Today, just 47% of forestland in Washington is managed forest, those where the forest products industry uses practices of sustainably harvesting forest lands for wood products and to keep forests healthy, including replanting at least three trees for every one harvested, thinning of dead and dying trees, and removal of underbrush. The rest is unmanaged forestland – acres that are left alone.
Studies show that managed forests are less likely to burn than unmanaged forests, because sustainable forest management practices keep forests healthy, removing damaged trees and excess underbrush that fuel megafires. Unmanaged forests are 2 times more vulnerable to catastrophic wildfire, which we know too well are creating dangerously unhealthy air quality and emitting massive amounts of carbon back into the atmosphere.
Science shows that managed forests provide a greater climate benefit than unmanaged forests. Washington’s forests and wood products offset our state’s carbon footprint by 35% – managed forests absorb CO2 from the atmosphere twice as fast as unmanaged forests. Managed forests can be an important tool in fighting climate change.
And more than half of Washington’s forest lands are already unmanaged, where trees are 2x as likely to be dead or decaying. These problems of drier conditions, disease and insect infestation already contribute to catastrophic wildfires. Wildfires not only devastate the forests and creating severe air quality problems, they contribute to climate change by releasing millions of tons of stored carbon into the atmosphere. It is never a good time to make tough problems even worse.
All Washingtonians benefit by recognizing that managed forests are a critical tool to fight climate change and prevent catastrophic wildfire.