Matt Hestad | Georgia Forestry Association

May 29, 2024   |   Timber

This podcast episode features Matt Hestad of the Georgia Forestry Association to share about the number one forestry state in the nation.

This episode of In Our Expert Opinion Real Estate Podcast is joined by Matt Hestad, Vice President of Engagement for the Georgia Forestry Association. During the interview, Matt explains the pivotal role that forestry plays in Georgia's economy and environment. With his deep expertise and passion for forestry, he discusses everything from economic impacts and challenges to recent innovations like carbon credits, sustainable aviation fuel, and mass timber.

Below is an excerpt from the interview. Listen above for the full podcast.

Matt Hestad, Georgia Forestry Association

Why is forestry important in Georgia? Back in 1907, the mission of the Georgia Forestry Association was really around ensuring that landowners had resources to manage their land, that they had expert advice, and that they had a voice—one voice that spoke for the entire forestry supply chain. 

Today, it's not much different, but our population dynamics have changed tremendously. We're in a position today where 70-75% of the state lives in an urban or suburban area. Those people are one step removed from forestry. 

Our state has about 24 million acres of forests which covers just shy of two-thirds of the land area in the state. Of those forest lands, 90% is privately owned. Here in the state, private land ownership is interwoven in our ability to conserve land and provide clean air, clean water, wildlife, habitat, recreation, and the beauty that everybody enjoys—not only that but the products that we need to sustain our entire life. 

We've had a tremendous amount of leadership in Georgia over the last 100 years that has positioned the state as a globally recognized leader in forestry. Georgia, by many accounts, is the number one forestry state in the nation

We're number one in privately owned timberland, right at 22 million acres. We're number one in forest product exports, leading in about 21 different forest product export categories and the overall trade value of forest product exports. We also harvest more timber than any other state in the nation. 

We're also the number one state for growing and planting trees. Many of the premier seedling growers are located here in the state. So, we're not only planting trees that have been grown in a nursery here, but we're exporting those trees’ seedlings to other states as well. Georgia plants between 225 to 300 million seedlings each year, and we're definitely a nationwide leader from that perspective.

Matt Hestad joins In Our Expert Opinion Real Estate Podcast to discuss the role of the Georgia Forestry Association in the nation's number one forestry state with podcast hosts, Linda Schultz and Chad Mills. 

How does forestry impact Georgia’s economy? Georgia Tech does an annual study of our forestry economy here in the state. One of the things that they look at is overall economic impact. They'll take the direct economic impact from the sales and marketing of timber, the sales and marketing of final products, and they'll add in the indirect impacts as well. 

Our entire forest industry adds about $41 billion of economic impact annually to the state and it comprises about 140,000 jobs. We have approximately 200 primary wood-using facilities across the state. 

We have 156 counties in Georgia and 83 of those counties have at least one forest product manufacturing facility—many of them have multiple facilities. Those manufacturing facilities kind of serve as economic hubs where an entire system is supporting that mill from the loggers who are harvesting the products and taking them to the mill on trucks, to the landowners who are investing and managing that land through the life of the forest, to an entire support network of people now from local foresters to real estate experts. It's definitely a big industry here and kind of the backbone, if you will, of rural Georgia.

What are the major challenges in forestry? One of the concerning things that's happening right now, across probably the last 18 months, we've seen several mill closures around the state. Florida has had two major mill closures that have just been just over the border. 

The impact of those mill closures is incredible—it impacts the entire forestry economy, from the landowners who are counting on those mills to sell their product when it came to maturation to the loggers who are out there, investing in equipment and human resources to get those trees to the mill. 

In Georgia, where we've been very lucky not to see a major mill closure. We had one in Brunswick that closed due to a fire that happened, but we're very concerned about that long-term.

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