Why cut down a tree?

Wood is the most renewable and environmentally-friendly raw material at our disposal. Harvesting wood requires the cutting of trees. Timber harvest meets a wide range of forest objectives beyond just wood.

Why should we love to cut down a tree? Here are 10 reasons.

First, we all use wood. A lot of wood. At least four to five pounds every day. This is a good thing. Managed forests grow wood forever, and we currently grow far more wood than we use. Other raw materials have limited supplies, even if some of them occur in abundance. Full life cycle accounting for carbon and energy clearly demonstrates wood is far more sustainable than other raw materials. Substituting wood for other materials, where possible, is nearly always the more eco-friendly choice.  

Second, removing the correct trees from a woodland area helps maintain forest health and vigor. This is the single best way to prevent or minimize the effects of insects and diseases. Nature has a peculiar habit of killing forests in dramatic, if sometimes gradual, ways. This is especially true of our current forests, which are results of extreme disturbance from the historic logging era.    

Third, a managed forest can greatly enhance the financial value of trees. Money from the forest is a good objective and can be quite lucrative if done properly. Tens of millions of acres are managed this way by corporations that report to stockholders. Many IRA retirement portfolios include these companies. It works. 

Fourth, cutting trees encourages regeneration and future forests.  Different tree species have different requirements for light, soil, water, etc.  Opening-up a stand in a way that encourages desired species is important to obtain the kinds of forest we want to see. 

Fifth, managed forests produce higher quality and a greater amount of ecological services, such as soil quality, clean water, carbon sequestration, nutrient retention and more. Essentially, we get more “stuff” when we manage. Nature does not work for us, but we can manage forests to work for us. 

Sixth, human population growth and demand for forest products and services are increasing. Forest area, on the other hand, is not. The rate at which the forest has been expanding is beginning to slow. More and more forest is being parcelized, contributing to millions of forest acres that are far more difficult to manage than larger tracts. This means managing forest acres that remain available to management will become increasingly important. 

Seventh, most species of wildlife, especially vertebrate wildlife, depend upon forests for at least part of their habitat requirements. There are numerous examples of animal species that have been brought back from low populations through forest management. The poster child, perhaps, is the Kirtland’s warbler. Cutting trees is an essential tool for creating habitat conditions for many wildlife species, especially game species.   

Eighth, cutting trees is key to forest restoration efforts. The vast majority of our forest has been highly altered by past practices, mostly historic and some more recently. Nature, by itself, will seldom work along these restoration pathways. 

Ninth, many dozens of non-timber forest products can be encouraged by forest management. Maple syrup, blueberries, mushrooms, nuts, fruits, medicines and craft materials are just a few products that contribute to hobbies and cottage industries.   

Lastly, family forests are excellent tools to serve family cohesion. Forests can be important focal points for recreation and foster a deeper understanding of forest ecology. Forest management, when done as a family affair, increases a sense of belonging and stewardship. This can lead to longer ownership tenure, stronger families and, often, better managed forests.    

The multitude of benefits and bounty from forests can only be obtained by managing for them. Left on its own, nature will not work in these directions. It’s important to note that forests will survive just fine without us if we all disappeared from the planet tomorrow. However, our survival requires the goods and services from forests. Forests are managed for people, rather than strictly from some altruistic fervor. We ignore forests at our own peril. 

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