Forest Facts: Cutting Down Trees Isn’t (Always) a Bad Thing

Cutting Trees

It can seem like a terrible shame to cut down a strong, healthy tree – and often, it is. There are certainly times when mature trees are cut down for no good reason, or without any sort of plan to properly replace them. But the perception that cutting down trees is always bad just isn’t true. In fact, when properly managed, the process of growing and harvesting trees is an important part of a sustainable future for humans, wildlife and the environment.

The most important reason for this is very simple: trees are a renewable resource, and provide essential raw material for thousands of products, including wood, paper and even lumber byproducts that can be burned for energy. The fact is, wood is simply more sustainable than many other materials, to the point that it’s experiencing a major revival in even the largest-scale architecture and construction all over the world.

Unlike other raw materials, wood is easy and efficient to reproduce, especially fast-growing species like Eastern White Pine. Avoiding the devastating deforestation often associated with logging all comes down to sustainable methods of forestry, which meet the needs of the present without harming wildlife or the environment or compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainable forestry methods outline long-term plans to ensure biodiversity in forests and regeneration capacity for decades or centuries to come.

In managed forests, the trees are younger and healthier, with care taken to ensure that they don’t become infested with pests or taken over by invasive species. Many people don’t know that young trees actually capture more carbon from the atmosphere and produce more oxygen than their old growth counterparts, helping to combat climate change. 

Supporting sustainably produced wood and paper products also helps keep more land forested, since it provides an economic incentive not to cut trees down to make way for agricultural, residential or commercial usage of the land.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Forest Facts: Sustainable Forestry Initiative Helps Protect Migratory Birds

Sustainable Forestry Protects Birds

Sustainable forestry practices help preserve the habitats of countless species of plants and wildlife, and a new program supported by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) aims to boost that effect even more with detailed maps of breeding bird species. Bird enthusiasts and biologists are joining together to gather information that will help manage and conserve bird habitats in forests that are used for recreational, industrial and research purposes.

Bird Studies Canada and its partners have teamed up with SFI to develop a series of Breeding Bird Atlases showing where hundreds of bird species breed within particular regions of Canada. Bird lovers have taken part in the process by volunteering their time to collect data across each region over a five-year period. About 1.3 million breeding bird records have been collected.

“As wild birds are excellent indicators of environmental health, this research plays a pivotal role in how Canada’s bird populations may be affected by a variety of factors in our forests,” said Kathy Abusow, President and CEO of SFI, Inc. “For one, the results of this research will provide updated information for forest managers related to bird habitat, which can better inform forest management decisions and practices.”

Sustainable forestry protects birds and other wildlife with a multi-step process of evaluation, management and regeneration that ensures that tree removal won’t harm the ecosystem and will allow for a continued harvest in the future. Learn more about the differences between sustainable and traditional forestry.

Forest Facts: U.S. Joins International Effort to Fund Sustainable Forestry

Sustainable Forestry Initiative

The United States has joined Norway and the United Kingdom to pledge a combined $280 million toward sustainable forestry in an effort to slow the effects of climate change. The initiative, managed by the BioCarbon Fund, will establish environmentally friendly tracts of forest in a wide variety of regions around the world, and expand forest protection technologies and climate-smart agriculture.

Announced during an event at the United Nations climate summit in Warsaw, the new initiative comes just after a report revealed that our planet has lost an area the size of Western Europe to deforestation over the last decade. That’s not just a problem for wildlife and the communities in which the forests are lost; deforestation speeds up climate change.

One of the crucial components of a climate-friendly sustainable forestry system is establishing new markets for timber. That’s part of the effort that will take place in Oromia, a region that contains 60 percent of Ethiopia’s forests. As demand for sustainable forest products increases, incentives to manage forests responsibly do, too.

“The fate of the climate, forests, and agriculture are bound together. If agriculture and land-use change continue to produce up to 30 percent of global greenhouse gases, it will mean further disaster and disruption from climate change”, said Rachel Kyte, the World Bank’s vice president of sustainable development. “That’s why the new BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes it so important. Its grants and results-based financing aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the land sector, through REDD+, climate-smart agriculture practices and land-use planning.”
Image: Geoff Gallice

The Majestic Old Growth Eastern White Pines of Pennsylvania

Longfellow Eastern White Pine Pennsylvania

The tallest tree in the northeastern United States is a staggering 181.3-foot-tall Eastern White Pine in Cook Forest State Park, Pennsylvania. This old growth tree is known as the Longfellow Pine, and it’s one of many ancient and beautiful Eastern White Pine trees flourishing in the protected forests of the state. It’s the third-tallest tree in the Eastern United States – so tall, it’s tough to take a picture of the whole thing.

