Logging has long been associated with deforestation; vast tracts of land clear-cut without a plan for future growth and no consideration for how the tree removal will affect the ecosystem and surrounding communities. While that was true for a long time, and still presents a major problem around the world, sustainable forestry methods are changing that perception. Sustainable forestry meets the needs of the present – for goods like paper and lumber – without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Traditional logging methods take down as many trees as desired with an eye on immediate profit, and rather than replanting trees so more can be harvested in the future, they leave the landscape bare and damaged, moving on to a new forest for additional wood. To ensure that tree removal won’t harm the ecosystem and will allow for a continued harvest, sustainable forestry requires a multi-step process of evaluation, management and regeneration.
Forest managers assess the land, noting the types and health of the trees, the species of wildlife present and whether they are threatened or endangered, and other environmental issues. Socioeconomic impact is important, too. Then they must determine how many trees can be harvested, and whether this can be accomplished by pruning, cutting down older trees to encourage new growth, or thinning the forest in certain areas. This might involve controlled burns, and often opens up parts of the land to recreation.
Third party certification ensures that all of this is done properly, in the best interests of the community, the environment and the nation in which the forest is located. An organization like the Sustainable Forestry Initiative cheeks on the forestry practices of a timber producer, and decides whether the resulting products can be labeled as sustainable.
Sustainable forestry can reduce climate change effects and reverse the damage that has been done by traditional logging in the past. Read more about how Eastern White Pine is a sustainable alternative to plantation-grown pine trees.
Photo: Bureau of Land Management