Know your forest numbers

Forest contribute to Michigan's economy, lifestyle and environment quality. Learn the features that show the depth of forests' contribution.

Michigan forests have a major influence on our economy, lifestyle and environment quality. They are notable within both the state and the nation, as well as around the world. The Great Lakes are an important global feature and forests strongly define this region.

Regional forests are not homogenous. Rather, they contain an immense array of diversity, including the manner in which they are used. Casual observation only hints at the depth of the forest resource. Consider some of these features that can surface with a closer look. These descriptors do not include the extensive urban and residential forests, and each can be more fully detailed, which shows greater variability and complexity.

  • Michigan forests have been systematically measured and inventoried since 1935. Trends include steady increases in forest area, forest volume and average tree diameter. The current system involves over 10,000 forested inventory plots.
  • The size of Michigan’s forestland ranks seventh in the nation.
  • Michigan forests grew 2.3 times more wood than what was harvested during the years 2006-2010. Losses from insects and diseases are on the rise.
  • Michigan has about 14 billion trees over one inch in diameter.
  • The five most common tree species are sugar maple, red maple, white cedar, red pine and quaking aspen.
  • Forest area is held by about 400,000 individual ownerships (46%), state and local governments (23%), corporate ownerships (17%) and the federal government (14%).
  • Over half of Michigan’s forest is open to hunting, fishing, hiking or other outdoor activities.
  • The majority of the Michigan forest grows in the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula.
  • Forest industry contributes $17 billion dollars, supports about 136,000 jobs, and is the third largest manufacturing sector in Michigan. Two-thirds of forest-based companies are in the Lower Peninsula.
  • Third-party forest certification applies to over a third of Michigan’s forest, helping to ensure sustainable supplies of wood products, together with social and environmental benefits.
  • Northern hardwoods (sugar maple, beech, basswood, yellow birch) is the most common forest type, and that area has been steadily increasing.
  • Michigan is now about 55% forested but was once nearly completely forested. Major causes of land use change have been agriculture and human infrastructure. Over the past century, forest area has been steadily increasing.
  • Current forest threats include human development, deer depredation, climate changes, invasive species, and lack of management.
  • For every thousand trees, 24 are added to the inventory, 12 are harvested, and 9 die from insects and diseases.
  • About 13 million trees are planted each year in Michigan for reforestation or afforestation purposes. Additional trees are planted in parks, around residences and for wildlife habitat.
  • Most of Michigan’s nearly 600 species of vertebrates depend upon the forest for at least a portion of their habitat requirements.

Forests are always changing, either through natural processes or forest management. While statistics will vary over time, and depending upon how the data are sliced and diced, it’s apparent that forests are critical to human survival and welfare. Monitoring is a critical step in knowing how to manage and care for forests.

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