North Carolina Forests

Forest Ecology
Forest Management
Forest Products
Glossary of Terms
Harvesting Regulations
History of NC Forests
U.S. Forest Service State Inventory Report


North Carolina’s forests are among the state’s most valuable natural resources, not only in terms of their beauty, their importance to environmental health and wildlife habitat, but also in terms of their contribution to the state’s economy.

NC OneMap, a service of a the North Carolina Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (CGIA), is a hub for GIS data for the citizens and businesses of North Carolina.  Many foresters access government data, including aerial photography, streams, and landcover information, that is provided through this hub.  Recently, NC OneMap has been redesigned with a powerful search engine and a suite of new services.  Since some of the changes are significant, a series of videos has been provided to guide users through the data search and retrieval process.  To view the videos, click the following link: .

With 18.6 million acres of timberland, North Carolina ranks fourth in the nation in total forest acreage. Click here for a fact sheet detailing the latest data. The majority of the state (60%) is covered by forests and hardwoods are the dominant species (55%). Click here for a power point presentation of latest data. These forests provide the raw materials for the state's number one manufacturing industry, forest products. The forest products industry employs over 68,000 people and contributes 3.1 billion dollars in annual payroll. The industry provides the markets that are so valuable to the the private forest landowners, who grow trees in the anticipation of one day harvesting them for a profit.

North Carolina is frequently broken down into three different areas in terms of forest inventory purposes by the North Carolina Division of Forest Resources and the U.S. Forest Service. On occassions, the Coastal Plain area will be subdivided to the Northern and Southern Coastal Plains.

This data is collected and reported by the U.S. Forest Service. The last complete inventory data for North Carolina was completed in 2002 and the full report is listed on the left.

State Map Forests types are classified by the dominant species in forests. For example, a forest that contains a majoritiy of hardwoods, will be called a hardwood forest type even though there might be some pine species in the forest. The Mountains region is dominated by hardwoods. If the forest is evenly populated with hardwoods and pines, it will be classified as a mixed stand. Frequently, a mixed stand is a result of a planted pine forest that has grown up with little forest management, resulting in combination of pine and hardwoods competing for resources on the same site. In recent surveys, this is the fastest growing category of forest in the state. If the forest is dominated by pine, then it is considered a pine forest.

Total Acres in North Carolina :  31 million acres

Acres in Forestland : 18.6 million acres (60% of state)

Ownership of Forestland
U.S. National Forests: 7%
State and Local Governments:  5%
Other Federal: 3%

Non-Industrial Private Forest Landowners (NIPF): 64%
Estimated # of NIPF:  More than 500,000
Non-Industrial C
orporate: 13%
Forest Industry: 8%

Timber Species Mix:
Hardwoods:   55%
Softwood (pines):   28%
Mixed Stands:  17%

Acres Harvested and Retained in Timberland: 250,000 acres/year 

Annual Reforestation:  315,000 acres/year (67% natural)

The NCFA has produced two separate reports that discuss the health of North Carolina's forests as it pertains to government led studies. The Southern Forest Resource Assessment was released in 2001.  The North Carolina Chip Mill Study was published in 2000. The NCFA published brochures highlighting the findings in both of these studies.  

The Southern Forest Resource Assessment
November, 2001

The Chip Mill Study
July, 2000