Breaking Down “Forest Literacy”

Jun 07, 2016
DebHawkinson2014-WEBBy Deb Hawkinson
Forest Resources Association

If I add to my checking account at least the same amount of money each year as I withdraw, will I maintain a positive balance?

Hint: the answer is YES!

Regardless of whether the interest rate changes or I make more or less money, the total in my account will remain stable – or grow – as long as I replenish what I spend.

Now let’s compare this to nature’s checking account: the working forest. Paper and wood products manufacturers have a vested interest in making sure the “account” stays in the black. In a healthy market, the “checking account” (forest) gets the same or more “money” (tree planting) each year as is “withdrawn” (harvesting). Managing forests in this way ensures:

  1. financial incentive for landowners to plant trees as an investment in the future instead of using their land in other ways,
  2. continuous capture and sequestration of atmospheric carbon through photosynthesis, and
  3. a steady supply of raw materials that support jobs for 2.4 million Americans who make products and generate bioenergy that billions of people around the world rely on each day.

The fallacy of some environmentalists’ arguments is that land will stay forested (and therefore sequester carbon) regardless of market forces. In reality, trees will eventually die – and emit carbon – either through natural causes or by fire, insects or disease. Landowners work hard to protect their investment and extend the lifespan of their trees by maintaining their forests’ health. In fact, it is those areas without a forest industry that pose the greatest risk of high carbon emissions due to their unchecked exposure to fire and disease. Look at the recent wildfires in the interior west as a case in point. Furthermore, without a market for trees, fewer will be planted. The argument from the other side has a major flaw in that they assume the healthy, growing, managed forests will continue to exist without a market. And we all know what happens when we assume…

The stakes are simply too high to take their sucker bet.

It would be like saying that my checking account will remain in tact if I just deposited $500 and did nothing to manage or grow it; eventually, between withdrawals or bank fees (forest fires or decay), the money would disappear.