Most of us become environmentalists as an affair of the heart, trying to protect special places from destructive change that we instinctively know is wrong. Deconstructing sustained yield, its history, philosophy and methodology is a complimentary rational exercise which can explain, especially to professional foresters and other industry people, why this destruction is wrong. If you understand this timber sustainability management framework you can effectively challenge its continuing degradation of forests.

Find out about timber planning. Find out about timber plans in your community.

Cumulative is the key word in understanding the effects of SY. Clearcutting, the usual liquidation method, is easy to see; explaining the cumulative legacy of SY is a little more difficult but far more important. The cumulative damage to forest health, to biodiversity, to water, carbon and climate regulation by forests (and also damage to local economies) by the history of SY in your community is very important.

A GIS, animation and/or video history of SY planning of local watersheds combined with a long term natural history of the area and biotic inventories can effectively show this cumulative damage. A Landsat map with past cutting color coded and planned (projected volumes translated into cutblocks) clearcuts shown as red pockmarks can be a very effective consciousness raiser - a poster that makes the timber planning pathogen's cumulative result visible to the average citizen.

Forest watch field trips and mapping exercises showing the history of land use and problems associated with SY can raise consciousness and help build an ecological literacy bond with your home place.

Remember that SY is also a planning schedule effecting second growth Protecting remaining old growth is key but in many jurisdictions allowing time for healing and natural restoration of forest health by preventing scheduled reharvesting is more important.

(Work for healthy forests in your local area but also be aware of planning in those places out of sight and mind, away from protective communities. And share your success and successful techniques with other jurisdictions. Think globally and help stop SY in places such as Chile and Siberia - degrading forest practices in these forests effects you too.)



SY remains the basis for professional forestry world-wide. It is outdated, outmoded and indefensible. If you and your environmental organization challenge continuing SY forestry this forest degrading pathogen will be eradicated within a decade.

Of course challenging a specialist with a professional education can be difficult but if you (or your organization) study the textbooks and curricula of professional forestry in your local university or college, you should be able to raise the questions of rearranging age classes and fragmentation and question whether the forestry proposed for your area is going to leave healthy forests for the future.

Be careful. Previous attempts to confront SY have been co-opted and marginalized. Often a faulted stakeholder consensus process is offered where input is limited to constraints on timber planning. Timber planning is the default plan for the area and your input is restricted to netting down set asides, such as protection for water or FENS; or your input is limited to constraints on harvesting methods or greenup restrictions on already planned harvesting. Insist that the process detail existing planning and the legacy of past planning. Insist that there must be consensus on planning frameworks to protect all values for full opportunity for all future generations.

"There are currently many plans for sustainable use or sustainable development that are founded upon scientific information and consensus. Such ideas reflect ignorance of the history of resource exploitation and misunderstanding of the possibility of achieving scientific consensus concerning resources and the environment. Although there is considerable variation in detail, there is remarkable consistency in the history of resource exploitation: resources are inevitably overexploited, often to the point of collapse or extinction."

Carl Walters, Donald Ludwig, Ray Hilborn

The term ecosystem management is being co-opted and used for obfuscation in forest management that remains SY forestry. Learn to recognize timber planning hidden in sustainable development language.

SY is commodity planning. Ecological economics is an evolving attempt to quantify the non-commodity values of ecosystems. Robert Costanza et el. THE VALUE OF THE WORLD'S ECOSYSTEM SERVICES AND NATURAL CAPITAL (Nature 15 May 96) is an attempt to put dollar values upon ecosystem services. This preliminary study shows that forest commodity production is far less important to human economies than the other forest ecosystem services not usually quantified. It should soon be possible to show that the cumulative effects of past SY forest management has actually lost money - forests redesigned for timber provide less valuable ecosystem services such as water and carbon regulation, etc.



Because SY is a well defined and globally shared forestry framework, if it is possible to confront and make an example of SY in one area, this should build an effective precedent that can be used to stop SY anywhere.

British Columbia, my own neck of the woods, could be a very effective tactical example if major environmental groups chose to focus an attack of continuing SY in B.C. forests.

Forestry in B.C. is continuing a fifty year scheduled elimination of old growth. Government forest policies such as the land-use planning CORE and the FOREST PRACTISES CODE promised a change from the bad old days of forestry but did not acknowledge or confront the fifty year old SY plan to convert old growth to tree crops. Actual cutting rates have declined by less than one percent. Clearcutting remains the harvesting method, eliminating old growth in 90% of timber cut. Measures to protect biodiversity must not impact harvest levels by more than a ridiculously meager 4%.

The government and industry have spent millions of dollars to convince the world that forestry has changed from the bad old days but all of the attributes of SY remain: bloated AACs, Tree Farm Licenses and Timber Supply Areas, documented endangered biodiversity and a sick forest industry addicted to high volumes of timber.

A well organized campaign to show continuing forest degrading SY barely hidden by cosmetic change and public relations could bring down the government and force the industry to change by reducing cutting levels down to sustainable levels. Such a campaign could refocus the environmental movement and serve as a powerful example to the industry in other jurisdictions.



Finally, SY was always an excuse to overharvest today and leave the problems for the future. You and I have benefited from the wealth created from managing forests for commodities. If you are serious about protecting forests you can't continue to demand a 4000 sq. ft. home and unlimited paper packaging and paper products. If you are serious about ending SY degradation of forests you must be part of the solution to cumulative demand of forest products. Duane Elgin, Alan Durning and other writer's concerned with the demand side of the environmental equation can help you evolve to a lifestyle that demands less of precious, endangered ecosystems - and live a fuller, richer life at the same time.


questions and comments



Green Thoughts


Sustained Yield