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Socioeconomic Assessment

Logging truck harvesting trees Marylandís forests directly provide socioeconomic benefits related to timber, jobs, and recreational activities (hunting, fishing and ecotourism). In 1996, the forestry and wood products industry, the fifth largest in the state, generated over two billion dollars in income and provided over 14,000 jobs annually. There are also many non-timber products that are economically important, including foods, like maple syrup and mushrooms, and medicines. The long-term profitability of the forest products industry is directly linked to a sustainable forest resource base. Identifying areas where the forest products industry is likely to be viable in the long-term provides focus for effective management activities. Likewise, areas where the forest products industry is particularly important deserve attention.

If managed properly, forests can continue to provide ecological services and habitat, as well as a variety of forest products. The Economic Model for the Strategic Forest Lands Assessment uses GIS to help identify economically important forestlands, particularly those with the greatest potential to yield economic benefits associated with timber management activities. The model includes factors that relate not only to the short term potential economic return on a forest harvest operation, but also the long term economic sustainability of forest land, considering local and regional influences. At a local or site level, the economic model considers biophysical factors that influence what tree species will prosper in a given area. Also included are data that aim to approximate constraints on management of the forest resource.

Site-specific factors incorporated into the model include:

  • species composition
  • soil productivity
  • slope
  • microclimate
  • riparian and wetland features
  • presence of sensitive species habitats

At regional or landscape scales, the economic model incorporates factors that affect the ability of the forest to support resource-based economies, including the importance of the timber management and wood products industry to local economies. Also included are data that attempt to capture the effects of State and local policy on forest land protection. Regional or landscape scale socioeconomic and policy factors include:

  • population density
  • parcelization
  • proximity of the forest resource to mills
  • role of the forest products industry in the local economy
  • existing or planned water and sewer service or other designations for urban growth
  • existing working landscape protection initiatives (e.g. Rural Legacy and Forest Legacy Areas)
  • existing public and private forest land protection

Combining these factors resulted in an identification of forested lands that were of High, Medium, or Low economic value.

Many of the available data relating to the forest products economy are aggregated only at the county level, and are mapped accordingly, while other information is more site-specific. Among the economic attributes of Maryland forests being addressed in the SFLA are:

For a complete list of socioeconomic indicators, please select Data and Indicators.