In both the developed and the developing world, forests are being cleared to make way for other uses — whether housing developments, cattle grazing, or subsistence agriculture. Primary (old-growth) forests are shrinking and species extinction rates are mounting as habitat disappears. In most places, irresponsible logging compromises the health and integrity of forest ecosystems, soils, and waterways. In many areas of the tropics, illegal logging is rampant.
Sustainable forestry is key to halting global forest degradation and deforestation. Well-managed plantations that are not established at the expense of natural forest can divert pressure from the latter while providing fast-growing wood fiber for a variety of applications. Truly responsible natural forest management — and markets for eco-forest products — provides incentives to local people and companies to preserve forest as forest, managing some areas for the full range of values, and leaving others intact as biological and ecological preserves.
This is why the conservation organization WWF has created international networks of forest products companies committed to promoting responsible forestry and credible certification. EcoTimber is a proud member of the North America Forest and Trade Network and part of the WWF Global Forest & Trade Network.
Truly sustainable forestry has social and economic, as well as environmental, components. Well-managed forestry operations take into account ecosystem health, habitat for wild flora and fauna, environmentally-sensitive areas, the rights of local communities, and water and soil quality. They generally have long-term tenure to their lands and are committed to maintaining current patterns of land-use.
We do not believe that all forests everywhere should be managed, nor do we believe that all forests can or should be locked up in parks and preserves. Similarly, we do not believe that natural forest management (i.e., managing forests for multiple species and age-classes and doing everything possible to preserve ecosystem complexity and functioning) is necessarily better — or worse — than maximizing the growth of commercial species in plantations.
What matters, in our analysis, is how these different land use and management options work together to ensure the preservation of forest ecosystems and biological biodiversity at the landscape level while providing employment opportunities and a sustainable yield of high-quality forest products in perpetuity. From this perspective, tree plantations are fine as long as they complement rather than replace natural forests.
In many countries and regions of the world — Scandinavia, for example — forest management practices are generally exemplary. On the other hand, many countries and regions have poor records, but even in these countries many of the mills we work with own their own forest lands and manage them privately as well as any forests in the world. In the end, there is no assurance that your wood comes from well-managed sources unless it comes from a forest that has been certified by a credible forest certification program.