How can ‘active forest management’ affect societal change?

“The importance that the wood is derived through sustainable practices to keep forests healthy and thriving.”

Amanda Sullivan-Astor | | August 21, 2022

As a certified forester and young professional who specializes in forward thinking forest policies, climate change is always top of mind. I pursued a graduate certificate in forest carbon science, policy and management from Michigan State University after obtaining my undergraduate credentials in forestry and botany because I want to be a part of developing necessary yet reasonable solutions to societies largest issues like climate change, the rural urban divide and economic stability using the art and science of silviculture, natural resource management, markets and policy.  

Recently, Oregon State University researcher Rajat Panwar, associate professor and director of the Sustainable Natural Resources Certificate, contributed to the United Nations report that looks into how forests can be a part of natural climate change solutions. One of the key components he highlighted in the report is the use of more wood in our daily lives to substitute for more carbon intensive materials. He notes, however, the importance that the wood is derived through sustainable practices to keep forests healthy and thriving. When combined, sustainable active management and increased use of wood can help to maximize carbon benefits from forests.  

In a press release from Oregon State, Panwar states, “It is clearer than ever before that the increased utilization of wood products is critical to reducing global greenhouse emissions but only when these products are derived from sustainably managed forests.” 

The U.N. report speaks about regulated forest activities and active forest management, as done in the U.S., as meeting the definition of sustainable forest management. This is contrasted to true deforestation and land conversion occurring in other countries around the world. 

It is important to contextualize what happens in our backyard with practices elsewhere in the world because documents from the U.N. are doing such a comparison. In Oregon, nearly half of our forests (private and public) are in reserves such as late-successional reserves or easements, without sustainable active management. In at least one-third of our forests, management is prohibited all together (wilderness, inventoried roadless, riparian buffers, etc.).   

Unfortunately, by having such a high rate of unmanaged forests and even having organizationselected officials and others claim that we need to be setting more forest lands aside, our fuels, fire and forest health problems are getting worse while our communities and small businesses struggle. 

The State of the World’s Forests 2022 report says that globally, “Fire contributes more than 5% of greenhouse-gas emissions from agriculture, forestry and other land use. Integrated fire prevention and suppression as part of landscape management measures are several orders of magnitude less costly than fire-fighting and post-fire restoration.”  

This means more active management should be completed to address this large carbon emissions source.  

Efforts around biomass market development have begun to take hold, but cannot replace the need to maintain the current forest management infrastructure that relies on commercial timber. These markets must go hand in hand and the Oregon Mass Timber Coalitions seek to do just that by focusing efforts around low-value commercial wood and fuels to create long-lived building materials.  

Utilizing more wood in our built environment achieves many benefits and should be touted and embraced as Oregon’s legacy to fighting climate change.  

Amanda Sullivan-Astor is the forest policy manager for the Associated Oregon Loggers, a certified forester and a monthly contributor to The Register-Guard.