Forests cover about half of Florida’s land area, with most of the timberlands lying north of Orlando. In the northern half of the state, most counties are at least 50 percent forested; in the southern half, the percentage peaks at 40. Liberty County in Northeast Florida claims the highest coverage at 90 percent. Several counties in Southeast Florida have less than 10 percent.
Statewide, there are 17.3 million acres of forests; 15.4 million acres of those timberlands are working forests. Seventy-one percent of those are privately owned; the rest is owned by state and local (18%) and federal (11%) governments.
In 2014, there were 73 primary wood-using mills in Florida. Almost half of those are sawmills (27). Other types of mills include mulch (17), pulp/paper (6), chip-n-saw (5), pole (3), post (3), animal bedding (3), chip (2), biomass power, pallet, pellet, plywood, strand board, veneer and firewood (1 each).
More than 5000 items are made from forest products, ranging from furniture to pharmaceuticals. They can be found in your kitchen (fruits, nuts, spices, artificial flavorings, food additives, wine corks, sports drinks, root beer, dish washing liquids); your medicine cabinet (soaps, cough syrups, cough drops, shampoo, aspirin, adhesive bandages, skin lotions, tablet coatings, toothbrushes, cologne, cosmetics, cancer-fighting drug Taxol); your playroom (crayons, football helmets, computer casings, sporting equipment, musical instruments); your garage, garden and laundry room (car wax, tools, paints, charcoal, garden mulch, cleaners and laundry detergents); and throughout your home (carpet and fabrics).
Forests have a positive impact on your life outside your home as well. Environmentally, they provide habitat for wildlife; act as natural air and water filters; and offer many recreational opportunities and much-needed green space. Financially, the forestry industry employs 74,500 Floridians and infuses $14.5 billion into the state’s economy.
For more information about forestry’s economic impact, we invite you to read the Florida Forest Service’s 2013 Florida Forest Economic Impacts Fact Sheet.