Throughout the United States, wild forest ecosystems – those that exhibit little or no human disturbance – make a vital contribution to economic wellbeing by providing a host of goods and services that sustain both rural and urban communities. They produce clean drinking water and water for irrigation. They absorb carbon emissions, build soil, support wild pollinators that bolster agricultural productivity, control flooding, produce a variety of wood products, provide sites and scenery for recreation and tourism, and provide essential habitat for wildlife, fish, and plants valued as food, medicines, and genetic reservoirs. Ecosystem services from wild forests are irreplaceable.
Tragically, throughout the US, they are being lost as more and more wild forest is converted into industrial tree plantations that provide few of these ecosystem service benefits. An increasing share of what is cut is being shipped overseas as raw logs, pulp and biomass so US citizens are left with damaged forests and lost ecosystem services without any benefits from consumption of the wood products derived.
On federal, state, and local public lands, CSE believes the overriding management emphasis should be protecting and restoring wild forests for these ecosystem services since these lands make up only 20% of the forestland base in the country yet bear nearly the entire burden of supporting uses like outdoor recreation and water supply. On private lands, we believe that state forest practices statutes and rules should create the enabling conditions for sustainably managed forests that are put to work earning landowners multiple revenue streams from wood products and non-timber goods and services but in a manner that protects public trust resources including soil productivity, water, wildlife, fish and a stable climate. But decades of damage will need to be undone to make this possible and thus there is an urgent need for landscape-scale forest restoration programs.
The Pacific Northwest’s vast and diverse endowment of wild and working forests is a proving ground for reform of policies that affect both public and private lands. As such, most of CSE’s work is centered here for the time being. We have three major components to our WWF program:
- Pacific Northwest Forest Carbon Watch – If managed well, Pacific Northwest forest have the capability of capturing and storing more carbon than any other forest type on the planet. But industrial forest practices are thwarting progress towards this goal. CSE monitors the harmful impacts of clearcutting and other practices on the climate agendas for Oregon, Washington and California and develops innovative solutions for phasing these practices out and ramping up climate smart alternatives.
- Oregon Forest Practices Act Reform – CSE is working with partners to modernize Oregon’s Forest Practices Act (OFPA) in order to meet the challenges of climate change, extinction, and rural poverty. We promote solutions based on sound science and sustainable economics and ones that are replicable in other states where harmful industrial forest practices prevail.
- Forest Ecosystem Restoration – CSE is working with public agencies, non-profit land stewards, and private landowners to demonstrate the ecological and economic benefits of forest restoration. In Hawaii, we have partnered with the FARM Center to demonstrate bio-regionally appropriate agro-forestry solutions for restoration of lands in the arid tropics