New residential construction may be the primary driver of lumber sales in the U.S., but another force—increased development, particularly in the southern U.S.—is pushing back by cutting into viable private forest land and ultimately decreasing the raw material inventory for wood products, a new report by the U.S. Forest Service finds. 

“We should all be concerned by the projected decline in our nation’s forests and the corresponding loss of the many critical services they provide such as clean drinking water, wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration, wood products and outdoor recreation,” said agriculture under secretary Harris Sherman in a statement. 

According to the report, the amount of developed land in the U.S. will grow by 40% through 2060, with forested areas losing up to 34 million acres (exempting Alaska and Hawaii). 

How smaller forests will affect the availability and price of wood building products depends on how the raw materials are used, the report finds. For example: If more timber is harvested for wood pulp (to be used in OSB), less timber will be available to be harvested as framing lumber; but if more wood is harvested for use as a bio-fuel to heat homes, less will be available for use in OSB products. OSB accounted for about 60% of the total market consumption of structural panel products in 2010, increasing to 80% by 2060 due to its lower material costs compared to plywood. Because the structural panel market relies heavily on pulpwood as a raw material, the U.S. market structural panel market can expect to be impacted by changes in wood energy consumption, the report finds. Without large-scale wood-energy consumption and with a recovery in U.S. housing, the structural panel industry can expect significant growth. 

Read the full report .

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