When I write about forestry, I’m most often sharing what goes on in a working forest. A working forest is one that produces commodities, like timber, fiber and bark, as well as provides for environmental benefits such as recreation, clean water and wildlife habitat. I have spent my career on working forests.
Think of a working forest like a farm. Farms grow crops of food and other agricultural products. We need farms for our food. Working forests produce forest products and we need them for our shelter. An important difference between the two is that forestlands take years to produce a crop. Working forests spend years growing undisturbed in between intervals of harvesting. They function as an important source of clean water and as a home for wildlife every year.
One benefit of producing forest products from a working forest is that it creates income for the landowner. When the landowner has an economic return from managing trees the land will continue to be managed as a forest. There are real costs to owning forestland and if the owner can’t profit managing their forest, they may be forced to develope it into housing subdivisions or some other non-forest use. Then the wildlife habitat may be lost. In a sense the income from producing forest products protects these forests by making growing trees economically sustainable .
All of our forests are important as wildlife habitat. The conventional wisdom is that mature forest provide the best habitat. That is true for species of wildlife that prefer mature forests. However, many species have different habitat needs that include forest at every age.
Forests containing a greater diversity in habitats ranging from mature forest to freshly created openings will support a larger variety of species. Openings are created during harvesting. These openings are planted and then the seedlings begin to grow. Over time the forests develope a great diversity of trees in different age groups. This patchwork of different habitat is available to support many species of wildlife.
Working forests aren’t parks, but can still be available for recreation. Hikers, campers and hunters visit these forests year after year. I’m not saying that the working forests are better than the parks, but they each have unique purposes.
Forests are managed by different government agencies, private entities and individuals with a variety of goals. Forestland management is a topic I will explore more in the future. It warrants a full post.