European Wilderness Society

Does sanitary logging secure the future of forests?

Many foresters claim that sanitary logging is key to secure the future economic resources of forests. In many protected areas, sanitary logging is used as a form of intermediate management to prevent or stop infestations spreading to other nearby trees. In the previous article of the series, we focused on the impact of sanitary logging on biodiversity. The question of this article is whether sanitary logging practices as implemented nowadays are the way to properly secure the future of forests.

Ideological conflicts

For local communities, logging provides economic prosperity. Many families have very close ties to the forestry industry, often generations after generations get their income from forestry. And even though scientific research clearly proves that a forest’s thermodynamic efficiency, meaning resilience against climate change depends on the variety of age, species and structure, and that logging has a negative effect on biodiversity, many foresters don’t speak up in favor of introducing more sustainable forestry practices. Why is that?

Environmentalists and foresters often aim for the same goal: having a healthy forest, rich in biodiversity and resilient against climate change. The conflict therefore lies on a more ideological level. EU environmental laws and the emerging ecological consciousness divides people to ones who believe nature should take charge in regulating itself, and the group that believes that nature simply cannot survive without human management. In this sense, despite the evidence to the contrary, foresters often feel it’s necessary to intervene when there is an outbreak, to save the forest and therefore their source of income. Environmentalists are in these situations often portrayed as the bad guys, so called “eco-terrorists”, that oppose the use of a chainsaw no matter what the context is. The situation therefore is rather simplified, missing middle ground: environmentalists get their salaries for campaigning for natural processes, foresters get their salaries for managing their forestry service-areas.

Bad logging hurts the forests

Clearcuttings done the wrong way, even if done for sanitary reasons can damage wildlife, water quality and in general the scenic beauty of an area. Sustainable forests and smart choices come from the knowledge gathered by environmentalists and foresters. The reality is, that environmental laws and regulations won’t cause adverse economic impacts and environmentalists are not the enemies. These environmental laws are essential specify actions such as compliance with zoning requirements or respecting areas of restricted cut, for example in the periods of nesting or red deer coupling. Forests are vulnerable ecosystems and the extreme weather patterns change needs clearly defined integrated forest management, in which every expert field has its say.

Toward sustainable forestry

With natural tourism gaining rapid popularity in protected areas, tourists can contribute to a far bigger extent to the local economy annually than the few locals that are employed in forestry. Having a coordinated management approach, national parks can be a place for natural processes and biological diversity, serve as recreation for locals and tourists and at the same time encompass zones that secure wood for the locals. Let’s find a balanced rhythm of life and death, the forest’s production function and its wildlife population.

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