Sustainable forest management benefits people and the Planet

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

sustainable-forestry-cycleWhile it’s true that collecting used paper and recycling it into new products is good for the environment, there’s a catch. The wood fibers in paper can be recycled only about five times before they get too weak and break down.

That’s why we need fresh fiber harvested from responsibly managed forests, too. Using fresh fiber creates a sustainable cycle of high-quality recyclable material to continually replenish recycled fiber.

Paper could, yes that is true, also be made from Hemp and from old clothes made from natural materials but the way we make it at present is from wood fiber mostly and thus we must understand that there is absolutely nothing wrong with using wood fiber for paper when the wood for this is being grown and harvested in a sustainable manner, which it is, in most cases.

Would it not be for the paper industry many thousands – tens of thousands – of hectares of forest land would not exists and those forests could they not be used for the production of paper would end up being built upon and thus giving us even more urban and suburban developments and less green spaces.

While the predominate monoculture of trees planted for paper production may not be ideal those forests are better than not having them at all and thus people must think before making statements to the effect that paper produced from wood pulp is bad for the environment because trees are being felled for the making of the paper.

However, it is true that the production of pristine white paper can be polluting and this is where many paper mills and paper manufacturers have a long way to go still towards sustainability and reduced environmental footprint and still need to do a great deal of cleaning up of the industry.

When it comes to the management of forests for paper pulp production or for other purposes such as wood products of all kinds, as well as woodland management, sustainability is the key and the finest way, as far as woodlands for the production of wood for wood products is concerned coppice management cannot be beaten. This method, alas, does not work with coniferous woods needed for paper pulp production, as they do not grow back when cut at the base unlike many of the deciduous trees on our Planet.

A fair amount of people in the green movement believe that cutting trees is bad for the environment and that woodlands and forests do not need management. That is a fallacy, however, and especially forests that are planted by man will need continuous management in order to produce a harvest that is beneficial.

Sustainability in forestry was “invented” before the word ever made it into the vocabulary per se, and the first book on sustainable forest practices was written and published way back in the 18th century by a German forester and much of the management today, until the arrival of the mechanized timer harvesters, is still based on those basic rules and guidelines.

Saying that woods and forests do not need to be managed is like saying that one does not need farms and garden for the growing of food. Forest and woodland management is just farming on a different scale and for a different outcome, namely forest products instead of foodstuffs.

Woodlands and forests are “farmed” for all kinds of products, from firewood, over wooden kitchen utensils and furniture to the timber used in building, not forgetting paper pulp and much in between.

© 2014