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Finding Common Ground on Forest Health, Forest Markets
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a conversation with The NAture Conservancy

For a recent project on healthy forests, healthy markets and healthy communities, NWPCA had the honor to sit down with several leading environmental organizations and discuss wood packaging’s integral role to each of those three segments.

Finding common ground is critical when it comes to healthy forests, and NWPCA is excited to partner with organizations who share our common goals. Speaking on newly released video, “Wood Packaging Supports Healthy Forests and Strong Communities,” were Tom Martin, president and CEO, The American Forest Foundation; Larry Selzer, president and CEO, The Conservation Fund; Jay Farrell, executive director, The National Association of State Foresters; Carlton Owen, president & CEO, U.S. Endowment for Forestry & Communities; Brent McClendon, CAE, president & CEO, NWPCA.

"Forest products that are traditionally underutilized, such as salvage lumber and small diameter trees, need demand to create sustainable markets. Durable uses such as pallets and crates present an excellent opportunity for this woody thinned material. We like to see timber uses, such as wood pallets, that increase the value of sustainably harvested, lower value timber so more effective forest management can be implemented that improves overall forest condition and health in the future." ~ Chris Topik, The Nature Conservancy

Chris Topik, director of Restoring America’s Forests, The Nature Conservancy, provided extensive comments to NWPCA on the value of partnerships, and where healthy, well-managed forests intersect with the wood packaging industry. “Many partners from many sectors are desperately needed to help our nation find durable solutions for healthy forests and the necessary lifegiving benefits they provide. It requires many voices to achieve the future forests our children and grandchildren will absolutely depend on for their health and economic well-being,” stated Topik.

Working together works for the environment and for the economy. McClendon noted, “The wood packaging industry supports local communities and healthy forests. We have a responsibility to build a future with healthier forests, cleaner water, and safer work environments.”

Here we present a Q&A conversation with Chris Topik of The Nature Conservancy, where he directs their North America priority project, “Restoring America’s Forests.” The project helps restore forest health and improve ecological management of America’s forests to sustainably provide water, wildlife, recreation and forest products nationwide.

What is the mission of your organization?

The Nature Conservancy’s mission is conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends, for the benefit of both nature and people. Protecting and stewarding trees and forests is at the heart of our mission. We have been doing this since 1951; our first project was a forest protection effort at Mianus River Gorge in New York state, and now we are working in all U.S. states and over 70 nations.

Where do you see the intersection between the wood packaging industry and your mission?

Healthy, well-managed forests are where the wood packaging industry and The Nature Conservancy share a core interest. Today a forested area the size of Oregon is in need of restoration on U.S. Forest Service lands alone—partly due to the lack of natural low-intensity fires, leading to overly dense forests choked with small trees and brush. These overstuffed forests become fuel for harmful megafires, which hurt people, water, and wildlife. Science-based, sustainable tree harvest for wood products on public and private lands can help bring some of these overstuffed forests back to a healthier condition.

Forest products that are traditionally underutilized, such as salvage lumber and small diameter trees, need demand to create sustainable markets. Durable uses such as pallets and crates present an excellent opportunity for this woody thinned material. We like to see timber uses, such as wood pallets, that increase the value of sustainably harvested, lower value timber so more effective forest management can be implemented that improves overall forest condition and health in the future.

What are some of the key challenges to improving the health of our nation’s forests?

Finding markets for thinned, low value small diameter trees is a major challenge, and The Nature Conservancy is working with partners in local forest collaboratives around the country to help find durable solutions. Another challenge is the wildfire crisis— our nation’s 10 biggest fire years have all come since 2000. This is not normal, and our federal forest agencies currently don’t have the support they need to both fight megafires and, at the same time, restore forests to help make them more resistant to and resilient to megafires. Currently emergency firefighting takes away resources that are needed to care for forests: we are borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, and will continue to precipitously fall behind until we get a fire funding fix.

Further, international trade volume and complexity is ever increasing, and with that the rising threat of invasive forest insects and diseases in non-compliant solid wood packaging. This threat can be mitigated by international wood pallet and container organizations working diligently to comply fully with international solid wood packaging heat treatment standards (ISPM15), proactively preventing fraud in the supply chain of packaging and containerizing, and adhering to the highest science and policy standards throughout the world.

What project are you most proud of that is helping address forest health challenges?

The Nature Conservancy is proud to work in science-based, collaborative efforts with citizen and industry groups on both forest restoration projects and policy. Our deep involvement in the Forest Service Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration program and additionally with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in the Joint Chiefs Landscape Restoration Partnership are two examples in which we, and many other citizens, industries, and agencies design and implement forest management that improves forest health, sustainability, and resilience.

On the policy side we promote best practices to protect nature, including working with the NWPCA. We believe that our high ethical standards, discussion and consensus based approaches, and hard work in relationship building and projects over the long term serve to protect forest health worldwide. These relationships have allowed us to work with different stakeholders that comprise different parts of the integrated systems that solid wood packaging is a part of, including Customs and Border Protection, USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, the forest products industry, and of course, NWPCA, to find common ground on important forest health issues.

How do healthy forests and the wood packaging industry help improve local communities?

The United States is home to the world’s tallest, biggest, and oldest trees. Forests cover a third of our nation and provide more than half our water. They support more than a million forest industry jobs, absorb around 15% of our carbon emissions, and offer a million square miles for hikers, hunters, and campers. More than 4,000 American plants and wildlife make a home in our forests. There is not a more valuable resource for life and livelihood on the planet, period. Maintaining durable, healthy forests goes a long way to maintaining a durable, healthy nation.

How does current and future collaboration with NWPCA help advance your organization’s goals?

Many partners from many sectors are desperately needed to help our nation find durable solutions for healthy forests and the necessary lifegiving benefits they provide. It requires many voices to achieve the future forests our children and grandchildren will absolutely depend on for their health and economic well-being. Together we can ensure sustainably harvested trees are used in a manner that improves success of the industry while conserving the natural resources and lovely forests that we, in the long run, all depend on.

How can the wood packaging industry better support you in the future?

The Nature Conservancy and the wood packaging industry need to continue working together to understand and promote the mutually beneficial, effective regulation and enforcement of the international solid wood packaging market. In so many places, the interests of the forest conservation community overlap neatly with those of the solid wood packaging industry, and focusing on those places of shared concern will be what brings us forward, together. Protecting trees and forests isn’t just important for industry, or non-profits- it is important to everyone. I believe that shared communications with the public and enhanced collaboration are vital. Together we can stress the values for maintaining healthy forests for the myriad of benefits we all depend on, including wood, wildlife, water and recreation.

Watch the video

(Article published in PalletCentral Magazine, May-June 2018)


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