Sustainable Logging Practices

Sustainable Logging Practices

For some people, the words “sustainable” and “logging” simply do not go together. Historical logging practices were sometimes hard on forests and disrupted native ecosystems. Today, sustainable forestry practices that include logging and harvesting trees comfortably co-exists with the conservation of thriving forests.

Sustainable Logging:  The Beginning

Historical logging practices began with the axe, manual saw, and manpower. They were transformed by the introduction of powered machines. At first, as volumes of timber increased exponentially with these new capabilities, the harvesting practices remained tied to traditional practices for some time. The practice disrupted wildlife, native plant species, and the enjoyment of wild areas.

While clearcutting is still practiced today, it is more controlled and meant to optimize renewal growth.

As environmental and climate awareness began to rise, bitter confrontations with the logging industry became far too common.

In 1972, the U.S. embarked on a new path. With the passage of the Clean Water Act, environmental policies were written into law across the nation. Local, state, and federal regulations emphasized healthy forests and responsible management.

But logging couldn’t simply stop. The industry supplied, and continues to supply, much-needed timber and other forest products to consumers around the world. The harvesting of forest products provided the economic foundation for communities across the country.

Reconciling those competing needs resulted in the birth of sustainable logging practices. Old-style clear-cutting both destroyed forests and ended the economic viability of the land. Sustainable practices allow both to flourish.

Sustainable logging practices benefit everyone, from the employees of logging companies to the campers enjoying a weekend in the woods.

Sustainable forestry even has the potential to help mitigate climate change.

Sustainable Logging Overview

The main principle of sustainable logging is to balance the economic importance of forest products with the ecological importance of healthy forests. This requires a comprehensive strategy for every potential logging site.

One way to approach sustainability is to design harvesting to mirror the effects of nature. Forests are altered by wind, fire, flood, and other natural events. Trees die and are replaced in forests with no human intervention.

Sustainable forestry also depends on choosing harvesting sites wisely. Old growth forests that are not normally harvested commercially should be left alone, preserving ecosystems and habitats that have flourished in place.

For land with a history of logging, sustainable logging begins with foresters learning as much as possible about the natural patterns and existing conditions of each tract of trees.

Sustainable Logging Practices

No two tracts of land will be logged in exactly the same manner. Sustainable logging brings together a team of experts who compile a comprehensive analysis of the area. Biologists, geologists, ecologists, and more lend their expertise to each project.

Each project has its own profile. But similar sustainable logging practices are adapted for sites across the country and, increasingly, around the world.

Patchwork Logging

While a company used to clear-cut an entire forest, sustainable logging is far more targeted and precise.

Harvesting trees from a small area allows the surrounding forest to adapt to the clearing like it would to a natural event. Keeping harvested areas far enough apart maintains habitat and biodiversity.

Tree type and growth, soil conditions, and other factors determine how many trees can be harvested from an individual area. In places where fire or damaging storms are common, the overall environment may be able to regenerate a larger area.

Patchwork logging leaves trees within a harvested area to better mimic natural conditions. It also allows for the preservation of tree species that are endangered or play an oversized role in ecosystem balance.

Sustainable logging is done in cycles. Some models propose that a cycle be no shorter than 80 years. This allows the forest to recover and continuously produce harvestable trees.

Areas that have been harvested are planted with saplings. The emergence of wild grasses attracts wildlife to the clearing, and the ecosystem evolves and grows.

Selective Harvesting

Selective harvesting removes individual trees, thinning the forest to allow existing smaller trees more space and light to grow. This type of sustainable logging is especially beneficial in tropical areas that don’t have natural events that mimic areas of clear-cutting.

Selective harvesting preserves undergrowth. This helps prevent soil erosion and maintain the health of the larger ecosystem.

Both patchwork and selective sustainable logging use fewer and smaller roads and less equipment, reducing damage to the surrounding forest. Careful attention is paid to the protection of unharvested trees.

Other Benefits of Sustainable Logging

Sustainable logging offers additional environmental benefits. Harvested trees and areas are kept well away from waterways to minimize erosion and runoff. Sufficient space is left between harvested areas to provide an uninterrupted habitat for wildlife.

