sustainable logging

Sustainable logging: balancing the needs of the environment, wildlife, and forest communities

In recent years, the negative attitude surrounding those who work in timber harvesting has definitely been on the increase. Many people associate logging with the image of a bulldozer leaving behind a barren landscape, yet it is possible to harvest timber without causing collateral damage to other parts of a forest. When chatting to people for the first time, I find the conversation inevitably gets around to “and what do you do for a living?”, to which, when I proudly reply that my occupation is harvesting timber, some people look at me like I have grown another head.

I wish the media and advertisers would actually realise that our managed harvesting systems do not in any way resemble the devastation caused by illegal or unmanaged logging systems. Logging practices vary from large-scale commercial timber plantations to individuals harvesting fuelwood.

Over the Christmas holidays the advert for the supermarket Iceland showed an orang-utan that had lost his home due to illegal logging, portraying all logging as a devastating, planet destroying profession.

On a recent holiday in Tenerife I visited Loro Parque in Puerto de la Cruz. I had read that all profits from the park had been used to fund 82 conservation projects in 28 countries worldwide. 31 projects are still active, employing 150 people, and so far more than $10 million has been raised from the profits. I was having an excellent day until I visited the cinema to watch a film on how the money raised was protecting wildlife and the environment- low and behold, halfway through the film loggers were credited with the destruction of the rainforests. I felt compelled to write to them asking if they will insert “Illegal Logging” into their film instead of just “Logging Operations”.

As stated by Wikipedia: “Sustainable forest management is the management of forests according to the principles of sustainable development. Sustainable forest management has to keep the balance between three main pillars: ecological, economic and socio-cultural. Successfully achieving sustainable forest management will provide integrated benefits to all, ranging from safeguarding local livelihoods to protecting the biodiversity and ecosystems provided by forests, reducing rural poverty and mitigating some of the effects of climate change.”

This is spot on in my opinion and most governments realise the importance of securing wood supplies for future generations.

Please take a good look around you and see how vital timber is to our lives; I am sat here typing this out at my desk with its wooden top next to my wooden dining table and chairs, which are standing on my wooden floor. The electricity running my computer is possibly from one of the many wood fuelled biomass power stations in the UK. Looking out of my patio doors towards my garden, I see a wooden fence, wooden sheds and the wooden picnic table and benches I made last year. I find it is even in my food.

To reinforce the argument, the Rainforest Alliance states: “as long as there are human beings on this planet, there will be a demand for wood, pulp, and other forest resources, and there will be businesses that endeavour to meet that demand. The only realistic way to conserve our forests is to apply sustainable forest management practices—a conservation-and-livelihoods approach that the Rainforest Alliance has led since the late 1980s, and one that’s already proven successful on nearly half a billion acres of land around the world.”

The global population is increasing rapidly and is set to experience a 30% increase by 2050.  It’s not rocket science to realise the demand for timber products will increase by roughly the same demand: more housing, furniture, electricity, heating, etc. will be required.

The only profit made from a forest is from selling harvested timber and much of the profits are reinvested to maintain, improve and create new outdoor pursuits for the public to enjoy.

Forestry workers know the benefits of properly managed sustainable systems as well as the benefit of having trees in urban areas.

  • Combating climate change – younger trees absorb carbon quickly whilst growing but as a tree ages a steady state is reached where this slows down. A well-managed forestry system harvests the trees at this time in their growth cycle.
  • Replanting or natural regeneration can ensure the forest remains a “net sink” of carbon, which means that the trees absorb the maximum amount of carbon possible.
  • A forest creates homes for wildlife including some rare species like red squirrels and goshawks.
  • The forest is a healthy place for recreation – walking, jogging cycling, etc.
  • Forests reduce the flooding risk – forested areas have 60% better infiltration of water into the soil, reducing surface runoff. This reduces soil erosion due to the roots binding it together and decreases sediment runoff into water courses, which helps to prevent pollution.
  • It is good for farming – forestry on sheep farms can improve returns from the land and help animal welfare.
  • Forestry creates much needed employment in rural communities – there are currently 80,000 people working in forestry, sometimes in areas where there are few employment opportunities.
  • A financial boost to the economy – forestry contributes £2 billion to the UK economy each year.

When I started out as a young chainsaw operator my father told me that forestry wasn’t just a job, it was a way of life. He was absolutely right; once the sawdust gets under your finger nails (and other places it would be impolite to mention on here), there is no other vocation which provides the same satisfaction.

Our generation is not responsible for the destruction of some of the beautiful old growth redwoods; we nurture, cherish and preserve native woodlands for future generations to enjoy. We work closely with the various national parks, heritage bodies and governments to safeguard forests for the future.

We take great pride in what we do and the sense of camaraderie between fellow operators and hauliers can last a lifetime. Our forestry workers are highly trained, skilled, professional individuals, often working in extreme conditions. Not only are we responsible for our own safety but also that of fellow forestry professionals and members of the public who enjoy the recreational benefits of a working forest.

We work closely with all the environmental agencies to minimise ground damage during timber harvesting and work tirelessly to prevent any water contamination in wet conditions. We leave our harvested sites in an excellent condition; all watercourses have the brash removed to allow good drainage and the site is left ready for the next crop of timber.

We know that a forest is usually going to be replanted after the final timber crop has been harvested – logging is the business of growing and harvesting trees, so replanting is important. The first signs of a new forest will be visible within 3 to 5 years.

I have been fortunate to visit and work in quite a few countries in Europe, Scandinavia and the United States and everything I have seen points towards responsible sustainable logging systems.

Here in the UK, a significant planting programme is underway which will see our coverage of trees increase year on year. This allowed us to harvest 11.2 million m³ of roundwood this year, our largest volume to date.

  • Sweden: Forests have doubled in size over the last 100 years. They currently grow by 130 million m³ pa with 90 million m³ being harvested.
  • Finland:  Annual growth of 100 million m³  with 82 million m³ harvested.
  • Germany: Annual growth of 122 million m³ with 76 million m³ harvested.

(Harvested timber includes dead and dying trees, storm damaged trees and trees killed due to disease and fire)

The story is the same for all responsible and sustainable logging countries with forests increasing annually. For example, I read recently about a huge tree planting programme that is taking place in India.

It is easy to find out whether the products you are buying come from managed, sustainable forests – look for the Global FSC Standard Kite mark. Established in 1993, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an international non-profit organization that develops and maintains the most globally respected standard for managing and safeguarding forests. The FSC standard requires that forest managers protect natural forests against deforestation, reduce the risk of fires, and take particular care to protect “high conservation value forests.” They certify forestry businesses that meet the standard’s rigorous environmental, social, and economic criteria. They also award FSC Chain-of-Custody (CoC) certificates for the tracking of certified wood and other raw materials from forest to manufacturer to store shelf, confirming that an item bearing the FSC and Rainforest Alliance Certified trust marks actually contains certified products. These seals make it easy for conscientious consumers to spot and support responsible producers.

It would be so nice if people were not so quick to jump to conclusions about the way we go about our business.

I do hope though that they practice what they preach and don’t maintain double standards by buying cheaper, environmentally damaging and climate changing non-FSC marked timber products.

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Forest Machine Magazine is written and edited by a forest professional with over 40 years hands on experience. We are dedicated to keeping you informed with all the latest news, views and reviews from our industry.

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