There is not much debate that the environmental issue at the forefront of our minds these days is climate change.
There is also no doubt that by taking care of our forests we can address a lot of environmental challenges – including some related to climate change.
Just think for a moment what forests provide.
They are natural filters – removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing carbon as plants, leaf litter and soil.
They provide habitat and support biodiversity, they regulate water flows and protect water quality. They offer enjoyment and recreation. They also support local economies, and deliver a stable, and renewable, supply of the wood and paper products.
The many benefits of natural forests are often found in managed forests that supply the products we use every day. And the economic value is an added incentive for owners to manage their forests with care, and to maintain them as forest rather than selling them for profit – which often results in the forests being turned into malls or subdivisions.
At The Conservation Fund, we have long recognized this.
We know that forests offering value economically and socially are more likely to continue offering value environmentally.
That’s why we work with many partners to help communities develop sustainable solutions that integrate economic return with environmental quality.
That’s also why we certify our forest lands to a credible third-party certification program, and make sure we always ask for wood and paper products with on-product labels that show the fiber is from responsible, legal sources.
Third-party forest certification began as a response to market concerns about questionable forest activities, primarily in developing countries, and has become an important tool to promote sustainable forest management and responsible procurement around the world.
Only 10 percent of the world’s forests are certified and half of these certified lands are found in North America.
That’s likely because we have a choice of credible programs – such as the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and the Forest Stewardship Council. These programs have been endorsed by respected organizations and governments around the world, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan and France.
An on-product label that says a product is certified to a program such as SFI or FSC delivers assurance you are making a choice that represents conservation of biological diversity, protection of special sites, sustainable harvests, respect for local communities, and much more.
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In the United States and Canada, we are extremely fortunate. At a time when global deforestation and degradation account for 17 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, our forest land area is actually stable, if not increasing. At a time when illegal forest activities are contributing to deforestation and habitat destruction, we have laws in place to keep our forest lands healthy and resilient, making them less susceptible to wildfire, insects and disease.
And on top of that, we have the option of buying independently certified wood and paper products that we know come from responsible and legal sources.
Larry Selzer is president and CEO of The Conservation Fund (www.conservationfund.org), an environmental non-profit that works with many partners to demonstrate sustainable conservation solutions by integrating economic and environmental goals.