Sustainable logging also provides a safer working environment. Fewer people and less equipment in each area help reduce the chance of accidents.

Sustainable Logging:  Forest Management and Climate Change

Sustainable logging can play a major role in forest management. An unlogged forest is not necessarily a healthy forest. The work that goes into profiling a forest or tract of trees before harvesting provides valuable information.

That information includes soil, geography, and tree health analysis. Invasive species are documented, as are biodiversity, wildlife habitat and density, erosion, and any disease or damage present in the area.

Logging is sometimes the first step in returning a forest to good health. Removing diseased, damaged, or low-quality trees helps the higher quality trees grow. This is called an improvement harvest.

The branches and other wood left behind by this careful removal provides wildlife habitat while it decays and enriches the soil. Removing invasive trees, vines, and other plants provides better conditions for the remaining trees.

Sustainable logging practices are used and adapted by forest managers to improve the overall health of their woodlands, even if no trees are harvested for lumber.

Sustainable forestry is also becoming the focus of climate action. Sustainable logging can result in more trees as well as healthier trees able to capture more carbon.

Tropical forests are an area of particular interest for climate action. 1.5 million square miles of tropical forest are currently being selectively logged. Widespread adoption of selective harvesting practices would allow these forests to maintain much of their carbon stores and biodiversity while continuing to anchor economies.

Sustainable logging practices combine common sense, careful study, and new technologies to improve the health of forests around the world. At the same time, they provide economic stability for many communities and meet the continuing demand for lumber and other forest-based products.

 

Today I Learned

The 7 Essential Criteria of Sustainable Forest Management-Part 2

Join us in this Part 2 of Nature’s Packaging, “The 7 Essential Criteria of Forest Management”, where we finish describing the essential criteria and explain their importance in sustainable forest management.

Criterion 5: Maintenance of Forests Contribution to Global Carbon Cycles

Forests form one of the largest renewable soil carbon reservoirs, and they play a significant role in global carbon cycles. The carbon stocks are captured or processed in the dead and decaying matter, wood products, above and below the ground biomass, and soil. The impacts of climate change affect the structure and distribution of forests, their health, temperature, and even contribute to forest fires that can delete carbon capture and storage altogether.

While the forest management efforts can also alter the carbon cycle, sound management activities that enhance the carbon capture capacity in forests can positively impact carbon dioxide levels. Biomass in the forests can replace emissive fossil fuels, diminishing greenhouse gases.

Unlike any other criterion, the maintenance of forests’ contribution to global cycles embodies the direct link between the environment and the global economy. Carbon cycles result from fossil fuel burning, which are significant energy sources in the activity of the modern economy. Therefore, the capacity of forests to isolate carbon from the atmosphere will be a critical factor in global warming and the ability of the global economy to adjust to wider and more damaging environmental conditions and their associated costs.

This criterion uses three indicators that focus on the total carbon pools in forests, forest product carbon pools, and the amount of fossil fuel emissions avoided through forest biomass.

Criterion 6: Maintenance and Enhancement of Long-Term Multiple Socioeconomic Benefits to Meet the Needs of Societies

Forests provide a range of products for the benefit of society (pallets move the world!). These products serve the needs of different communities, and some of them are solely dependent on the goods and services for their livelihood. As a result, the global statistics on the production and use of forest products, employment opportunities provided in the forest sector, and investment illustrate some of the benefits and the needs for maintenance and enhancement.

Notably, the first five criteria are centered on the sustainability aspect of forests at the expense of the economic aspect. This criterion is the only one with an economic focus and thus has over 20 indicators, more than any other criterion. Due to their large number, the indicators are grouped into investments, employment, and culture.

The employment category capitalizes on the ability of forests to provide work and wages, while the investment category focuses on the attention of the society to forest maintenance. The cultural category is concerned with the most social of the socioeconomic indicators.

Criterion 7: Legal, Institutional, and Economic Framework for Forest Conservation and Sustainable Management

The 7th criterion is concerned with a country’s overall institutional, legal, economic, and policy environment. It outlines the context for working groups to consider the preceding six criteria. The considerations or indicators here relate to the institutional capacity, legislation and policy measures at all levels, economic arrangements, and creating a conducive environment for sustainable forest management.

