PENNSYLVANIA (WETM) – The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is an incredibly diverse state. With a few dense urban centers like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, rural rolling hills and valleys, and plateaus galore, the Keystone State is home to countless types of people, animals, and plants.
When you look out at the landscape of PA—like at the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon overlook—you’re greeted with awe-inspiring views of seemingly endless forest. There are all sorts of trees, too: oaks, hickories, poplars, and of course the great northern hardwoods like the sugar maple, black cherry, birch, and ash.
But just how many trees are there in the Commonwealth?
According to the Pa. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, a whopping 60% of the state is covered in forests. This amounts to over 16 million acres either privately owned or held by local, state, or federal governments. To put that in perspective, that’s bigger than the entire state of West Virginia.
As the DCNR describes, the U.S. Forest Service (an arm of the Department of Agriculture) is the country’s forest “census taker”. The last time the USFS did a tree count in Pennsylvania was in 2019.
At that time, the agency estimated a mindblowing total of 7.95 billion trees in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s estimated population of PA in July 2022 (12.9 million), that’s almost 613 trees for every person.
The USFS data also said that there are almost 36,000 more acres of forest turned into nonforest than the total amount of non-forested land reverted forest each year. In fact, that same 2019 data showed that the total number of trees in Pa. was down by almost 300 million from five years before. Hundreds of thousands of acres are also disturbed or treated each year from tree harvests, wildfires, and weather.
The DCNR has good reason to conserve forest land in PA. That huge number of trees pulls carbon out of the atmosphere and cleans the air, provides a home to wildlife, and offers space for hunters, hikers, and campers.
The timber business is also large in Pa. According to Penn State, the Commonwealth is the country’s largest supplier of hardwoods. The DCNR says that the wood product industry in Pennsylvania is worth $20 billion with 60,000 workers.