Earth Day: A Great Day to Celebrate Logging and Forestry!

by Steve Kariainen: HFHC Great Lakes Director

The following is taken from a newspaper op-ed entitled, “Earth Day – A Day to Celebrate Forestry!” that I wrote a couple years ago while doing some work for Forest Resources Association:

Earth Day – an event celebrated worldwide each year on April 22nd – has its roots in the Lake States Region, as Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson proclaimed the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. The day is seen as a time for each of us to reflect upon the relationship we have with our natural world, and to consider how we balance our daily dependence upon natural resources with the need to protect those resources for future generations.

The concept of Earth Day especially resonates with foresters in that the practice of forestry involves long-term protection of the resource through active management of forest health, growth, harvest and regeneration. Foresters have long embraced the concept of balanced, perpetual use and protection of forest resources – a concept formally recognized by Congress with the passage of the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960.

Several forest certification programs emerged in the 1990’s that added more to the definition of sustainable forestry and included standards against which forestry practices might be judged. Over the years, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative {SFI) and Forest Stewardship Council {FSC) programs have emerged as leaders in forest certification across North America and are viewed as being responsible in part for improving the public’s perception of forestry practices.

Our nation’s forests now grow far more wood than is harvested each year, while also supporting a forest products industry with a tremendous economic impact that is especially vital to rural communities. These forests today contain about 34% more timber volume than they did at the time of the first Earth Day in 1970.

By any measure – when it comes to our nation’s forests – there’s reason to celebrate! And for those of us who are part of the wood supply chain, Earth Day is a good time for us to remind others of the role of sustainable forest stewardship in enhancing our economy, environment, and social well-being.

It’s hard to think of any industry where balancing current resource needs with long term resource protection is more important than it is for the forest products industry. Loggers, landowners, foresters and mill operators all recognize the need for such balance. But many decades of anti-logging messaging by so-called environmental groups – with plenty of help from educators, news media, and the entertainment industry – has severely reduced forestry and logging activity in many parts of the country, most notably on federal lands in the Pacific Northwest. This has resulted in large areas of over-stocked, bug-infested timberland just waiting for a spark to turn it all into smoke and ash – probably not what Senator Nelson and the founders of the Earth Day movement envisioned for our nation’s federal lands fifty years ago.

Today, there appears to be a growing recognition that routine, active forest management activities – including logging and prescribed burning – can help to sustain forests and to protect surrounding rural communities. There seems to be a greater awareness that forests change over time, and that preservationist anti-logging and roadless policies have led to larger, more intense and deadly wildfires. Increasingly, people formerly opposed to any logging and forestry practices are beginning to realize that there can be environmental and social benefits from utilization of timber.

Logging and forestry practices have changed greatly since 1970. Today’s sustainable forestry protocols requires protection of water and soil resources, prompt reforestation of harvested lands, protection of threatened and endangered species and of cultural resources. Modern logging machinery is safer, more productive, causes less soil compaction, and results in less residual tree damage. Logging equipment operators now take safety and environmental training in addition to learning how to operate and maintain logging equipment.

When it comes to climate change, forest management can play a greater role in helping to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. On a dry weight basis, trees are roughly 50% carbon. Every ton of wood we use in homes and furniture sequesters half a ton of carbon and keeps it from turning into CO2. On the other hand, every tree that burns immediately adds CO2 to the atmosphere, and the aerosols and particulates in the smoke can cause health issues for people with respiratory problems.

On this Earth Day, take the time to thank loggers and foresters for helping to keep our forests and rural communities healthy while also providing us with a wide variety of products made from renewable, recyclable, sustainable wood!

Earth Day: A Great Day to Celebrate Logging and Forestry!