by Michael Smith
For far too long have woodlands and forests, especially many of the smaller, privately owned ones, been doing nothing and have not been bringing in the money that they, really, should be able to.
Too many small woods have been also left to their own devices, so to speak, simply because no money could be made, often for lack of understanding as to the marketing of woodland and forest products by their owners.
The problem with leaving woods and forest to their own devices, especially woods and forests in our developed countries is that they are not natural forests or ancient forests and woodlands. They have, more often than not, been planted to be used and often there are or have been coppice woodlands. Coppice that is not being worked for anything loner than but a decade or two is in danger of collapsing and disintegrating; meaning that there will, suddenly be nothing but fallen trees and root stocks that are broken apart. Our woods need to be worked and worked for profit as well, if possible. That does not mean that they have to be exploited.
This bring me to a little subject by way of digression: we will be on track again in a second... however, it is often claimed that is we use less paper we will have less trees and forests cut down. The fact is if we did not have the paper industry and the need for wood pulp many woods and forests that we have today in Europe, for instance, would not exist and many areas would not b e having trees at all.
I know that there are many amongst the environmental activists that think they know better and who claim that if woods and forests would be left to their own devices and if we did not use paper from trees our forests and woodlands would be better but this is not the case. In fact it is a lie and most of them know that too. Why they continue to perpetuate such falsehoods I cannot say but they do do that.
If it would not bee for some of the forest product industries we would have less woods and forests, of that we can be sure, and much more of the land that is currently in wood would be either used for this or that crop – today more than likely for bio-fuel crops – or even be built upon.
Wood is also a bio fuel; in fact the most natural of all bio-fuels. Wood has been used to keep us warm, cook our food, heat the metal in our forges, and so on and so on, for centuries, nay millenniums even, well before coal and oil, and it can save us yet again.
The burning of wood, for instance, releases only the amount of carbon dioxide that the tree has absorbed and converted during its lifetime and probably less even. With the right clean burning technology and all that wood can be more efficient today than coal and oil and wood could even be gasified and vehicles run on it. Then again vehicles be best run on the fuel that old Tin Lizzy Ford designed then to run on in the first place, namely methane gas. Yes, gas from sewerage, for instance. Same as the first electrical power plant was run on as well. But, alas, I once again digressed.
Wood has so many uses that it is amazing that so many woodland owners have no idea what resources they have and how to actually make them pay and enable them to increase their forests' productivity by ploughing back resources into it that came from the woods in the first place. Owning and managing a woodland or forest is a two-way affair and not just a one-way affair of taking only and not giving back and any good woodland owner is a husbandman, a steward of the land and will always plant anew and always replenish the trees.
Coppicing has been a system that has been in use in the British Isles – and other places where suitable trees are about and abound – for the managing of woodlands and forests and it is a system that keeps a woodland nigh on indefinitely productive.
Unfortunately much of the skills of proper coppicing is getting lost and in addition to that too many of the misguided environmentalists have been ranting and raving against the rotation coppice operations.
Proper professional woodland and forest management continuously improves those environments and ecosystems in a way that benefits everyone and everything, and it is such a shame that commercial forestry has such a bad image amongst the environmental lobby.
Without commercial forestry and commercially managed woodlands our planet would be far less green, regardless of what some, who, I am afraid to say, have no real knowledge of the subject b but think that they happen to know everything just because they have read this or that book, think and say, often way to vociferously.
While woodlands and forest might still exist in their ancient form had the hand of man not touched them, in most places of the world woods and forests have been worked my man for many thousand years if more more and here is virtually no forest that has not been worked.
The truth is that the management of woods and forests – and the word forests, by the way, means different things to different countries - is what has, in most cases, preserved woods and forests rather than the opposite, as is, so often, being claimed by the misguided ones in the environmental movement.
Without commercial forestry and woodland management for profit there would be none of those woods and forest in the prime condition that they are in presently. Commercial forestry, at least the true kind of commercial forestry not only extracts timer from the woods and forest; nay it also replants and that in a large scale.
Any professional forester knows that he does not work for the immediate gain and for the present or even a year or ten hence; he knows that he works for the future generations. Most foresters will never see the tree they they plant now or the ten year or so old trees they care for now to grow to maturity. This is for others in the future.
Without that kind of woodland and forest management, however, most woods and forests that there are today would not, as I said already, exist.
Urban forestry too can play a great role and here too the woods and forest could and indeed should be manageable for income. Whether or not then the income is wholly or partly used to replenish is another question but the income can be used to do so. Any forester in his or her right mind would also do just that.
Woods and forests are are source that can and must be managed for sustainable use in that the timber must be cut as when when ready – why else would such woods be managed otherwise. At the same time any such managed woods and forests, whether privately owned or publicly owned, in whichever way, need to have replanting schemes in operation at all times and also, as and where possible, should be expanded.
We need more woods and forests and that not only in the United Kingdom though the British Isles definitely need more woodlands. They are one of the less wooded countries in Europe.
Trees are the lungs of the planet and – while some have claimed otherwise – are what can keep the CO2 balanced to some degree.
So let's plant more trees and properly manage them, for the benefit of the planet as well as for income and, dare I mention it, profit. But then, some will say, he would say that seeing that he comes from the commercial forestry sector.
© M Smith (Veshengro), January 2009