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Certified Timber and Forests Products

From an economic perspective, timber has historically been the most important ecosystem product. In developed countries with large tracts of forest land (particularly Canada and the US), traditional forest management practices have relied upon clear felling as the principal means of timber extraction, followed soon after by manual re-stocking with the aim of regenerating an even-aged monoculture stand in the shortest possible time. The rationale for this harvest and planting regime is largely economic – minimize harvesting costs and the interval between subsequent harvests.

A significant issue with this industrial-style model is that it produces stands with a spatial structure considerably less complex than the pre-harvest condition and diminishes the full range of ecosystem goods and services. A second issue is that the minimum-cost commodity production cycle is difficult to sustain in today’s increasingly global marketplace. Plantations established in more favorable climates (often in the developing world) with much higher growth rates are supplying the timber market with relatively low-cost products. This is squeezing the revenue margins of traditional producers, forcing them into adopting even lower cost options to remain competitive. As more land is converted into plantations, further increases in supply will drive prices even lower. An alternative approach is to shift practices away from exclusive short-rotation management by modifying harvesting practices and extending rotations to produce larger, high quality logs while promoting development of additional ecosystem goods and services. Large logs have become a relatively scarce commodity but they continue to hold a market premium, and marketing additional ecosystem assets through, for example, conservation easements and carbon credits serves to broaden potential revenue streams beyond a timber-only focus. Binkley et al (2006; An ecosystem-based forestry investment strategy. See www.inforain.org) provide an excellent description of this balanced approach for the coastal temperate rainforests of North America.

3GreenTree has direct experience developing management plans that meet the standards necessary to achieve Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. Forest products derived from FSC-certified forests command a market premium. This is in part because buyers are seeking assurance that their purchases originate from well-managed forest, and because FSC standards promote the development of high quality timber. This usually requires landowners to modify their operating practices and to extend forest rotations. At this point, carbon and other ecosystem services become important – landowners enhance market opportunities through FSC certification but achieve more balanced returns by incorporating additional ecosystem assets. For example, carbon credits represent an excellent opportunity to derive revenue from a property as part of the process of shifting towards a timber management strategy that focuses on producing logs of exceptional quality.

 

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Copyright 2012 3GreenTree Ecosystem Services Ltd.

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