What is FOREST MANAGEMENT?
Forests across the United States need more active management.
Natural forest disturbances—whether caused by pests, severe wind, lightning, or other means—change the structure and composition of forests and allow for regeneration. Many forest types need one natural disturbance in particular to regenerate, and that’s fire.
For many decades, fire-dependent landscapes weren’t allowed to burn because of human considerations. The long-time exclusion of fire in these areas has contributed to “overstocking,” which means there are too many trees in a given area competing for limited resources. Overstocked forests are vulnerable to drought, disease, and insects, and in turn, prone to high rates of tree mortality and wildfires that are very difficult to control.
Many land managers have begun using more prescribed fire (or “controlled burns”) to manage certain types of forests, and that’s a good thing. But in places where prescribed fire isn’t appropriate, or in situations where the landowner would like to fully utilize their forest’s resources, silvicultural techniques (click to learn more) can be used to emulate the natural disturbances that keep forests healthy and productive.
The purpose of using silvicultural techniques (or, as we call them, tools for forest management) is to enhance the health of a forest by eliminating as much tree mortality as possible, while also promoting growth. When these tools are used in the right place at the right time, America’s forests stay healthy; and we all reap the benefits.
The role of Markets in FOREST MANAGEMENT
State and privately owned forests—which make nearly two-thirds of the nation’s forestland—provide essential economic, environmental, and social benefits to society as a whole.
These benefits are maximized when forests are actively managed, but in order for management to occur, diverse and ample markets for wood are needed. Wood markets allow private landowners to generate the necessary revenue to not only retain ownership of their forestland and keep forests as forests, but also to manage it in ways that benefit all Americans.
Highly diverse wood markets also increase options for forest management on state and federal lands. When markets are capable of accepting and processing all kinds of wood, land managers are empowered to remove undesirable growth that curbs forest productivity and fuels wildfires.
One emerging forest market deals in carbon credits. Keeping forests as forests—and accruing carbon benefits—necessitates thoughtful management to mitigate insect, disease, and wildfire threats. State forestry agencies deliver technical and financial assistance to landowners so that they may understand their management options and meet their own management objectives. The option of managing for carbon requires additional expertise at the state forestry agency level to best serve landowners and our nation’s forests.
The NASF recently published a policy statement on climate change, “Enhancing Forest Resilience and the Role of Forests in Dealing with Climate Change,” which offers recommendations for increasing carbon storage, improving forest biomass utilization, and mitigating the effects of climate change with federal forestry programs.
In September 2021, as a supplement, NASF released this letter as a practical, educational resource for state forestry agency staffs. It includes recommendations (both in written and video form) for state forestry agencies as they assist forest landowners in understanding their carbon market options and including carbon in their management goals.
why we need more forest management, and FAST
Active forest management is central to the health, productivity, and resiliency of ALL forests.
Right now, more than 80 million acres of forests in United States are at risk of damage from insects and disease; and without remediation, about 25% of trees greater than one inch in diameter will die by 2027 due to these threats.
Forest diseases and pests know no boundaries and easily spread across ownerships to negatively affect even the healthiest of forests. This means the only way to protect the health and productivity of all of our nation’s forests is by managing them all to be more resilient.
Greater forest management requires coordination among state and federal natural resource agencies, private forestland owners, and private and non-profit forestry organizations. The many benefits of healthy forests—clean drinking water for over 68,000 communities, millions of recreational and job opportunities, critical wildlife habitat, and so much more—are at stake.