Let’s continue on from our last topic of discussion…why Redwoods are one of America’s most overlooked naturally renewable resources.
Many people I’ve heard or encountered over the years have very differing opinions when it comes to the harvesting of Redwood. This topic tends to generate very interesting conversations, and unfortunately, can often lead to such events as protestor rallies or news headlines. Growing up in Northern California, I’m no stranger to the fact that much of our area’s industry comes directly from the harvesting of Redwoods. I firmly believe in researching and educating myself before coming to any conclusion, no matter what the subject matter.
On one side of the spectrum, there are those who stand by the idea that cutting of Redwood trees is wrong, no matter the reason. My challenge to this type of thinking is to offer up an explanation of why harvesting must be done in forests on a continual basis.
The purpose of harvesting Redwood’s (and other species of trees) is to make the forest healthier and better able to grow. This allows the for a natural appearance to the area, rather than an area that’s been heavily affected by human activity. Selective foresting also helps protect the forest against wildfire. The decision to cut trees is never a task that is taken lightly. Careful consideration goes into which trees must be cut and which ones must be left. The chosen trees are cut down, leaving plenty of space for new trees to grow and, therefore, giving the forest a natural beauty that will thrive for many years to come. It’s estimated that 25% or more trees will grow in the next decade than what is cut down during the harvest.
A few tough considerations are made each time an area is harvested…
- When removing a stem from a growth of trees, how will the remaining stems respond?
- Will removing a stem foster more growth for the surrounding stems?
- Is one stem likely to improve in quality – will it stay constant or worsen over time?
- Does this particular stem foster a wildlife habitat?
- Does it have a flattened crown, cavities, flaking bark, or hollow areas?
- Will it develop the above characteristics in the foreseeable future?
- Will the removal of a stem allow for a safe removal without damaging any surrounding trees or the ground around it?
As you can see, many factors are taken into account each time a tree is taken down. This is how responsible foresting is accomplished. It’s a heavy responsibility that is integral to our country’s future and also supplies a steady flow of capital into America’s economy.
Now let’s take a look at how Redwood forests are certified for sustainable harvesting. It’s important to note that four out of every five acres of commercial Redwood forest are now independently certified as well as managed and harvested sustainably. Many of the larger redwood lumber mills have completed independent third party certification of all their forestlands. This is over 1 million acres, meaning that over 80% of the available forestlands are certified under one of the two most widely recognized certification programs… the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) program.
There are over 1.74 million acres of Coastal Redwood forests on California’s north coast alone! Around 26%, or 450,000 acres of this land is preserved in National, State, and municipal parks, national monuments and other lands that are prohibited from harvesting.
See the chart below to discover how our Redwood forests are divided…
Commercial Redwood Foresting…
Of the remaining forests there are 1.29 million acres where harvesting may be done. Of this number, over 80% is being well managed and sustainably harvested.
This process of certification ensures that the consumers get environmentally safe harvesting practices. The programs that are monitored and certified are as follows:
- Sustainable Forestry
- Quick Reforestation
- Water Quality Protection
- Enhancing Wildlife Habitats
- Minimizing the visual impact of harvesting
- Improvements in wood utilization
- Protection of unique sites
The above practices are voluntary third party programs that are in addition to the mandatory California State Requirements within the Forest Practices Act, which is recognized as the most thorough timber harvesting regulation in North America. Any company that owns a commercial forest containing more that 50,000 acres must prepare a Sustained Yield Plan. A Sustained Yield Plan must project an equal balance of growth and harvest over a 100 year period and must ensure sustainability of all forest resources, including wildlife, watershed, and soil.
These factors, when considering Redwood as a valuable sustainable resource, are very compelling and undeniable. Redwoods are a very protected part of America’s culture for their beauty and unique ability to survive…
They can withstand floods, fire, and just about any other element thrown at them.
They can withstand the test of time through human interaction and safe harvesting practices.
If we all do our part, Redwoods can remain a part of America that lasts forever!!!
Thanks for reading,
U.S. Forest Service Inventory and Analysis
Forest Stewardship Council