Todd F. Shupe | 7/22/2005 7:50:37 PM
Forests will continue to be an integral part of the landscape of Louisiana and the entire South for years to come, according to speakers at a recent conference sponsored by the LSU AgCenter’s School of Renewable Natural Resources.
More than 100 attended the symposium held in Baton Rouge on July 19-20, according to Dr. Todd Shupe, one of the organizers of the conference.
The conference focused on regulatory issues, conservation, sustainability and certification of forest lands.
Shupe, a member of the faculty in the LSU AgCenter’s School of Renewable Natural Resources, said the audience included private and corporate landowners, loggers, foresters, mill operators and representatives of governmental agencies and environmental organizations.
While increasing urbanization puts pressure on forest resources and the environment, one expert said that, unlike row crop agriculture, forest harvesting is not an annual occurrence, and the land recovers as vegetation comes back.
"Forestry is not a permanent impact, but there is a recovery over time," said Dr. George Ice of the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement of Corvallis, Ore. "You have many options to achieve your environmental goals."
Ice said sustainable forest management has been improved by implementing best management practices that recognize technological, economic and institutional considerations.
Forests and forest products will continue to be important for rural economies in the South, said Dr. Dave Wear of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service.
Noting that the South produces more timber than any other "country" in the world, Wear, who is stationed at the Forest Service’s Southern Research Station in Research Triangle Park, N.C., said, "The South’s timber production won’t go away."
Wear said forest land is being taken up by urbanization but that some agricultural crop and pasture land is being replaced by forests.
He said nearly every acre of timber was harvested at one time or another and then gave way to agriculture. He suggested the shift from agriculture to forests is reversible, while the shift from agriculture or forests to urban areas is permanent.
As cities grow and if timber prices are strong, agricultural land would be moved to forests, he said.
"We’d get forests in different places," Wear said. "Urbanization is the dominant dynamic."
But as the South becomes more urbanized, the aesthetics of managed forests will become more important, one expert said.
"Because they can see it, people think they have a right to see an aesthetically pleasing forest," said Dr. Bill Rockwell of The Plum Line in St. Johns, Mich.
He said landowners and loggers should consider how their harvesting practices fit into the landscape.
Rockwell suggested improving the aesthetics of harvested land by selecting small areas for harvest, leaving curved boundaries between harvested and unharvested trees, and cutting treetops and other material left behind.
Dr. Kenneth Richards of Indiana University talked about climate change and policy options regarding greenhouse gas emissions.
"States have been leading the charge in reducing greenhouse gas emissions," he said.
Richards reported on his research that looked at how plants remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it in plant tissue. Carbon is one of the components of what are generally regarded as greenhouse gases, and removing carbon from the atmosphere reduces the presence of these gases and the global warming that results.
The Indiana University expert suggested that at some level government payments could subsidize forest lands to reduce carbon emissions in atmosphere.
In other presentations, Dr. Warren Flick, editor and publisher of Forest Tax Review in Athens, Ga., suggested federal tax law provides an opportunity to think of ecosystem management as an investment.
"Conservation is widely supported in federal tax law," he said.
Dr. Barbara McCutchan, director of enterprise stewardship and sustainability with MeadWestvaco in Stamford, Conn., said forest certification provides third-party credibility for forest management programs.
"Stewardship and sustainability are the price of participating in the market," she said.
Dr. Richard Vlosky, director of the LSU AgCenter’s Louisiana Forest Products Development Center, said forest certification came in response to clearcutting forests in the United States and illegally logging tropical hardwoods in other countries.
He said the industry needed third-party organizations to certify the companies are performing in an appropriate manner.
The management, not the land, is certified, Vlosky said.
Shupe said evaluations collected from the audience at the conference were "very positive." And he said the planning committee is considering conducting the conference every other year in conjunction with the LSU AgCenter’s Ag Outlook Conference held each winter.
In addition to the LSU AgCenter, sponsors of the event included the Southern Regional Extension Forester, the USDA Forest Service’s Southern Research Station, Boise Cascade Corp. LLC, Louisiana Forestry Association, Louisiana Society of American Foresters, The Nature Conservancy of Louisiana, Mockler Beverage Budweiser and the Louisiana Beer League.