How much deforestation is there?

I mentioned the other day in “What Killed the environmental Movement, that generally environmental organizations tell you how bad things are but will never say anything improved? Check this out:

[Illegal logging and unsustainable forest practices] lead to the loss of nearly 36 million acres of natural forests each year, an area roughly the size of New York state. The world’s poorest people often bear the brunt… – World Wildlife Fund

Now I crosschecked with the 2005 Global Forest Resources Assessment compiled by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO):

Deforestation, mainly due to conversion of forests to agricultural land, continues at an alarmingly high rate – some 13 million hectares [32.1 million acres] per year. – 2005 FAO report

Now, that’s close enough that I wouldn’t quibble, but the FAO adds that due to reforestation the number is less.

At the same time, forest planting, landscape restoration and natural expansion of forests have significantly reduced the net loss of forest area.

And is the culprit illegal logging and poor forest management? Sometimes. From this FAO graphic it looks like it fuelwood gathering.

In fact, it’s an improvement. An improvement of over a million and a half hectares (4 million acres) per year:

Net global change in forest area in the period 2000–2005 is estimated at -7.3 million hectares per year (an area about the size of Panama or Sierra Leone), down from -8.9 million hectares per year in the period 1990–2000.

I know, I know, we’re still losing acreage and I agree with the WWF that “The world’s poorest people often bear the brunt…” but much of that is due to the United States desire not to harvest in its own forests.

Consider California ability to grow trees and its demand for wood. It has 40 million acres of forest with 313 billion board feet (BBF) of timber In 2000, 2 BBF were harvested.

California has 40 million acres of forest with 313 billion board feet (BBF) of timber. In 2000, 2 BBF were harvested from California and we consumed 8.5 BBF, a difference of 6.5 Billion board feet had to be imported from somewhere else.
(Source: McKillop, William. “Forestry, Forest Industry, and Forest Products Consumption in California.”)

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