Good forestry not easy for everybody to understand

People who own forests or work with forestry are in a controversial business. Whether or not we want to acknowledge it, most (not some most) people misunderstand what we do and a significant number of people consider a term like “logger” a type of insult.

This point of view is mostly based on ignorance, but it is ignorance that we cannot ignore. In a democracy, policies are based on the desires of the majority and, yes, on their misconceptions and prejudices too. If a majority does not understand, they can be pushed into doing dumb things by vocal minorities. As development comes closer and even into our forests, more people are interested in what we do; it is our interest to make sure their interest turns into understanding.

I was reminded of this need while reading about the recent disastrous fires in the West. One article talked about the need to thin forests in order to improve forests' health and make them more fire resistant. I didn't learn much that I didn't already know from the article itself, but the comments were very enlightening. By the time it was all done, there were dozens of comments. Some readers were evidently appalled that anyone would even suggest that a human activity like thinning would be proposed for nature's forests. Others thought they might accept thinning, but wanted to make sure that nobody made a profit from it.

Comments are not necessarily representative of the general population, but they do come from people who have an opinion and who care enough to take the time to write about it, in other words, motivated people more likely to take action.

Our problem seems to be that a significant number of people view forestry as a kind of mining. Their attitude seems to be that nature provides forests that humans disrupt and exploit. And then they are gone, maybe for years and maybe forever. This is a silly idea to people who work in forests, especially older people who might have seen several thinnings and harvests on the same tract of land. We must not overlook, however, that the narrative of loss, destruction, exploitation and the heavy footprint of man is firmly and passionately believed by some people who vote and influence policies toward forests. We should also accept that their passion is based on good will. They think they are the good guys. The facts are on our side, but that doesn't diminish the intensity of their passion.

This is not a discussion we can or should want to avoid. We are doing the right things and trying with each planting and with each harvest to do them better. Tree farmers act today with the promise of the future firmly in mind. Sustainability is our concept, one practiced by foresters long before it was stylish or even described. Each of us lives from the gifts of the past and leaves more for those who come after us. This is what sustainable means.

Our story is important and we should tell it with eagerness and vigor, not just to each other but to all who want to listen, and maybe even to some who don't. Our narrative is not one of "leaving a smaller footprint" or "reducing damage." Ours is the affirmative story or renewal and regeneration, of imagination, intelligence and innovation making things better. Generations of tree farmers have been protecting water, soils and wildlife while producing wood and forest products. It is what we do. We know it works because we see it, smell it in the air we breathe and feel it under our feet as we walk across the land. It is something to share.

BTW - I know this is not particularly political. I write lots of articles re political subjects. That means I get to occasionally indulge myself writing about my more passionate interests. My forests will be growing long after President Obama is just an unpleasant memory. Of course, we might get in a few harvests before they sort out ObamaCare.

Posted by Christine & John at October 18, 2013 9:50 PM
Comments
Comment #372970

Many thanks C/J for extolling the many and huge benefits to everyone for the good forest management being practiced by private enterprise.

Posted by: Royal Flush at October 19, 2013 2:39 PM
Comment #372972

I work a small, outdoor, 3-man sawmill cutting 2x4 and 4x4 for a company that makes disposable pallets. We have a huge amount of bi-products via. sawdust and slab wood with bark. This is mostly coniferous.

How can this bi-product be used and is it usually profitable?

Posted by: Weary Willie at October 19, 2013 4:09 PM
Comment #372974

Particle board comes to mind, which is used for inexpensive furniture, such as end tables, dressers W.W.

Posted by: Rich KAPitan at October 19, 2013 4:59 PM
Comment #372975

I agree with your article, C&J. The pine tree has been a super great boon and blessing to this, and other countries.

But, what might we be assured of happening if the EPA and similar was defanged for, say ten years?

We can relate the tree industry to others. Take corporations. They have been a great boon and blessing as well. But, when they grow to be too large to fail, set their own legislative agenda, and rule by corpocracy they become a detriment to the country.

Any endeavor deemed useful will be more successful if people are at least somewhat educated with the underlying principles of that endeavor. Bad news when the folks are shut out: fast and furious, ACA, NAU, patriot act, and numerous such actions.

Where did all that transparency go that was pushed back in 08?

Just saying that we should remember there are numerous ‘logging’ companies working 24/7 to get into the bigger diameter redwoods in Calif. Hopefully, the folks will remain cognizant of such and not rely on the corpocracy to police the forests.

Posted by: Roy Ellis at October 19, 2013 5:00 PM
Comment #372977

Willie

I don’t know your local market. In some places there is a market for biomass. But I don’t know if you have enough to make it worthwhile.

They are now using hardwood scrap to make pellets for fuel. It is getting to be a big business.

There are online magazines etc - Biomass Magazine http://biomassmagazine.com
& Pellet Mill http://biomassmagazine.com/pellet-mill-magazine

Roy

My experience with big forestry related corporations have been very good. They do a better job than required by regulations.

I bought a piece of land that was previously owned by Union Camp and Plum Creek. It was very well cared for. In the areas near the streams, there was a good buffer with very old trees. They could legally have cut this, but they followed best practices and kept them for water protection and wildlife. Some trees are more than 100 years old, so their good stewardship was longstanding.

Perhaps firms are less careful when it comes to government owned land. I just don’t know. I do know that in the Eastern U.S. and on private lands the record is outstanding.

I know it is now fashionable to make critical statements and nothing is perfect, but in the real world it probably cannot get much better.

