forest products

Benefits of Sustainably Harvesting Non-timber Forest Products

DanForestry, Industry News Release, Specialty Crops

A new report by USDA Forest Service researchers provides science-based information to help decision-makers, practitioners, and researchers to promote the sustainable harvest of non-timber forest products.

forest productsThe Assessment of Nontimber Forest Products in the United States Under Changing Conditions synthesizes the best available science for managing non-timber forest resources in the U.S.

“Many private landowners harvest non-timber products to generate income from their forests,” said Forest Service Interim Chief Vicki Christiansen. “The harvest of specialty products like medicinal herbs, wild onions, and mushrooms creates jobs, boosts rural economies, and meets growing market demands.”

These harvests contribute millions of dollars to the U.S. economy each year. For example, in 2001 the estimated market value of four medicinal and floral species (blood root, black cohosh, American ginseng, and galax) exceeded $25 million. However, the lack of available data has impeded a thorough economic analysis of these and other nontimber products. The Forest Service report helps fill this gap and guides readers through the laws and regulations at the local, state and federal levels that complicate sustainable management and conservation of these important natural resources.

“Commercial markets for many raw non-timber forest products are well-established, even when not highly visible,” said Toral Patel-Weynand, national director of Sustainable Forest Management Research and one of the report editors. “However, changing conditions from environmental stresses like drought, fire, insects and disease, and climate variability put all of these economic benefits are at risk.”

Non-timber forest products are harvested in all types of forest, grassland, and wetland environments. Changes in forest dynamics, including soil moisture and temperature, may impact populations and ranges of non-timber forest species, particularly understory spring ephemeral herbs. The report assesses the potential effects of climatic variability on non-timber forest products and how those effects may disrupt the benefits derived from non-timber forest products.

The report also highlights the importance of non-timber forest products to the cultures of diverse communities in the U.S. Including these stakeholders in management and policy dialogues will help promote sustainable the harvest of non-timber forest products for decades to come.

To learn more, view the complete report at is external).