What is Sustainable Forestry?

This aerial photo shows the natural mosaic of the forest. Diversity is key to nature as seen in the patchwork of forest communities (the blending of trees, soil types, plants, animals and other elements).

By the Western North Carolina Alliance

Forestry simply means human management of a forest. The work that is actually done varies, depending on the objectives of the landowner. While forestry often involves producing income and products for human use, it could include any one of the many ways humans relate to the forest.

Sustainable Forestry works with the long-term view in mind. Its goals are to preserve the health of the forest community while producing the finest products possible. Timber cutting is a valid objective, but so, too, are wildlife preservation, soil and water conservation, and aesthetic enjoyment.

There is no specific formula for Sustainable Forestry. Rather, it is a set of guiding principles, a “tool box” of ideas and techniques. Depending on the site and stand condition and the landowner's objectives, the consulting forester pulls out the proper “tools” for the particular situation.

Sustainable forestry practitioners try to reach their objectives by the direct use of natural processes, or by mimicking their action as closely as possible. Although a stand under Sustainable Forestry has been worked, it still functions as a part of the larger forest.

The forest is a complex web of interrelationships among plants, animals, soil, and the elements. With skilled and careful treatment, work in the forest can be carried on that leaves these relationships intact.

Sustainable Forestry tries to “leave the land better than it was found.” It minimizes soil depletion, so the soil can continue to grow quality trees in the future. The primary goal is to maintain or improve the ecological condition of the natural forest, and, if timber production is an objective, to grow the finest trees possible trees that are tall, straight and wide of girth to fetch premium prices as quality sawlogs or veneer.

Water quality is another primary concern. We have a responsibility to protect the streams and rivers and the aquatic habitats that they support. The condition of the water leaving a tract is an indelible record of the quality of the work taking place on that tract.

Sustainable Forestry is an idea that should be welcomed by loggers and the forest products industry as well as by landowners. Between 85-90 percent of the timber cut in the Southern Appalachian Mountains comes from private lands. Logging contractors who know sustainable forestry techniques will find a much wider welcome among the current landowners who control the timber base in the mountains today.

This photo shows Kentucky’s natural beauty in full splendor. Our forests are potentially a renewable resource, but only if we choose to manage them sustainably.

Sustainable Forestry requires constancy and a higher degree of knowledge and skill from the landowner, the forester and the logging contractor. But it offers its own rewards.

Top-quality trees produce top-dollar prices. But beyond any monetary compensation is the satisfaction of being involved with the land and doing good work. A walk in the forest takes on new dimensions when land that is under one's care is healthy and productive. That is a satisfaction that improves, generation by generation.








Did you find this information useful?