The June 2 Washington Post article about the growth of the biomass industry in the southern U.S. to fuel European markets, showcases a narrow and inaccurate view of the true threats to forests--which in the south especially--are largely owned by families and individuals.
The American Forest Foundation’s (AFF) recent report – Vanishing Pieces of the Puzzle – based on data from the U.S. Forest Service, highlights the most significant threats to family-owned forests, with one of the largest being development pressures or converting forests to non-forest uses, followed closely by environmental threats that degrade forests like insects, diseases, and natural disasters like wildfires and hurricanes. Ironically, these threats can actually be addressed by increased markets for sustainable wood, which enable woodland owners to finance practices that create forest resiliency.
“What most don’t realize is that harvesting can be a vital sustainable forestry practice, and helps restore and sustain important forests – like bottomland hardwoods,” said Tom Martin, AFF President and CEO, in a statement. “Land owners who are active in the American Tree Farm System, harvest to keep their forests healthy, then sell to markets who want sustainable wood, which enables them to earn income to replant, restore and keep their forests as forests – protecting a vital carbon sink for all.”
“My family and I have owned and worked our Tree Farm for nearly 30 years,” said Earl Barrs, certified Tree Farmer in Georgia. “We manage more than a dozen species of trees, but our bottomland hardwood forests are the pride of our stands. Once or twice in my lifetime, we will harvest small sections of the low-grade trees in this stand to allow needed sunlight in for the quality trees to keep growing, which helps the overall habitat. The markets that call for sustainable, low-grade wood like biomass allows Tree Farmers like ourselves to have the income to be stewards of the vital resources that forests provide.”
The American Tree Farm System (ATFS) is AFF’s signature program and the largest sustainable family woodland system in America, engaging more than 82,000 Tree Farmers in sustainable forestry across 24 million acres. Tree Farmers within the program have sustainable management plans, engage in best practices identified by their state, participate in third-party audits, and are certified to the standards of sustainability.
“To tackle the most pressing threats to America’s family forests, and aid in restoration and maintenance of important forest types like bottomland hardwoods, we must continue to encourage markets for sustainably managed wood,” said Martin. “Providing incentives for sustainable land management ensures we have stewards of the land that are keeping biodiversity in the forests and safeguarding the benefits these forests provide. Most importantly it helps prevent conversion to non-forest uses.”
To arrange an interview with Tom Martin, President and CEO of AFF (and Tree Farmer in Wisconsin) or Earl Barrs, Tree Farmer in Georgia, please contact Elizabeth Bender (202- 751-2442)
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The American Forest Foundation (AFF) works on the ground with families, teachers and elected officials to promote stewardship and protect our nation’s forest heritage. A commitment to the next generation unites our nationwide network of forest owners and teachers working to keep our forests healthy and our children well-prepared for the future they will inherit.