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What are the most significant impacts of forest management?

LISTENING STUDY: Some responses reference the ecological impacts of large-scale industrial forestry while others highlight the impacts of sustainably managed forests.

Growing and harvesting trees for paper production can cause a variety of environmental impacts ranging from the destruction of plant and animal habitat to the degradation of soil and water quality, which also affects human populations. - Victoria Mills, Project Manager, Corporate Partnerships, Environmental Defense

The most significant impact of timber management worldwide is that caused by large clearcuts over large areas, where forest composition, structure, and function is drastically changed, often for the very long term. - Susan Hammond, Executive Director, Silva Forest Foundation

Business-as-usual industrial forestry in the U.S. often has substantial and long-lasting environmental, social, and economic impacts. Many timber and paper companies' historical and current practices have degraded water quality, liquidated much of the land's timber "capital," played a leading role in bringing many forest species to the brink of extinction, and/or seriously impacted many other forest resources. This style of forest management is practiced on large percentages of public and private forestlands, especially on lands owned and/or logged by many industrial wood products companies. Industry and other non-federal forestlands comprise 73% of the nation's forests, and often encompass key ecosystems, forest types, and habitat areas.
     Today, some U.S. companies continue to log remaining old growth, eliminate endangered species' habitats, and replace natural forests with residential sprawl and ecologically barren tree plantations. Some companies also create immense clearcuts, and apply toxic chemicals at excessive and unnecessary levels. And some also use short timber rotations that increase negative environmental impacts and fail to maximize timber production. In forests which have already been impacted, industrial forest practices are also failing to restore these forests to more natural conditions. Equally harmful practices occur in the forests of Canada and many other temperate and tropical nations -- some of which are logged to supply U.S. companies. Logging intact forests also results in net emissions of carbon dioxide and other "greenhouse" gases that are causing global climate change. - Daniel Hall, Forest Biodiversity Program Director, American Lands Alliance

Studies from across the eastern regions have shown that even-aged management practices favored by the timber and paper industries, along with the forest roads that support logging operations, disrupt the natural processes that sustain healthy forests. Operations that are incompatible with the maintenance of healthy and sustainable forests include: large-scale clear-cut harvesting, intensive site preparation, replacement of site-adapted species with monocultures of genetically selected "super trees", increasing use of herbicides to reduce competition with the industry-favored pine trees, and concentrated use of heavy equipment. - Biodiversity Project 2003

This is an impossible question to answer. What is management? What is an impact? What is significant? What is most? Potentially, the most significant impact of forest management could be the salvation of the planet's terrestrial and perhaps aquatic ecosystems, or it could be the collapse of those same systems. Depends on who's doing what, where, when, and how. - Michael Snyder, Forester

Positive impacts: Sustainable production of solid wood and fiber used throughout society while maintaining native forest habitat on millions of acres of land.
Negative impacts: In some regions, loss of old growth forest, conversion to short- rotation plantations. - Robert R. Bryan, Forest Ecologist, Maine Audubon

Sustainably managed forests can be some of the best protectors of clean water, fertile soil, and animal habitats. However, poor forestry practices can lead to water pollution, soil degradation, loss of habitat, and non-productive lands. - International Paper

Roads. - Frank Locantore, Co-op America

Trees are a renewable resource and with sustainable forest management can provide us with the fiber we need for paper, building, fuel and other uses. These sustainably managed forests also provide us with additional benefits such as enhanced wildlife habitat, increased forest vigor, recreation opportunities and forest fire prevention. - Stora Enso

The forest industry stands accused of some very serious crimes against the environment: the extinction of tens of thousands of species, the deforestation of vast areas of the earth, and the total and irreversible destruction of the environment. . . . So let's talk about some of those problems and whether they're really problems or just another way of looking at how we live and how we use our natural resources. . . .
Some people hate the looks of a recent clearcut. But when foresters create openings as they harvest the trees, they do so for a very good reason. The new trees can grow back much more quickly in full sunlight. It's true that clearcuts don't look pretty when you see them from the road or fly over them in a plane, but look closer and you'll see a new forest taking root. It's younger and healthy and will provide trees for the next generation. . . .
     This gives rise to the obvious concern that if we cut the trees down, all those homes and habitats will be lost and al those species will die. In recent years we've heard alarmist claims that up to 50,000 species are disappearing each year, mainly due to commercial logging. But is this true? Certainly logging has environmental impacts. When trees are cut down, some animals are displaced and must move to other parts of the forest. But as the forest regrows, the animals begin to return, often in larger numbers. As surprising as it might sound after years of sensationalism in the media, to the best of our scientific knowledge no species has become extinct in North America due to forestry. . . .
     Some people want you to believe that the ugly appearance of a recently harvested forest is synonymous with permanent destruction of the environment and yet the unsightly sea of stumps is not some nuclear waste or a toxic discharge. It's actually 100% organics and will soon grow back into a beautiful new forest again. The way we think the land should look often has more to do with personal and social values than anything to do with biodiversity or science. We tend to idealize nature, as if there is some perfect state that is exactly right for a given piece of land. There are actually thousands of combinations of species at all different stages of forest growth that are perfectly natural and sustainable in their own right. - Transcript from Trees Are the Answer, video hosted by Dr. Patrick Moore, Green Spirit, 2001


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