Will Logging Deplete Our Forests?
Basically, it isn’t possible, especially when only 0.4% of the forested land is logged in a given year. And after it is logged, it will grow back as a forest, even if humans do nothing to influence the growth or species of the next generation of trees. In fact, right now we grow about 4.5 times the volume of wood that we harvest each year.
In the past, lumber “booms” have resulted in huge forested areas being cut. This happened in West Virginia, parts of Pennsylvania, and parts of Western Maryland. Now, however, all these areas have returned as forests unless the land use has changed. Social norms, forest protection laws, best management practices, and what we have learned about forest management and sustainability prevent a repeat of this history.
What Is A Forester?
This booklet discusses forests and how they are managed. While foresters are usually charged with forest management, it’s okay if you don’t know what one is or does. Foresters are resource managers who are professionally trained at accredited schools of forestry and graduate with a bachelor’s degree. Foresters utilize their training and experience to implement forest management practices.
Foresters spend their career practicing forestry; the science, art and profession of managing forests. Foresters engage in a broad range of activities including ecological restoration, timber production, and management of protected areas. They manage forests to provide a variety of objectives including those related to forest products such as timber or pulpwood, outdoor recreation, wildlife habitat, water quality, conservation, hunting and aesthetics. In Maryland, foresters often work with landowners to create and implement stewardship plans or harvest plans to meet these land-use objectives. Park rangers are not foresters, but foresters may choose to become park rangers. Loggers are not foresters, either, although some loggers have received formal forestry training. Foresters work in partnership with loggers to ensure best management practices are implemented during forestry activities. Perhaps one of America’s first foresters, Gifford Pinchot, said it best in his goal for forestry, to “provide the greatest good for the greatest number in the long term.”
Who Owns Our Forests?
Most forest land in Maryland is owned by private landowners from everyday walks of life, not the government or the timber industry.
- 72% are owned by farmers, families, small timber investors and recreational landowners
- 25% are state forests, parks or wildlife management areas
- 3% are owned by the federal government
Source: The United States Department of Agriculture, Forests in Maryland 2018
Can Forests Help Mitigate Climate Change Issues?
We rely on healthy waterways to thrive. But as the population continues to grow, so do threats to our environment, which resource advocates — especially foresters — are concerned about. Our efforts to reverse these trends have grown in recent decades.
Forests also play an important role in defending our environment from the impacts of climate change. These roles include cooling, storing carbon, and managing water flow. Trees provide these environmental services and expanding forests could effectively lessen the impacts of climate change.¹ However, the ways we care for forests can impact the future benefits they will provide.
Forests are a major tool to mitigate the effects of climate change, but leaving a forest alone might not always result in its optimal health. Overcrowding of trees can stunt growth as they are all competing for the same nutrients and sunlight. Likewise, overcrowding makes them more susceptible to diseases and damage from insects. Management tools like selective thinning, or the removal of certain overcrowded trees to optimize the health of the forest as a whole, can reduce that stress.
In this hardwood forest stand, foresters have left larger trees for some shade and as a source of seed for the new trees that will grow beneath the older generation. This practice would encourage maple, oak, hickory, cherry and other species of trees that are tolerant of shade and have important timber and wildlife values.
Southern pine trees and some hardwood species like yellow-poplar do not grow very well in shade, so the preferred logging method to encourage the establishment and rapid growth is most often clearcutting, followed by planting young seedlings or regenerating trees from the seed bank in the forest floor.