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Forest Thinning Project Illustrates Essence of Circular Economy

February 19, 2021
Author: John Greene

When it comes to the issue of managing forests, environmental and economic concerns oftentimes seem incompatible to those unfamiliar with forestry and silviculture practices. The idea of managing America’s working forests for the production of timber might seem archaic to some who approach this subject believing that there is either one advantage or the other, but not both.

In a piece we recently published on the economics of pulpwood supply, we noted that new markets for low-value wood products - like those removed during the thinning process - are essential in helping keep forestlands forested. Keeping the economics of forest ownership strong is a key component in preserving the proven relationship between environmental and economic interests of the forest.

We know the facts, but it’s rare in our exceedingly polarized society to see an honest treatment of the subject in the press.

NPR recently produced a story titled “Forest Thinning to Reduce Wildfire Risk Gives Opportunity to New Startups,” which does a great job of illustrating this balance between economic and environmental concerns while providing a representation of how the circular economy can work successfully for multiple stakeholders. In this particular case, the benefits of active land management are threefold:

  1. Thin and remove dead, dying or low-vigor timber from the forest to improve stand quality.
  2. Improve growing conditions in the stand to help mitigate wildfire damage in the future.
  3. Establish a new viable market for the forest raw material that has been removed, in this case a natural soil amendment called biochar.

Listen Here:

Kudos to NPR for airing an honest and fair assessment about the economic and environmental benefits of America’s working forests. It is this symbiotic relationship that incents timberland owners to keep forestlands forested and invest in advanced timber management practices, which provides both economic benefits to the timberland owner and environmental benefits to all of us. When timberland ownership becomes uneconomical, the risk for converting the land to other uses increases and with such conversion, the forest is lost forever.

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