He sits on the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry; the Appropriations; the Environment and Public Works; the Rules and Administration; and the Veterans’ Affairs committees. Stabenow is Michigan’s senior senator, serving since 2001. She sits on the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry; the Budget; the Energy and Natural Resources; and the Finance committees. Boozman and Stabenow are leaders of the Senate Paper and Packaging Caucus.