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A widely recognized definition of sustainable forest management is "the stewardship and use of forests and forest land in a way and at a rate, that maintains their biodiversity, productivity, regeneration capacity, vitality and their potential to fulfill, now and in the future, relevant ecological, economic, and social functions, at local, national, and global levels and does not cause damage to other ecosystems". (Pan European/Helsinki Process).
In simple terms, the concept can be described as the attainment of balance - balance between society's increasing demands for forest products and other benefits, and the preservation of forest health and diversity. This balance is critical to the survival of forests and the well-being of forest-dependent communities in all areas of the world.
Recent studies conducted as part of the U.S. Renewable Resources Planning Act (RPA) Assessment, a nationwide inventory mandated under U.S. Federal Law to be undertaken every 10 years, demonstrate that U.S. hardwood forests are not only growing in size and timber volume, but that existing forest management practices are contributing to enhanced forest health and diversity. Furthermore, the United States operates an effective and fully enforced regulatory framework to deliver sustainable forest management.
Confirmation of this conclusion comes from the independent peer-reviewed study commissioned by AHEC in 2008 from Seneca Creek Associates LLC entitled. An Assessment of Lawful Harvesting and Sustainability of U.S. Hardwood Exports. This report states that: "in assessing the breadth and effectiveness of various regulatory and non-regulatory programs that bear on the issues of legality and sustainability, all states in the US hardwood-producing region can be considered low risk for illegal and non-sustainable hardwood sourcing".
1] For the 2000 Renewable Resources Planning Act (RPA) Assessment see http://www.fs.fed.us/pl/rpa/rpaasses.pdf .
The 2000 RPA Assessment demonstrates that over the last 50 years, the inventory of hardwoods standing in U.S. forests has doubled as harvesting levels have remained well below the level of growth.
Latest data indicates that between 1953 and 2007, the volume of U.S. hardwood growing stock increased from 5,210 million m3 to 11,326 million m3. U.S. Forest Service forecasts indicate that further increases of 15 to 20 percent are expected in the hardwood growing stock inventory through 2030. Projections of hardwood growth and removals nationwide indicate that growth will continue to exceed removals through to 2050.This rate of growth is being achieved despite high levels of domestic hardwood consumption in the U.S. and the achievement of record levels of hardwood exports.
The area of hardwood forests in the United States has risen consistently over the last 50 years. Data published as part of the 2000 RPA Assessment shows that the area of hardwood and mixed hardwood/softwood timberlands increased by 18% between 1953 and 1997. In 1997, 92% of the area of stocked hardwood and mixed forests was in the eastern States and 8% in the western States.
For more information on sustainable forest management and why it's ecologically beneficial, please view the following: