Harvesting and Preserving the Forest

In an effort to create a “good-forest-keeping seal,” a nonprofit institute in northern California has developed a system to identify lumber harvested in an ecologically sound manner.

The labeling program calls for land owners and logging operations to follow 10 elements of sustainability in harvesting their forests. To receive a seal of approval, the affected forests cannot be clearcut, doused with harmful chemicals or torn up by an abundance of logging roads.

“Realistically, we know we can’t stop logging,” said Tracy Katelman, co-director of the Institute of Sustainable Forestry. “What we need is a more ecologically sound and sustainable way to do it.”

The idea for sustainable logging grew out of a company called Wild Iris Forestry in Redway, Calif. Owners Peggy and the late Jan Iris selectively harvested hardwoods on their land and sold the kiln-dried wood for flooring and cabinets.

The institute is taking the forestry system developed at Wild Iris and building a model that can be used to save forests around the world. A pilot project is planned for three pieces of land where the institute will carry out the logging and determine the exact costs of conducting operations in a sustainable fashion.

“You can’t have ecological stability without economic stability,” she said. “So in a lot of ways, this is a community-development project, as well as an environmental effort.”

The labeling program, called Pacific Certified Ecological Forest Products (PCEFP), first requires land owners or logging operators to develop a timber management plan. This plan provides a tree inventory, lays out long-term goals for the land and describes how the 10 elements of sustainability will be met.

When harvesting is started, periodic inspections are undertaken by the institute, along with the normal inspections conducted by the state government, Katelman said. If all conditions are met, the eventual lumber produced will carry the PCEFP label.

By purchasing the certified and labeled wood, consumers will know their buying power is supporting sustainable forestry and allowing them to influence forest-management policies, she said. Lumber producers will in turn have a marketing advantage through the creation of a market niche, much like that enjoyed by organic food producers.

The institute’s efforts are being supported by both forest-advocacy groups, along with the forestry establishment, including the U.S. Forest Service and California Department of Forestry, Katelman said.

“People who never used to talk to each other are now sitting down and agreeing on some plans and ideas,” she said. “This effort shows we can start working together to get things done.”

Tip/Stat — The information gathered from the institute’s pilot project will be used to create a Handbook of Ecological Forest Practices.

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