The forests of North Carolina offer many benefits to all North Carolinians. Properly managed, forests provide wood products, jobs, clean water, wildlife habitat, and recreational opportunities. North Carolina’s pine and hardwood forests support one of the state’s largest manufacturing industries—the $19 billion wood products industry. This economic sector provides thousands of jobs in the production of goods like lumber, furniture, and newsprint. Additionally, each year thousands of private forest landowners receive income from timber sales, hunting leases, or the sale of non-timber forest products. This publication highlights the importance of North Carolina’s forest economy as we enter the 21st century.


Ownership of timberland in North Carolina


Sixty percent of all land in North Carolina, 18.7 million acres, is timberland. Individuals own 40 percent while farmers own 27 percent. Forest companies own or lease 13 percent; federal, state, and local governments own 11 percent; and other corporations own 9 percent.

Major tree species

Of the 18.7 million acres of timberland, hardwood forests account for 53 percent of the acreage; pine forests, 33 percent; and oak-pine forests, 14 percent. North Carolina has more than 60 different commercial species of trees. The more important ones are yellow and white pine, red and white oak, soft maple, sweetgum, ash, and yellow poplar.

Forestry facts

  • North Carolina has more timberland today than it did in 1938.
  • Total tree planting in North Carolina during the 1990s averaged 118,700 acres per year.
  • North Carolina has more than 2,000 Christmas tree growers.
  • Logger compliance with the Forest Practices Guidelines Related to Water Quality is 94 percent across the state.
  • Forests in North Carolina are the starting point of 60 percent of the water we use.

Wood Products

Industry composition

The U.S. Department of Commerce divides the wood products industry into three segments: lumber and wood products, furniture, and pulp and paper. The number of manufacturing establishments in these three segments totals 2,256, or 19 percent of all manufacturing firms located in North Carolina.

Employment and payroll

The wood products industry employs 18 percent of the state’s manufacturing workers, or nearly 136,000 individuals. Annual payroll for the industry is $3.8 billion, ranking second only to that of textile mill products and apparel.

Value of shipments for North Carolina manufacturing industries.


The total value of wood products shipments is $19 billion annually, or 11 percent of the state’s total. The only manufacturing industries with higher totals are beverage and tobacco products, $25.8 billion; chemicals, $24 billion; and textile mill products and apparel, $23.7 billion.

Wood products facts

  • Toothpaste contains cellulose gum, a natural product derived from wood.
  • Each North Carolinian uses the equivalent of a 100-foot, 18-inch diameter tree every year in wood and paper products.
  • North Carolina’s furniture shipments total $8 billion per year.
  • North Carolina’s 10 largest manufacturing employers include 2 wood products firms.
  • Softwood lumber production in North Carolina ranks 7th nationally.

Tourism and Recreation

Annual North Carolina tourism expenditures.

Economic impact

Tourism is one of North Carolina’s largest industries. Domestic and international travelers spend $11.9 billion annually throughout the state. In addition, tourism expenditures directly support 196,400 jobs. Many of these jobs and expenditures are forest-based tourism and recreational activities.

Hunting and fishing

Forests provide food and cover for wildlife and freshwater fish. About 1.9 million people hunt or fish in North Carolina per year, spending more than $2 billion in the process. Hunters lease 2 million acres of private timberland, and another 2 million acres of public lands are available for hunting. In addition, each year 2.4 million people enjoy wildlife through activities such as bird-watching and photography. These activities result in expenditures of approximately $510 million per year.

Tourism and recreation facts

  • The Blue Ridge Parkway attracts more than 14,000,000 visitors a year.
  • North Carolina state parks attract 12,000,000 visitors a year.
  • Traveler spending generates more than $2.1 billion in tax receipts.
  • North Carolina residents traveling within the state spend an average of $221 per trip.
  • Payroll for the travel industry is $4 billion.


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Published in November 2002

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