December 5, 2022

Save a forest, use wood products

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Every time you use a forest product, it’s like ordering another tree to be planted and the cycle of reforestation begins again.


One of the most popular misconceptions about America’s forests is that the best way to save them is to stop using wood products. In fact, the opposite is true. Every time you use a forest product, it’s like ordering another tree to be planted and the cycle of reforestation begins again.

The President and CEO of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), Kathy Abusow, recently spoke at a TEDx event in Wilmington, Delaware, where she spoke about the importance of forest products to the conservation of the environment. You can watch the full video at

Abusow titled his talk, “Embracing the Forest, Not the Trees – How Responsible Forestry Does More Than Halt Deforestation.” She argued that instead of just hugging a tree, we should take steps to ensure that entire forests are well managed over the long term. She explained that more trees are lost each year in North America to fire, disease and storm damage than harvested for wood products. She added that only 1% of forest land is harvested each year, and most is sustainably managed and replanted or allowed to regenerate.

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Well-managed forests provide products and benefits that help society as a whole. These forests store carbon, purify the air we breathe and the water we drink, and provide habitat for many species as well as materials to make products that improve our quality of life.

Abusow said, “Forests certified to SFI standards span a quarter of a billion acres from Canada’s boreal region to the southern United States, and millions more acres are positively impacted by the standards and SFI programs for responsible sourcing of forest products.

What is deforestation? Is it harvesting a tree to make paper, furniture or another wooden product? No. It’s not deforestation. Usually in North America this leads to reforestation because trees are replanted and land is left free for a forest to regenerate. If the forest owners make money from the trees, they are the ones who will actively manage and save the forests. Otherwise, they ruin their own future.

So what is deforestation? In reality, it is any land management that cuts down a forest or allows it to be destroyed and turned into something other than a forest. So when a contractor cuts down a forest to build a housing estate, that is deforestation. When a farmer cuts down a forest to plant crops, that is deforestation. When a local government cuts down a forest to build a school, that’s deforestation. Land use planning is one of the main causes of deforestation in America.

In some Third World countries, one of the main causes of deforestation is illegal logging. This happens when the land is cut or burned by someone other than the owner or the process is done illegally. Most people who practice illegal logging do not replant it or actively manage it. And in some parts of the world, notably in South America, forests are cut down or burned to turn the land into agricultural fields. This leads to long-term deforestation for these areas. This is why stopping illegal logging is so important.

Very little illegal logging occurs in the United States compared to other parts of the world. Abusow explained that if a tree is not valued as a renewal resource, then that land could be converted into something else, and that is deforestation.

Abusow and others in the forest sector want people to stop feeling guilty for using forest products and to be proud when they buy sustainably managed products made from wood. This will help encourage active management and reforestation. In this country, we need to rethink what deforestation is and discover the positive contribution that wood products can play.

SFI is a non-profit organization that plays a central role in strengthening the vital links between sustainable forestry, responsible purchasing and thriving communities. SFI is committed to raising awareness that well-managed forests provide products and benefits that help society as a whole.

If you really want to improve forest health, active management is needed and that involves the use of wood products. Good management means removing diseased trees and managing forest density as well as eradicating diseased and dying trees. It also involves good time management, which includes harvesting.

As Abusow said, “We have to embrace the whole forest, not just one tree.”