The forestry industry has come a long way since the mid-19th century. Working forests are now an important part of our landscape because they support the economy and provide habitat and protect clean water while the trees grow for 40-60 years before the next harvest cycle. When managed responsibly, sustainable forestry can meet a wide range of needs for people and the planet forever.
“Sustainable forestry involves a renewable cycle of harvesting what we plant,” says Mark Doumit, Washington Forest Protection Association. “It means caring for our forest resources, providing fish and wildlife habitat, and protecting clean air and water. At the same time, we provide jobs for rural economies and renewable wood products.”
The first American Tree Farm was designated in 1941, near Montesano, Washington, to promote a renewable cycle of sustainable forestry. Today, nearly all harvested logs are from second- or third-growth forest.
Keeping Washington evergreen
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Washington’s forests are an integral part of the state’s character, covering one-half of our land area, mostly west of the Cascade mountain range. Close to two-thirds of that forestland is managed by state, federal and tribal governments; one-third is privately owned.
Privately owned forests are supplying close to 70 percent of the wood harvested in Washington each year, making us the second-largest lumber producer in the U.S. It is because of the economic health of the forest industry – Washington’s third-largest manufacturing sector – that working forests provide a host of environmental services in addition to wood products, such as, clean water, wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration.
A renewable resource
Each year forest landowners in Washington plant an average of 52 million tree seedlings in areas that have been harvested. On average, that’s three seedlings planted by hand for every one tree harvested. Replanting is just part of the day-to-day effort in working forests, a sustainable practice that ensures after harvest a new forest begins to grow quickly, usually within 12 to 18 months.
Nearly all of these seedlings come from local tree nurseries and are grown from seeds collected from cones within the same region or “seed zone.” The first seed zone maps were published in 1966. The use of this evolving information enables landowners to replant trees that are best adapted to their site, limiting damage from climate and pests and maintaining locally adapted gene pools.
Stewards of Washington’s forests
WFPA’s member companies are using science-based research and collaboration to keep the trees as well as the wildlife habitat of their private forests healthy. From compliance with federal and state laws to building timber harvest plans that minimize environmental impact, private forest landowners are committed to being stewards for the water, soil and wildlife of working forests.
Forest practices are the result of more than a century of experience from learning by doing and scientific study of the effects of forest management on the natural environment.
Adaptive management and science are used to measure what is actually happening to the environment during forestry operations. The results ensure that forestry operations are conducted in a way that restores salmon habitat and protects water quality by leaving buffers of trees alongside streams, removing and replacing fish-blocking culverts, and upgrading roads to the latest standards. The goal of adaptive management is to make changes in forest practices, based on scientific information to ensure that forestry and fish-habitat are compatible.
The Washington Forest Protection Association is a trade association representing private forest landowners in Washington State. Members are large and small companies, individuals and families who grow, harvest and re-grow trees on about 4 million acres.