The logging industry has changed a lot in the last several decades. With sustainable forest management guidelines put out by the USDA, and real research put into what approaches to logging are best for the environment, the days of indiscriminate clear-cutting are largely behind us, especially in the United States.
The stain that unregulated deforestation left on the logging industry has lingered, though. We feel, as sustainability-focused loggers, that it’s important that we educate our clients on why and how we work differently in order to help retain, maintain, and ultimately improve our forests.
What is Sustainable Logging?
According to the US Forest Service, sustainable logging practices account for and balance three main considerations: the environment, society, and the economy. We tend to think primarily of the environmental aspect of this balance when we talk about sustainability, because historically it is the most overlooked. Indeed, it’s pretty clear how logging is economically beneficial, and how society benefits from the wood and paper products that logging allows for. What is a lot less obvious is how logging can also address the needs of the environment.
There are a lot of relatively unsustainable ways to log, most notably the 19th and 20th century practice of wide scale clearcutting. However, this is a relatively uncommon practice these days. When we do a clearcut for a client, it’s to prepare the way for another project, not merely to cut the trees down for profit. So, while clearcutting will always be a small piece of logging in order to build, farm, or otherwise use previously forested land.
Much more often, we’re engaged to selectively cut trees. Most often, this is following a plan made by an experienced forester in collaboration with the land owner. These plans guide us in our logging operation so that we’re only cutting a certain percentage of the trees, often only certain species, in order to minimize the impact on the woodland’s ecology. Even when these plans do call for more extensive cutting, the areas of cutting are planned out in order to maximize the recovery of the woodland using proven forest management strategies.
The result of sustainable logging is that even just a few years later, it can be very difficult to tell that woodlands we’ve logged have been harvested. In some cases, when the landowner is especially interested in improving the health of their forestland, foresters can even develop plans that leave forests significantly healthier than we find them. Removing some trees that are causing problems for other plants or animals can leave the ecology of a woodland poised to regrow better than if it was left alone entirely.
Why Focus On Sustainability?
We do our best to make sure the projects we work on are beneficial for Maine and New Hampshire forests. This is because we would like them to thrive for future generations. Certainly, this doesn’t mean more profits today. This does mean that there will be beautiful forests for our children and their children to appreciate. Being a modern logger means being a steward of our precious woodlands, and we take this responsibility seriously.
In addition to our moral responsibility to steward the land, there are also economically important reasons to practice sustainable logging. Sustainable logging practice results in a reliable supply of useful timber entering the supply chain. By contrast, clearcutting results in bursts of timber harvesting followed by periods of no timber production at all from the cleared land for decades. A steady, predictable supply of lumber is much easier to work into other perpetual production chains and result in more regular income for the landowner.. Also, sustainable logging often means gathering more high-value lumber per labor-hour, leading to higher profits and less need for huge quantities of man-power.
These economic arguments help to cement the role of sustainability in our industry. Even loggers with less sense of moral obligation towards sustainability can be persuaded by economic incentives.
The long term impact of this trend towards more sustainable forest management practices is more and healthier forests. In Maine we have over 21,000,000 acres of forest and in New Hampshire we have nearly 6,000,000! Even if the gross total of forested land isn’t increasing, sustainable logging means that the forested land we have can be more productive economically while sequestering more carbon, and maintaining our beautiful forests for future generations.
Acting Today For the Sake Of Tomorrow
We all take actions in order to prepare for the future. We save money for our childrens’ tuition. We prepare for weather or disasters. We take out insurance against our various risks. All These preparations are important, and we feel that sustainable logging is in the same category. Healthy forests make for a healthy environment, more robust eco systems and more options for the future. By practicing sustainable logging in Maine and New Hampshire, we feel we can help to secure our collective well being for generations to come while also securing the lumber those generations need.
If you are interested in learning more about sustainable logging, or you’re a landowner hoping to find out how we can help you to sustainably log on your land, call us today at (207) 625-8181 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.