Forest management comprises the use of science, economics, and social principles to maintain healthy forests. While forest management used to be an arm of the timber industry, today it includes other aspects for the purpose of conserving forests: creating sustainability in forests; multiple uses for individual forests, which conserves total forested land; fire management; and conservation of biodiversity. Forestry includes conservation methods also, but forestry’s objectives strive for the best ways to use trees as a natural resource for making products. Quite a bit of controversy has emerged when the two fields’ different objectives are not compatible. In a general sense, forest conservation can be divided into those who seek to protect the world’s remaining forests from any further destruction for any reason versus those who seek to find the most efficient ways of harvesting forests to meet the population’s growing needs for wood products. Even the most committed activist for saving trees must realize that forests represent the raw materials of business. The American Forest and Paper Association in a 2006 press release quoted Steve Rogel, head of the Weyerhaeuser pulp and paper company: “In the midst of tumultuous change, some things remain constant: Timberlands are the nucleus of this company, and our commitment to enhancing value for shareholders is as strong as ever.” But that same year, the nature advocate Ted Williams countered in Audubon magazine, “National forest timber has never been a major or (for the public at least) even a profitable resource. But 80 percent of the nation’s rivers originate in national forests, and 60 million Americans depend on national forest water.” Both Rogel and Williams expressed correct views: Forests supply a large portion of raw materials, but they also house a tremendous amount of biodiversity and nature as yet unspoiled by human activities.
A compromise on sustainable forest management that benefits both business and nature has yet to be found. Sustainable management decreases the rate of wood harvesting through various measures so that harvests can occur without decreasing the total forested land area. In some cases sustainable methods may even increase forest area. Agreement between environmentalists and the timber industry has grown slowly, with much work still ahead.
The World Resources Institute, based in Washington, D.C., has stated that analyzing the health of forests is complicated by four main factors. First, genetic diversity mapping is incomplete. Second, many tree species remain unknown. Third, science lacks a historical database on trends of forest growth and decline. Fourth, detailed monitoring is costly and time-consuming. A 2007 report titled State of the World’s Forests, published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), stated, “The biggest limitation for evaluating [conservation] progress is weak data. Relatively few countries have had recent or comprehensive forest inventories.” Therefore, lack of data hampers both staunch forest conservationists and forest harvesters when they try to meet their objectives.
In the United States, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) U.S. Forest Service serves as the federal agency in charge of overseeing the nation’s forest land. The Forest Service holds the dual responsibilities of conserving the land while at the same time serving people and industries that desire forests for recreation and profit, respectively. The Forest Service carries out the five following responsibilities: (1) manage the nation’s 155 national forests and 20 protected grasslands; (2) conduct scientific research; (3) reach out to state and private forests to coordinate fire management, disease control, and protections; (4) educate the public and schools on issues in forestry and forest conservation; and (5) develop cooperation with international agencies to formulate policies on forest management and protection. Forest Service Chief Abigail Kimbell said in 2008, “Kids must understand why forests are so valuable so they will grow into citizens who support conservation. Building on the Forest Service tradition of conservation education, we will work with partners t ensure that American children have the opportunity to experience the great outdoors, whether it is a remote mountain wilderness or a spot of nature in the heart of a city.” Like many aspects of environmental science, education of a new generation of conservationists will be critical for preserving the forests.
The Forest Service conducts research at experiment stations located in its nine regions and at the Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin. The experiment stations focus on disease, invasive species, soils, fire, native wildlife, forest monitoring methods, and the design of sustainable forests. The Forest Products Laboratory also specializes in research on the properties of wood and new directions for wood composite materials.
Many other national agencies and international organizations conduct activities similar to those at the U.S. Forest Service. The FAO compiles reports every three to four years that summarize the worldwide losses or gains in forests and the current conservation programs. One key factor that FAO monitors in regions of the world and globally is carbon stocks in biomass, which is the total organic matter produced by plants. The FAO’s State of the World’s Forests 2007 reported that from 1990 through 2005 carbon stocks rose slightly in North America and Europe, but plunged in tropical areas. Some areas increased their forest area, but most experienced decrease. Overall, therefore, forest management worldwide has not conserved forestland, and the global carbon stock decreased in those years 5.5 percent and lost 3 percent of its total forest area.
Seven current international agreements have a component for forest conservation, summarized in the table on page 25. Most of these agreements have been signed by the majority of the world’s countries.
Worldwide the FAO describes the success of forest management programs as “uneven.” Most countries must manage their forests for multiple uses. This means that certain countries with the best intentions of conserving their remaining forests, preserving biodiversity, and maintaining clean air, water, and soil believe they must destroy a portion of their forests to survive. Overall the world loses about 0.2 percent of forest every year. World forest management has yet to find a balance between attaining sustainable forest management and meeting the economic needs of all countries.
Source of Information : Green Technology Conservation Protecting Our Plant Resources