Posted by: CJ at October 19, 2013 6:00 PM
Comment #372982


Quote from wiki: The current environmental issue of deforestation in the United States is one that is affected by many different factors. One such factor is the effect, whether positive or negative, that the logging industry has on forests in the country. Logging in the United States is a hotly debated topic as groups who either support or oppose logging argue over its benefits and negative effects. “This industry comprises the establishments priarily engaged in one or more of the following: (1) cutting timber; (2) cutting and transporting timber; (3) producing wood chips in the field,” the definition provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (http://www.epa.gov/agriculture/forestry.html#Facts%20and%20Figures). “The United States is the world’s leading producer and consumer of forest products and accounts for about one-fourth of the world’s production and consumption. The United States is also the world’s largest producer of softwood and hardwood lumber. In 1996, total annual sales for commercial (nonfederal) timber and nontimber forest products was approximately $3.8 billion. The biggest issue facing deforestation in the United States is illegal logging in forests. The U.S. Forest Service states that illegal logging is the biggest problem with deforestation because it is nearly impossible to monitor and stop. It goes on throughout the U.S. and other countries and often happens when companies disregard their permits and go beyond what they are allowed to harvest. The Forest Service and EPA work together to make sure that the permits for logging companies in the United States are granted in such a way that the forests are kept healthy and sustainable, and illegal logging reduces the chances that forests will be kept this way. (http://www.fs.fed.us/) TheUnited States Forest Service is in favor of logging to a certain extent[citation needed] but there are several groups that oppose logging in the United States. Groups such as NativeForest.org and EarthRoots.org state that logging in the United States and specifically in industrial areas has led to deforestation and near extinction of many animals. End quote.

Perusing the web, it looks like the US has a half way decent logging program. I would suggest that one reason for that is the total exploitation of the rest of the world’s forest and, in this globalised society, I would bet that big US monopolies/conglomerates are right in the middle of it.

http://www.havocscope.com/tag/illegal-logging/

Curious, C&J. If five contractors priced 50 acres of timber for harvesting, what would the biggest spread be in percent?

Posted by: Roy Ellis at October 19, 2013 8:56 PM
Comment #372983

Roy

I don’t think I understand your question re spread.

Re illegal logging - the world illegal is operative. There are crooks and honest people. Big U.S. firms are not much involved in that. It is illegal.

Illegal logging is a minor problem in the U.S. The biggest incidents involve timber thefts, i.e. somebody cuts the tree from your property.

Re developing countries - their problem is often that their laws are TOO strict and not well enforced party because they are too strict. The related problem are unclear property rights. Governments alone really cannot protect forests. They need to have the help of locals. If you give the locals some stake, usually property rights, they will defend the resource.

Posted by: CJ at October 19, 2013 9:09 PM
Comment #372984

Roy

Let me also comment re certified timber. Many landowners and probably most larger firms deal in timber certified by third party assessors.

In the U.S., we have had the American Tree Farm System since 1941. Members follow sustainable rules. In the U.S. the largest third party certifier is the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. There is some rivalry with the Forest Stewardship Council. There is a lot of fighting between them, but the two have pretty much the same procedures.

Read more here - http://johnsonmatel.com/blog1/2013/04/good_forestry_or_politicized_e.html

In forestry, we work on the ecological value chain, i.e. what it the ecological impact of a product from start to finish and back around. Wood is very good in this respect. It is beneficial as it grows, easy to harvest, easy to use and biodegradable, so the cycle starts all over again.

Posted by: CJ at October 19, 2013 9:17 PM
Comment #372997

Sounds like a good program, C&J. Something I hadn’t thought of is that paper products account for more than half the wood harvested. But, wood harvested for paper products doesn’t come from tree farms, comes from natural forest growth.

One would think that as we come of the digital age paper production would drop off but, going the other way.

As Joyce Kilmer’s poem relates, there ain’t nuthin like a tree. Few things in the world find more use than trees, especially the old knotty pine version. Who doesn’t love a cedar lined closet?

A good number of mountain homes have wormy chestnut furniture. Seems highly likely that the chestnut will be restored to the forest over the next 50 years.

And, there is a lot of pressure on the more exotic trees, here and around the world.

http://www.bellforestproducts.com/exotic-wood/


Posted by: Roy Ellis at October 20, 2013 6:34 PM
Comment #372998

Some tree perspective: wood provided man with his first home, first weapons, first fortresses, early dams, commercial and war ships. And, they look good hanging on the side of a mountain, etc.

Posted by: Roy Ellis at October 20, 2013 6:45 PM
Comment #373000

Roy

“But, wood harvested for paper products doesn’t come from tree farms, comes from natural forest growth.” This is wrong, at least in America. Most of the wood for paper comes from thinning operations or from pulping, neither from “natural forests.”

It is hard to use natural forests for paper these days because they don’t produce consistent supplies. Forestry today just is not like it used to be. It is much better and completely sustainable. This is something that MOST people just don’t understand.

My pine goes into brown paper and cardboard at a mill in North Carolia. I went down with a load and watched it done.

In fact, thinning is required for forest health and we need a market to pay for it. Good markets make good forestry.

Re chestnuts - we are very close to chestnut restoration. It can be done already using GMO, but there is resistance by purists. Of course, it would take years for the trees to get big, so you are right that we won’t see them.

Posted by: CJ at October 20, 2013 7:16 PM
Comment #373001

Was trying to relate something I read in a recent url but can’t find it now. But yes, I am well acquainted with the smell from the Bowater paper mills around Athen, Tenn.

It is quite something to watch those huge machines that grab a tree, cut it and delimb it. Like most other areas, timbering is high tech.

Posted by: Roy Ellis at October 20, 2013 8:01 PM
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