SIC 0851 Forestry Services


SIC 0851

This industry classification includes establishments primarily engaged in performing, on a contract or fee basis, services related to timber production, wood technology, forestry economics and marketing, and other forestry services, not elsewhere classified, such as cruising timber, fire fighting, and reforestation.



Support Activities for Forestry


One-third of the United States is forestland. The United States is the world's leading producer and consumer of wood products, supplying 25 percent and consuming 30 percent. The challenge for federal government, activist groups, and private companies is how best to put the resources to work, yet preserve old-growth trees and animal habitats. U.S. forests cover nearly 747 million acres, or one-third of the nation's lands. Of that total, 52 million acres are "set aside" for non-timber use, such as parks and reserves, as proscribed by the federal government. Two-thirds of the forestlands are classified as timberlands, capable of producing 20 cubic feet of commercial wood per year. Forests in the southern part of the country are more often used for timber than other forests, accounting for more than 60 percent of total production, and they are also the youngest forests in the country. Red maple and Loblolly pine trees are the most common tree varieties in U.S. forests.

Federal regulations regarding the industry are numerous. They encompass everything from road construction to reforestation mandates. Many in the industry see these regulations as excessively burdensome and a barrier to trade. However, for many years private companies harvested trees on public lands, paying nothing to the public coffers and having little regard to the impact of wholesale tree clearing. The U.S. Forest Service stepped in, and with the help of public pressure—due to awareness of the need for the forests—set up regulations.


During the start of the twentieth century, the economic future of the United States was heavily dependent on the "perpetual supply of timber," as noted in a 1923 editorial in The Timberman, a leading forest products journal. The forestry services industry took hold from a philosophy that the nation's forestland was a resource that had to be serviced, protected, and renewed, rather than just harvested and diminished. Protection from wildfires and pest infestation of the nation's forests were essential for survival.

As the timber industry grew and became more competitive, so did related services: timber cruisers hiked through forests to assess logging conditions and estimate the volume of marketable timber; and estimators, log graders, and scalers inspected logs for defects, measured them to determine volume, and estimated marketable content or value for pulpwood and other uses. Timber and related industries grew at a fast pace along with the demand for skilled loggers.

Vast Forest Resources

As the growth of forestland that required servicing increased, so did the growth for the demand of the forestry services industry. In 1996 more than 737 million acres—or approximately one-third of the total U.S. land area—was forested. In Oregon, Washington, and California, more than 10 million acres of old-growth forest can be found. Nonfederal public agencies, the forest industry, farmers and ranchers, and other private individuals owned the majority of this forestland.

Fire fighting and prevention, pest control, and forest management plans took hold in the 1980s and 1990s due to the new philosophy of managing the U.S. forests as complex ecosystems, containing interdependent communities of plants, animals, and microbes. This new way of looking at forests was greatly influenced by the declining number of U.S. forestlands during the early 1970s. Reforestation and new forestry management efforts started, in part to prevent the decline of 1.5 million acres each year between 1970 and 1987. The efforts paid off, for by the early 1990s, the rate of U.S. forest depletion had decreased to approximately half a million acres per year. However, government sources still project a decline of 4 percent of forestland to about 703 million acres by the year 2040.

International Forest Servicing

The issues of deforestation, acid deposition, climate change, and endangered species were problems that crossed national boundaries. During the 1980s and 1990s, natural resource issues helped to create an international forestry emphasis. Many U.S. companies and organizations specializing in forestry services increasingly contributed to reforestation efforts in forests from the Amazon to Malaysia. The authorization of the 1990 Farm Bill communicated to the world that the U.S. Forest Service supported forestry services work on an international basis. It coordinated efforts with the U.S. Department of State and other organizations. The Foreign Operations Appropriations Act of 1990 authorized increased funds for international forestry services performed by various agencies, including the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID). By 1991 international operations had gained such clout that the Forest Service elevated the International Forestry Staff to division status. In addition to internationalization at the federal level, private industry leaders were performing forestry services around the world.

Public vs Private Services

Historically, the forestry services industry has been divided between federal and private control, with the two sectors often overlapping in both cooperative efforts and disputes. With the rise of industrial forestry in the late 1900s, budding forestry products companies developed individual management plans, fire and pest control systems, and business priorities. As early as 1904, the Weyerhaeuser Company reforested 1.3 million acres of timberland in Washington State, and following the 1903 and 1908 fires in the Northeast and the 1902 and 1910 fires in Idaho and the Northwest, private companies drafted the first fire protection organizations.

The scene changed dramatically, however, with the 1905 establishment of the U.S. Forest Service. After the 1920s the Forest Service began a campaign advocating the federal regulation of private timber harvesting. Even though federal forests accounted for less than one-fifth of total U.S. forestland, government regulations influenced private industry in such areas as logging, road construction, reforestation mandates, taxation of private forests, and use of herbicides and pesticides. Entering the 1990s private forest landowners and forest industry leaders took issue with many federal regulations, arguing that forest management plans for public forestlands were incompatible with market-driven interests of private foresters.


Since its creation, the U.S. Forest Service, the largest bureau in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, served as an innovator and driving force in forestry services. The Forest Service managed the National Forest System (made up of 191 million acres) and worked with state land management organizations to help private landowners apply sound natural resource management practices on their lands. The service's research division strove to develop the means and understanding to enhance and protect productivity of forestlands, with special emphasis on natural resource issues of national and international scope. Finally, the international forestry arm of the U.S. Forest Service facilitated the exchange of technical expertise and managerial skills with other nations.

At the turn of the twentieth century, public forests had become an immense timber commons with no established property rights and no incentives for responsible harvesting or reforestation. By the 1860s and 1870s, exploitation of vast timber tracts began to stir national attention. A new awareness emerged; in his famous study, "Man and Nature," George Marsh described the central role of forests in overall environmental health, from erosion control to water flow. In...

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