Longfellow Pine, estimated to be about 300 years old, stands among many other tall and large-girth trees in Cook Forest State Park. Some specimens have been found that date back an astonishing 500 years. Other pines of awe-inspiring heights can be found in Massachusetts’ Mohawk Trail State Forest.

Michigan is home to Eastern White Pines reaching over 155 feet in height at Hartwick Pines State Park, and a private property in Claremont, New Hampshire hosts about sixty 150-foot-tall pines. The diameter of these pines can be up to five feet.

Old growth forests of Eastern White Pines that have never been logged can be found all over the country, including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee, which was home to the tallest Eastern White Pine (at 188.8 feet) before winds took off its crown in 1995.

Sustainable forestry methods and active forest preservation have helped preserve these trees for this long, ensuring that they’re still around for future generations to marvel at.

Photo: Native Tree Society

Forest Facts: Making Green Buildings Greener with Wood

Green Wood Building

A lot of energy is spent in the green building industry on innovating new materials that made of eco-friendly materials, easy to transport, and reclaimable when a structure must be torn down. But many of these materials have problems of their own in the manufacturing process, and in the meantime, there’s a natural material that’s already strong, insulating, sustainable and recyclable: wood. Using more wood in both new construction and renovation can help make green buildings greener, driving demand for sustainable forestry.

All materials, no matter how sustainable, have some adverse impacts on the environment. The use of wood, when it’s not grown and harvested sustainably, can be devastating on an ecosystem and the surrounding community. But modern forestry practices ensure that even when wood is harvested in large quantities, healthy, balanced forests can be maintained. Maximizing timber yields might be important for a forest owner’s bottom line, but protecting rivers, the soil and wildlife habitats while minimizing erosion and planting plenty of new trees helps ensure their business will last well into the future.

Naturally occurring and renewable, wood does the important job of storing carbon from the atmosphere, playing a crucial role in the fight against climate change. The energy required to manage, cut, transport and process it is minimal compared to other popular building materials like steel. That energy can be minimized even further with the use of local wood species.

For all of these reasons, and simply its unparalleled beauty, wood is becoming even more popular to incorporate into modern architecture or even as the sole material for high-rises.

Photo: andrew_writer

Forest Facts: Sustainable Forestry vs. Traditional Forestry


Logging has long been associated with deforestation; vast tracts of land clear-cut without a plan for future growth and no consideration for how the tree removal will affect the ecosystem and surrounding communities. While that was true for a long time, and still presents a major problem around the world, sustainable forestry methods are changing that perception. Sustainable forestry meets the needs of the present – for goods like paper and lumber – without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Traditional logging methods take down as many trees as desired with an eye on immediate profit, and rather than replanting trees so more can be harvested in the future, they leave the landscape bare and damaged, moving on to a new forest for additional wood. To ensure that tree removal won’t harm the ecosystem and will allow for a continued harvest, sustainable forestry requires a multi-step process of evaluation, management and regeneration.

Forest managers assess the land, noting the types and health of the trees, the species of wildlife present and whether they are threatened or endangered, and other environmental issues. Socioeconomic impact is important, too. Then they must determine how many trees can be harvested, and whether this can be accomplished by pruning, cutting down older trees to encourage new growth, or thinning the forest in certain areas. This might involve controlled burns, and often opens up parts of the land to recreation.

Third party certification ensures that all of this is done properly, in the best interests of the community, the environment and the nation in which the forest is located. An organization like the Sustainable Forestry Initiative cheeks on the forestry practices of a timber producer, and decides whether the resulting products can be labeled as sustainable.

Sustainable forestry can reduce climate change effects and reverse the damage that has been done by traditional logging in the past. Read more about how Eastern White Pine is a sustainable alternative to plantation-grown pine trees.

Photo: Bureau of Land Management