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Thursday, February 10, 2011 - 11:47am

Georgia Forests Are Worth Billions

Georgia’s timber industry is worth $28 billion a year. But a new study says the state’s untouched forests are worth even more.

Researchers with the University of Georgia Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources spent three years studying the state’s 22 million acres of privately-owned timberland.

Using industry-standard economic formulas, they applied a monetary value to the forest. They added up things like water storage and filtration, wildlife habitat, soil formation, and aesthetic and cultural importance. The tally came to $37 billion.

Study author Dr. Rebecca Moore says the research will help landowners put a dollar value to decisions about whether to cut the trees.

“If forest land of any kind is replaced by any other land use, whether it’s row crops or development, let’s understand exactly what we’re going to lose.”

Georgia has the most privately-owned timberland in the nation. Moore says all Georgians are impacted by how private landowners choose to use their forests.

“That means that we’re relying on private landowners to make decisions that really impact all of us.”

While tax easements are an incentive to keep forests, timber is Georgia’s second-largest industry and is growing.

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