Illinois Forest Facts

Forest Area Facts

  • Total land area - 35.6 million acres
  • Forestland prior to European settlement - 13.8 million acres (40 percent)
  • Forestland today - 4.4 million acres (12 percent)
  • Most of the original forests were cleared for agriculture, fuelwood, fence posts, transportation, and urban and industrial development
  • Illinois ranks 49th among states in percent of land remaining in original vegetation
  • Since 1991, over 190,000 acres of marginal farm ground and pasture have been planted to trees through state and federal conservation programs

Basic Facts

  • Illinois grows some of the finest hardwoods in the nation, such as black walnut, red oak, white oak, yellow poplar, ash, hickory, hard maple, and soft maple
  • 97 percent of Illinois’ forests are classified as hardwoods
  • 3 percent of Illinois’ forests are classified as conifers
  • Principal forest cover types: Oak-Hickory (53 percent); Elm-Ash-Cottonwood (22 percent); Maple-Beech (20 percent), Misc. Pine (3 percent), and Oak-Gum-Cypress (2 percent)
  • Average annual volume growth exceeds forest removals by 160 percent

Tree Facts

  • State tree: White Oak (Quercus alba)
  • Illinois has six trees listed on the National Register of Big Trees
  • Over 250 tree species have been recorded in Illinois
  • Most common tree: Slippery Elm
  • Tallest tree on record: N. Red Oak (>150 ft.), Dixon Springs State Park
  • Greatest circumference: Baldcypress (34.3 ft.), Pulaski County
  • Biggest tree on record: Sycamore (31 ft. in circumference, 119 ft. tall, crown spread of 134 ft.), Christian County
  • Twenty Native Oak Species: (White Oak Family) Bur oak, chestnut oak, chinkapin oak, overcup oak, post oak, swamp chestnut oak, swamp white oak, and white oak; (Red Oak Family) black oak, blackjack oak, cherrybark oak, northern pin oak, northern red oak, nuttall oak, pin oak, scarlet oak, shingle oak, shumard oak, southern red oak, and willow oak
  • Nine Native Hickory Species: (True Hickories) black hickory, mockernut hickory, pignut hickory, red hickory, shagbark hickory, and shellbark hickory; (Pecan Hickories) bitternut hickory, pecan, and water hickory
  • Five Native Ash Species: black ash, blue ash, green ash, pumpkin ash, and white ash

Private Forest Ownership Facts

  • Over 170,000 private forest landowners
  • Average forest ownership parcel size is ~ 21 acres
  • 82 percent of Illinois’ forests owned by private individuals (3.6 million acres)
  • 7 percent of Illinois’ forests owned by private corporations
  • Illinois (3.6 million acres) has more nonindustrial private forestland than Idaho (2.1 million acres), Wyoming (1.6 million acres), or Washington (3.2 million acres)
  • 83 percent of forest landowners have never received professional forestry assistance
  • Over 90 percent of forest landowners sell their timber without professional forestry assistance
  • 1,107 Certified American Tree Farmers in Illinois
  • Over 95,000 acres enrolled in the Tree Farm program

Forest & Wood Products Industry

  • Illinois forest-based earnings exceed $4.5 billion annually
  • 60 percent of forestry related business are in the lumber and wood products industry
  • Forest-based employment exceeds 68,000 workers in Illinois and contributes nearly $30 billion in annual sales volume to Illinois’ economy
  • Christmas trees are a $9 million dollar retail industry in Illinois
  • There are over 100 sawmills in Illinois
  • Illinois landowners received over $20 million selling timber last year
  • Over 90 percent of Illinois forest owners sell timber without the assistance of a professional forester
  • In the early 1990’s, a single landowner in central Illinois received over $500,000 for several hundred black walnut trees
  • In the late 1990’s, a single black walnut tree sold for $25,000 in north-central Illinois
  • Illinois ranks 5th in the nation for demand of wood
  • Illinois ranks 32nd in the nation for production of wood


  • 75 percent of Illinois’ native wildlife species require forest habitat for a portion of their lifecycle
  • Illinois forests provide habitat for more than 420 vertebrate species
  • Over 120 bird species utilize Illinois forests for nesting
  • Over 3.4 million Illinoisans observe, feed, and photograph wildlife worth an estimated $620 million annually to the states economy
  • More than $550 million is spent on recreational fishing each year
  • Hunters spend $150 million a year pursuing game

Government Ownership

  • Shawnee National Forest ~ 293,000 acres in southern Illinois
  • Six State Forests ~ 19,309 acres
  • IDNR operates two state nurseries: Mason State Nursery in Topeka and Union County State Nursery in Jonesboro

Forestry College Facts

  • The nations first forestry course was taught at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • The University of Illinois’ Illini Grove predates the famous Morrow Plots
  • The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign forestry curricula is accredited by the Society of American Foresters
  • Southern Illinois University Carbondale forestry curricula is accredited by the Society of American Foresters