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Sustaining Missouri’s Forests

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Published on: Sep. 2, 2000

Last revision: Nov. 5, 2010

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In 1993, a Society of American Foresters task force published a report called "Sustaining Long-Term Forest Health and Productivity." The report concluded, "Foresters have a responsibility as professionals to sustain the long-term health and productivity of all forest-related resources, to ensure we meet the long-term goals of society." The task force identified criteria necessary to meet these goals:

  • Maintain the structural and functional integrity of the forest as an ecosystem.
  • Meet the diverse needs of the human community.
  • Commit the technological, financial and human resources needed for implementation.

But foresters can only do so much. Learning to live sustainably doesn’t start in the forest, it starts with consumers. There is little use talking about sustainable forestry or forest stewardship unless we understand the interdependent relationship we consumers have with the producers.

We create the demands for resources, which are then met by the producing industries. These industries cultivate our business with products and services that meet our needs.

Our needs for food, clothing, shelter, transportation and energy are met by transforming raw materials into useful products. We are constantly choosing between renewable and nonrenewable resources. Whenever possible we should choose renewable resources to make these products. We should also do everything possible to slow the depletion of nonrenewable resources.

Living sustainably suggests that we should obtain as many resources as possible in our own back yard, wherever that may be. Closing our own forests to wood production would not be a good idea if that meant obtaining wood from other places where the economic costs and environmental impacts would be much higher. We would fail to "think globally and act locally."

To help consumers make their choices, organizations are certifying some wood products as "green." Similar labels and tags provide information that helps us make good choices when buying food, clothing and many other products. Now the concept is being applied to wood and wood products.

The idea is to promote wood that is cut from sustainably managed forests. But when we go to the lumberyard or furniture store, how do we know which boards or chairs came from sustainable forests? The answer is certification.

Certification is a stamp of approval that says a given piece of wood comes from a "sustainable or well managed forest." One of the key features of certification is that it implies a harvest. Certification can also be a way to recognize companies that are doing a good job of forest stewardship.

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