Responsible Forest Management: Setting the Stage for Healthy Trees
By: C. Preston Herrington, III
When I founded Continental Underwriters in 2013 one of my primary goals was to create an organization unique for its strong leadership approach and focus on anticipating and exceeding the needs of our customers no matter what it took. Within the forest products industry, that means stepping into our customers’ shoes to understand the challenges they face in the workplace and as an industry.
As we attempt to live out that vision, my focus right now is on the wildfires currently raging in the west, which highlights one of the industry’s biggest issues. The confluence of more frequent and intense wildfires, climate change, and the growing global concern around air quality demands that the timber industry reclaim the narrative on conservation and the positive role private industry plays in forest management, sustainability, and ultimately our environment.
The Misrepresentation of Forest Land Management
The common misconception around forest land management is the inaccurate representation of logging companies tearing down trees and clearing the land with no regard for wildlife, their habitats, or the greater good. Contrary to this narrative, the guiding principals behind forest management are about managing density and dead debris on the forest floor and replanting trees/reforestation – a clear departure from clear-cutting.
Let’s use the recent wildfires as an example of what can happen when unmanaged forest land is left vulnerable to nature. Trees have a lifecycle with or without human influence – forests lose water content, brush collects, and density increases. Compounding this natural process are beetles and other insects, which in a pure ecosystem exist to quicken the decomposition of dying and deadwood. Not only do these natural occurrences set the landscape up for disaster, they exacerbate efforts to manage a wildfire when it starts.
A key difference between this process and that of the timber industry is that nature provides no long-term, mindful management plan. Responsible logging, however, presents us with an opportunity to think about the current and future health of the land, as well as the wildlife and humans inhabiting it.
The timber industry is the epitome of a sustainable system: every part of the tree – its wood, bark and various byproducts produced in the manufacturing process are repurposed for an alternate use, whereas trees that die at the hand of nature remain unutilized resources.
Proper forest management also broadly envelops the regulatorily mandated process of reforestation, which allows us to give back to the land. Building strong forests in addition to removing deterrents to their health aids sustainability and helps ensure longevity. A natural consequence of this effort is maintaining healthy forests that sequester carbon, helping to neutralize the carbon footprint.
Beyond the practical details of responsible forest management, there is also a human component that makes well-maintained forests vital to communities. We live in unique times, and whether we’re seeking an escape from screens or looking for a safe change of scenery during the current pandemic, nature is a built-in refuge. Multiple studies show trees are proven to have physical, mental, and emotional health benefits to individuals and communities as a whole.
And what the layperson may not realize is that the forest products industry is made up of individuals who love nature and spend much of their free time enjoying all it has to offer. Seeking destruction over preservation isn’t the motivation for those in forestry. At Continental Underwriters, Inc., we see their interest in protecting the environment as personal.
The Bottom Line
I see Continental Underwriters, Inc. as an industry voice with the capability to unite the various subsets within the timber industry to protect our forests and their many assets; we take this very seriously. We’re doing this by educating our various audiences – business owners, carriers, brokers, agents – and working with associations to develop and communicate a unified message. But beyond words, we’re putting dollars behind the cause, to do our part and replant. If you’d like to join us in that cause, we’d encourage you to make a donation via National Forest Foundation or check out Ecosia, a search engine that plants one tree per search, at no cost to the user.