The criterion is associated with some inherent challenges, and thus the member countries have adopted different approaches to suit their specific societal and cultural needs. The complications arise from the variety of sources to make it difficult to capture relevant and meaningful quantifiable data and information to form the proper baselines from a global perspective. Working groups involved in the Montreal Process Criteria and Indicators are resolved to revamp the criterion’s indicators to 10 and simplify the language to solve the inherent challenges.

Conclusion

The Montreal Process Criteria and Indicators are a beginning step in providing tools for collecting and reporting data necessary for conserving and maintaining sustainable forest ecosystems. These tools are designed and applied to depict the necessary components of sustainable forest management and provide working groups with a framework that describes the condition and value of those ecosystems.

They present a set of non-legally binding principles for the 12 member countries that are essential players in forest management and the global pursuit of the larger sustainable development goals. They are, however, collaborative and internationally agreed-upon criteria specifically meant to serve as a response to the urgent need to address sustainable forest management as part of a larger solution that addresses climate change and the socio-economic impacts on countries, industries, and people.

Today I Learned

The 7 Essential Criteria of Sustainable Forest Management-Part 1

The Montreal Process Criteria and Indicators were created in 1992 during the Earth Summit. They addressed the sustainable management of forests to conserve the overall range of critical functions and characteristics like carbon cycles, forest health, water and soil protection, biodiversity, and forest productivity.

In February 1995, the member countries, including the United States, Australia, Argentina, Canada, China, Japan, and others, adopted these set of criteria for use by the working groups assigned to gauge their practicality and value.

The criteria dubbed-“The Montreal Process Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Forest Management”, were developed to focus on the challenge of assessing tangible progress towards forest conditions and sustainability.

The indicators are measurable components relating to a part of (or) the entire natural system, which can give insights into the condition of the forest ecosystem.

In today’s Nature’s Packaging post, we describe these essential criteria and explain their importance in sustainable forest management.

Criterion 1: Conservation of Biological Diversity

Biological diversity refers to the variety of life supported by Earth. It comprises distinct levels, including ecosystems, genes, species, and various creatures. The interactions of these levels make the earth habitable. However, in the wake of the climate change threats, the entire concept of biodiversity is under threat, which is why the first criterion focuses on the conservation of biological diversity.

Both harvest prepared and natural forests play a significant part in biodiversity. They are part of ecosystems where different life forms interact with the environment and allow the system to respond to changes, recover from disturbances, and ensure the sustainability of ecological processes.

Human activities tend to adversely affect biodiversity by altering habitats, extinction of species, reducing indigenous populations, and introducing invasive species. Conserving biological diversity allows the forest ecosystems to function properly and provide broader environmental and economic value (forest products).

In this criterion, there are a total of nine indicators. The first three are concerned with the diversity of the ecosystem, describing the type, amount, and organization of forests which provide insights into the ability of forests to support organisms and ecological processes. The other six indicators are concerned with the number and biological diversity of plants and animals supported in these habitats, focusing on the species and genes.

Criterion 2: Maintenance of Productive Capacity of Forest Ecosystems

Populations worldwide rely on forests directly for a multitude of forest-based products. The sustainability of these products is directly linked to the forests’ productive capacity, and if the requirements exceed the limit of that capacity, the ecosystem is depleted or damaged.

Thus, populations must ensure the sustainability of forests by determining acceptable levels of extraction of all the forest-based products that will not collapse the ecosystem. This must also account for the type of forest-based products in demand and how that demand changes due to social, technological, and economic trends advancements. Variations in a forests’ productive capacity can be a signal to modify those trends or other factors affecting the ecosystems.

The second criterion thus focuses on maintaining the productive capacities of forests. It has five indicators, where the first four indicators track conventional measures relating to the trends and status of the forests that support wood supplies. The last indicator focuses on the trends of non-wood products extracted from these forests.

