A recent study from the U.S. Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory found that areas of the world with higher output of forest products experience the lowest carbon emissions.
The study by Michigan-based forest researcher Peter Ince demonstrates the case for well-managed forests, said Mike Albrecht, owner of Jamestown-based Sierra Resource Management and past president of the Tuolumne County Alliance for Resources and Environment.
“The study shows that well-managed forests with a high rate of forest product removal in turn increases the growth and health of the forest and correlates positively to lower greenhouse gas emissions,” Albrecht said. “This helps make the case that a hands-off approach to managing our national forests is not linked to cleaner air or a better overall environment.”
Albrecht is hopeful the study’s conclusions are considered when the Forest Service takes into account what is called “best available science” in making planning and policy decisions. It is the service’s own research, which avoids the perception of an industry-friendly or environmentalist agenda, he said.
The historical data Ince and contributing researchers examined in the study support a hypothesis that a vibrant industrial forest products sector has encouraged forest policies and forestry practices that support sustainable timber supply and demand in much of the developed world.
Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center Executive Director John Buckley said he is not surprised by the study’s conclusions given the research methods used.
“This isn’t any study that includes original research of ... measured forests and carbon emissions,” Buckley said. “It is no surprise that high-production tree plantations on timber industry or Forest Service lands will end up with less carbon loss because they keep growing crops of trees for profit.”
Buckley said better quality research compares impacts of clearcutting practices to selective thinning done on Forest Service lands, rather than review of broad global trends.
He pointed out that where subsistence farmers or speculators wipe out forests to create homesteads and ranches in the Amazon and elsewhere, forests often never recover and little product output is generated.
“Seeing a forest as a crop or stand of trees is completely failing to see the forest as a web of life. That is how our center views the forests,” Buckley said. “A huge variety of plants and animals ... are the food chain of a natural forest.”
A copy of Ince’s study can be found on the Web at http://www.treesearch.fs.fed.us/pubs/37326.