Why does sustainable forestry matter? Many lumber producers still believe that conventional wood plantations are the best way to do business, in the short-sighted view that they’re more economically feasible. Most of our timber in the United States is produced by private land owners, who often don’t realize that cutting timber for short-term financial gain results in environmental degradation that could reduce the availability of wood in the future. In contrast, sustainable forestry methods outline long-term plans to ensure biodiversity, productivity and regeneration capacity for decades or even centuries to come.
Unsustainable forestry methods replace natural forests, which include a variety of species native to the area, with a single tree species. This produces an unnatural environment that can have a harmful effect on wildlife of the area, disturbing the balance of the local ecosystem. Sustainable methods, like the natural mixed forests in which Eastern White Pines are grown, protect biodiversity, resulting in healthier forests with better-quality soil and long-term growth potential.
Some tree farms focus on cutting down only the highest-quality trees grown on a given site, leaving the poorly formed trees to grow. At high-yield plantations, trees are cut after just six to twenty-five years of growth. This impedes the forest’s ability to regenerate itself at the rate required for a successful timber operation, leaving the owners with limited options for future harvests.
Consumers increasingly want wood products that aren’t tainted by environmental destruction. Rising eco-consciousness means sustainable timber is more in demand than ever. Third-party certification from entities like the Forest Stewardship Council, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and the American Tree Farm System have established strict criteria that help consumers of wood products like timber and paper make environmentally friendly choices. Learn more about sustainable forestry at the Sustainable Forest Products website, run by the World Resources Institute.
Photo: Jim Capaldi