Criterion 3: Maintenance of Ecosystem Health and Vitality

The expansion of a forests health and vitality is dependent on the functioning of the ecosystem’s processes and components. Any natural ecosystem, to maintain its functions and active processes, must have the ability to recover from external disturbances. While most disturbances and stress are natural, some extreme occurrences overwhelm the ecosystem, undermining its ability to function effectively.

As a result, there can be severe ecological and economic consequences, including environmental degradation and elimination of forests benefits to the society. Forest ecosystem health and vitality maintenance efforts can help minimize and mitigate these risks.

The criterion for maintenance of ecosystem health and vitality has three indicators. The indicators focus on the area and percentage of forests affected by circumstances beyond historic variations, lands affected by specific levels of air pollutants, and lands with significantly reduced biological components due to changes in critical ecological processes.

Criterion 4: Conservation and Maintenance of Soil and Water Resources

Soil and water are the core components of a functioning and productive forest ecosystem. These forest components are essential in the regulation of groundwater. Further, the health of underground water systems is directly impacted by topography, soil, and water interactions. The interdependence of soil and water and forest ecosystems makes their conservation an essential aspect of forest management.

The interactions involved can significantly affect habitats and poor management can result in the loss of riparian buffering capability, degradation of aquatic habitats, and soil compaction. Water flow changes can result in flooding risks which threaten the lives of humans and other organisms.

It is the fourth criterion and has five indicators. The first four indicators focus on soil and water resources protection and management practices. In contrast, the last indicator is the size of water bodies with the noteworthy changes in physical, chemical, and biological properties.

 

Join Nature’s Packaging next week as we finish up with the remaining criteria in our next blog post, “The 7 Essential Criteria for Sustainable Forest Management – Part 2”

Beautiful Forest

Today I Learned: Healthy Sustainable Forestry-Part 1

Today, being sustainable and eco-friendly is something that consumers are starting to demand of the business they support, and more and more companies are catching on to this need. It’s common these days to see companies promote their sustainability campaigns and boast about them in their marketing material.

But with so much noise around sustainability, it’s getting harder for people to know whether a business is truly committed to green, eco-friendly practices and taking real action or if they’re merely greenwashing.

That is why businesses that are genuinely working to be sustainable are turning to independent third-party certifications to prove to the consumer that their practices are sound from an environmental perspective.

Having certified corporate sustainability practices can also attract potential investors and put companies ahead of their competitors. They are stating their values aloud and showing stakeholders that they’re willing to invest in them.

What is the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)?

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a non-profit international organization founded in 1993 by the environmental community. It was conceived after the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the “Earth Summit” held in Rio de Janeiro the previous year.

Their mission statement is to “promote environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world’s forests.

The FSC has developed several tools to support in achieving its mission.

  • They’ve established a clear set of agreed principles that reflect sustainable forest management practices.
  • They developed a certification system that confirms when a forest complies with the FSC standards.
  • The FSC logo has enabled a product labeling system that verifies that the wood comes from a responsibly managed source, giving consumers confidence.

These tools empower consumers to make better informed, more sustainable choices, and they help businesses meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals and achieve recognition for their environmental initiatives.

Through their actions, FSC works towards fighting climate change. Their work both promotes sustainable forest management practices and the use of recycled wood materials. This way, they want to ensure that the role of forests as natural net removers of CO2 from the atmosphere is protected to make progress towards net-zero emissions.

What are the benefits of working with the FSC?

The FSC doesn’t sell or distribute products itself, but it does certify companies to independent standards for responsible forestry.

The environmental benefits of buying FSC-certified wood are clear. Less destruction of forests and wildlife habitats; more sustainable use of natural resources; strong protection for workers, local communities, and indigenous rights.

Forests are home to many animals that help create a balanced ecosystem. The FSC helps protect biodiversity through its conservation policies which ensure that forest management can preserve critical habitats while still meeting economic needs.

And they are also known for being strong on sustainable social policies, including democratic decision-making with the people most affected by the land, fair wages and safe working conditions, and respect for human rights.

What is the FSC logo?

To bring awareness to sustainable forestry management practices, the council developed an easily recognizable standard that consumers would be able to look for and use when deciding which wood products are both environmentally friendly and responsibly sourced.

