Not All Forestry Is Carbon Equal

Winter logging in the woods of the Saint John River watershed of Maine. In the 1990s, The Nature Conservancy bought 286 square miles of forest around the Upper St. John River. While much of the forest is set aside as an ecological reserve, sustainable logging continues as a critical part of the local economy. In an effort to preserve the landscape and provide jobs, the surrounding Conservancy lands have been certified under the sustainable forestry guidelines of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), ensuring that all wood harvesting is carried out in an environmentally sound and socially beneficial manner. PHOTO CREDIT: ©Ami Vitale

By Justin Adams, Global Managing Director for Lands at The Nature Conservancy

The UN’s International Day of Forests is on March 21. While some people might see this as merely a day for tree-huggers to crunch their granola a little louder, this day is important for celebrating one of the most valuable ecosystems — not to mention commodities — that our planet has. Forests clean our air, enhance water security, support critical biodiversity and serve as the world’s oldest and most proven carbon storage technology.

But on this International Day of Forests, as the world continues to see significant forest loss globally, I want to spotlight one important issue: we can’t ensure a sustainable future for forests by simply striving to protect them from development. We must also engage the forestry sector in sustainable forest management.

We rely on these forest businesses to deliver products such as timber and paper that we use every day. And whether we like it or not, we also rely on them to safeguard our forest resources, and ideally enhance the environmental services these working forests can deliver. Too often this does not happen, as economic gain is put far ahead of the forest’s other crucial contributions to the environment and society. This is where we must focus our collaborative energy.

The power of sustainable forestry is that it balances the needs of the environment, communities and economies — and the good news is that it is possible. Research conducted by a team of scientists including my Nature Conservancy colleague Bronson Griscom, shows that selective logging can retain 85–100% of a forest’s biodiversity and at least 75% of its carbon (Putz et al., 2012). Plus, well-run production forests also do a better job of safeguarding surrounding protected forest areas from illegal logging. In —> Read More