Part of my responsibility as Senior Forester at FSC-U.S. is to facilitate interaction between members and stakeholders from the environmental, economic and social chambers of the FSC. Most often this happens through the standards development process, including working group meetings and the obligatory two-month public comment period for regional standards.
Recently I had the opportunity to bring together a group of individuals representing various constituencies in the Southeast with seemingly differing views on how their local and regional forests should be managed. Josh Dickinson and Steve Taranto from the Forest Management Trust, Warren Boyette, a regional Forest Stewards Guild representative, and Danna Smith and Scot Quaranda from the Dogwood Alliance joined Ben Addlestone (FSC-U.S.), Ken Cousins (FSC-U.S.), and me for a visit to some interesting forests in the Carolinas.
The field trip was intended to acquaint these key stakeholders with the management techniques of Handley Forestry Consultants of Florence, South Carolina. Don Handley, a longtime member of FSC-U.S.’s southeast working group, manages several thousand acres of privately owned forest using uneven-aged silviculture with loblolly and longleaf pine as crop trees. Uneven-aged management is considered by most industrial and other foresters in the south as undesirable compared to the prevailing even-aged management, which maximizes short-term profitability. Handley Forestry, however, has mastered how to manage for a range of ages and sizes of trees on every acre indefinitely while providing short and long term economic viability, managing for southern yellow pine sawtimber. Under Handley management, landowners get a high quality saw timber stand established that produces timber every 5 years on about a 10% rate of return while incurring a low tax burden. This uneven-aged management is ecologically superior in many ways to standard industrial management while offering an equivalent income as do industrial practices over time. Handley Forestry’s management also emphasizes wildlife habitat, particularly for the red cockaded woodpecker.
This field trip is a beginning of a process that I believe can build a foundation for FSC in the Southeast. Although FSC is directing more and more efforts to getting FSC-certified supply into the paper market, we recognize the need to encourage landowners to manage their properties for other habitats than those that result from management for pulpwood. This is particularly relevant in the Southeast, which is the source of the majority of fiber in the U.S., yet contains some of the most diverse and rare forests in the country. Handley-managed forests do provide pulpwood from thinnings to the paper market, but the key to economic viability of the Handley management scheme is a market for high quality southern yellow pine sawtimber. Practical support from FSC members, of all chambers as well as our business partners toward establishing such a market can support this type of innovative silviculture and its host of multiple benefits to society and the environment.