Over the past two decades, it has been primarily private forests in Oregon and Washington that have supplied the region and the nation with sustainably grown wood products. We call these “working forests.” Private forest landowners’ primary objective for these lands is to provide a long-term source of timber and wood fiber, even while they protect natural resource values such as clean water and air, fish and wildlife habitat, recreation and scenic beauty. In a sustainably managed forest, harvested trees are replanted.
In the United States, forest practices are regulated at the state level. Oregon and Washington were among the first states to adopt comprehensive forest practices laws in the 1970s, and these laws have been updated continuously as new practices and sound science have pointed the way. Both states have tough laws. These laws limit harvest size and require replanting after harvest. They require loggers to leave forested buffers on each side of fish-bearing streams to keep waters cool and clean. They also must leave standing trees or snags and down logs throughout a harvested area for wildlife habitat. Strict state and federal laws govern the use of forest herbicides to remove invasive weeks and vegetation that competes with young trees. Roads must be engineered to avoid runoff of sediment into streams. Landslide-prone areas are off limits to harvest.
Sustainability means that we meet the needs of the present generation without sacrificing the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. In forestry, where a landowner might not see a mature “crop” for 40, 50 years or more, it takes patience, a tolerance for risk and a long-term commitment. Fire, insects and disease are a constant threat, as are unwelcome visitors who dump illegal trash or engage in illegal behavior.
Those who work in the forest sector — from foresters to scientists to loggers to wood products manufacturers — have a deep and profound respect for the forest and all it provides. They understand that for there to be healthy, resilient forests in the future, we must adhere to the highest standard of stewardship in the present.