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"Sustainable forestry for New Hampshire's future" By Sam Payton

Healthy forests are the backbone of New Hampshire's tourism and forest products industries. Sustainable forestry practices are necessary to insure the economic future of New Hampshire, and are an important means of protecting the quality of the environment both in forest regions and the cities and suburbs that surround them.

One third of the United States is now comprised of forestland, nearly 747 million acres. Those trees are the source for more than 5,000 products that Americans use everyday, from the timbers in the houses we live in to the lye in our soap. Forestry practices further determine the economic strength of a region when one considers forests, lakes and other natural areas for their tourist value.

With rapid expansion in rural areas and increasing standards of living, humans increase the burden on our ecosystems. This has led to the widespread use of clear-cut timber harvesting and excessive use heavy machinery. These logging practices clear areas of forest quickly, reducing the cost of goods made from those timbers. This 'take everything and run approach' may save us money when we purchase that bar of soap, but the difference comes out of our taxes. Our taxes support government programs designed retroactively to combat the environmental problems associated with irresponsible forestry practices. When vast tracts are cut using heavy machinery, the soil is compacted and the ability of the soil to filter the water is compromised. Federal and state funding pays for erosion remediation measures and funds air and water quality research.

Government funding for reforestation is often limited to replanting with high value timber species such as White Pine. Visitors come to New Hampshire to enjoy hiking, camping, peaceful streams, beautiful vistas and, above all, fall foliage. Though reforested White Pines may provide timber for the next generation, leaf peepers pay little attention to conifers. In addition, row planted, tree mono-crop agriculture does not result in healthy natural climax forests. Mono-crop tree production is also susceptible to plant disease and pests that thrive in single species environments.

Tourism is a valuable economic incentive to preserve the Northern Forest, but conservation also comes from the heart. Our landscape is intrinsic to our identity and culture. A natural forest is full of life in abundance. Consider for a moment the alternative: the landscape of New Hampshire nothing but brambles, poplar and tire treads captured in dried mud, maturing through time into rows of Christmas Trees.

A more holistic approach to forest management is necessary to avoid these consequences. Woodlot management by landowners can be both sustainable and provide a steady income. Selective cutting and thinning of forestlands can be accomplished by land stewards equipped with a chainsaw. Forest products harvested using sustainable forestry practices can provide the landowner and their neighbors with all the wood that they need year after year. A forest that is host to a variety of species will provide for diverse uses within the household economy. Small diameter hardwood can be used for the fireplace; the sugar maple supplies delicious syrup; balsam fir can provide lumber and raw materials for making wreaths; the nuts of the beech trees will keep the furry forest creatures happy; and the majestic White Pine can be groomed (by knocking off the lower dead limbs as it grows) to produce knot-free timber to finish our homes. Deciduous trees indigenous to temperate forests (the cherry, sugar maple, ash and oak) are unparalleled for the production of fine furniture. Northern hardwood has such a high value internationally, that it is often shipped overseas to be processed. Instead of buying exotic rainforest woods, we can utilize our own backyards.

Sustainable utilization of our woodlands not only benefits rural community members, creating a local source of income, but also benefits the global community. By preserving water and air quality, working to prevent erosion, creating recreational areas, preserving the fall foliage, we can live and work within a healthy forest.

Clear cuts will not be stopped by a change in government policy, but rather by reducing the demand for its products. Every cord of wood that we can harvest ourselves, every ream of recycled paper that we purchase, each time that we reuse a wood product rather than simply buying something new, we stop unnecessary cutting. If you do not have a forest in your backyard… ask your neighbor, or your neighbor's neighbor, about their sustainable forestry practices.

 


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