Their logo has become recognized worldwide as a symbol of responsible forestry practices, good corporate citizenship, and environmental stewardship. It certifies that the product comes from an FSC-certified forest. This means that the forest is responsibly managed, it’s being restored, and the environment is being preserved or enhanced for the local communities.

It’s hard to find a more widely recognized symbol in the world of eco-friendly initiatives than that of the FSC logo.

The strength of this symbol lies in the fact that thanks to its long history and solid reputation, it provides both businesses and consumers alike with confidence that products with the logo are made responsibly without compromising on quality or social responsibility.

This way, consumers can really choose to spend their money on companies that create products through sound business practices, thus creating a sustainable future.

And for retailers and manufacturers, using the FSC logo on their products gives them credibility as an environmentally responsible company. This can provide them with an advantage over their competition, especially as consumers now demand that companies take full responsibility for their supply chain sourcing and communicate it transparently.

The FSC recognition is not limited to products sold to end consumers. Businesses also can collaborate with the FSC and have their forests or projects certified to use the FSC trademarks to promote them.

Wood On the Web: Dovetail Partners

This month, Nature’s Packaging has found another great web-based resource for you that demonstrates the versatility in the forest industry and the opportunities it creates for employment, sustainability initiatives, economic knowledge, and government policy.

Our focus this month is on Dovetail Partners website (www.dovetailinc.org), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to collaboration, problem-solving, and job creation in industries related to forest resources and wood-based products.

The Dovetail Partners Mission

Dovetail Partners are all about collaboration. Their model is to work with individuals and organizations to create new and interesting ideas, systems, models, and programs that address the decisions and impacts regarding governmental and corporate policies, use of land, and consumption choices. They also work to build programs that encourage job creation and affect job quality in resource-based industries like forest management and forest products.

Dovetail Services

Dovetail provides a range of services to organizations that really help with everything from ideation of topics to project management to data collection:

  • Idea Development – develop ideas to reach desired outcomes.
  • Project Management – team, skills, and knowledge to keep projects on track.
  • Data Collection – seek the science available to address an issue and leverage expertise and network to fill the gaps.
  • Analysis – analysis of data and information to help present a clear picture of the outcome.
  • Report Development – organizing the ideas, data, and analysis into a document that effectively communicates the desired outcomes.
  • Outreach – deliver products meant to inspire, encouraging thoughtful work into the future.

Dovetail Projects

Dovetail Partners have completed a wide variety of reports across many different sectors of industry. All of these reports are available for download at their website https://www.dovetailinc.org/portfolio.php.

Some of the most relevant to the forest products industries include:

Global Forest Resources and Timber Trade

The report is an analysis of forest resources at global level, from both supply and demand perspectives (raw material supply, trade, processing/production, consumption). The report is global in scope but focuses on the United States primarily due to audience. It includes great breakdowns of the tropical and boreal timber markets with easy-to-understand graphics and data. It ends with market trends and how political policy worldwide is impacting trade and the markets.

An Introduction to the Circular Economy

This report defines the circular economy according to the UNECE definition (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe). It is a system of production and consumption, which minimizes waste, optimizes the resources used with minimal pollution, regenerates natural capital, creates opportunities for jobs and entrepreneurship, and reshapes production and consumption from a life cycle and recycling perspective. The report gives examples of how it is being applied in the natural and forest resource industries sector and the opportunities created by its application.

Carbon Storage, Credit Markets, and Forests

This Dovetail report is centered on the carbon credits generated by operations in the forest resources industries, the markets that have been created and new ones developing, and how the market generally operates from source to asset. While the framework is global in nature, the report focuses on the United States in particular. It also does a great job of delineating the voluntary and regulatory markets and how they differ in scope and development.

Why Wood Pallets and Containers

Here at Nature’s Packaging, our goal is to keep you informed about the forces that will have a political and economic impact on our industry. These are subjects and topics that are being discussed, explored, and implemented by whole industries and large organizations that are customers of the wooden pallet and container industry. We must remain informed with credible, relevant data and information that allows us to remain “at the table” and even expand our capabilities to align with these initiatives. The Life Cycle Assessment is a great start, but we must do more or we will be replaced by better marketing.

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