Forest Service Chief Talks Restoration via Harvesting

It may seem counterintuitive to say it is necessary to cut trees in order to save forests. But harvesting plays an important role in ensuring vibrant, healthy forests remain a part of America’s landscape.

Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell

Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell

Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell explained in a recent Times Observer article why harvesting is vital to both restoring the health of our nation’s forests and keeping private forested land from being developed for other uses.

According to Tidwell, out of the 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands, somewhere between 65 and 82 million acres need some form of restoration.

One example of restoration work is thinning out overcrowded forests to reduce their risk of being destroyed by catastrophic wildfire, disease, or insect infestation. Such efforts are costly, but selling the wood that is harvested can offset the steep price tag of restoration activities.

Tidwell also explained that thousands of acres of private forest lands are lost to development each year, a trend he hopes to see change with increased timber value.

Still, Tidwell acknowledges there are challenges that come with harvesting efforts in today’s economy.

Millions of acres of forest lands are in need of costly restoration work; harvesting can help offset those costs.

Millions of acres of forest lands are in need of costly restoration work; harvesting can help offset those costs.

“The challenge that we have is we need to find ways to do it, especially with these markets that we’ve had where the housing market in this country dropped to some of the lowest levels we’ve seen in a long time,” Tidwell added. “We need to be able to expand markets for wood.”

And that’s where the Forest Products Laboratory can make a big difference.

Researchers at FPL are working from many different angles to develop new uses for wood. From biofuels to high-rise wood buildings to nanocellulose, the world of forest products is expanding far beyond traditional lumber and paper.

And with heightened interest in the environmental impacts of our daily lives, wood is the way to go.

“It’s the greenest building material,” Tidwell said.

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