SustainAbility Newsletter

Sustainable Forestry

By: Steven Jones Ph.D.

Sustainable ForestryForty years ago (ancient times when I undertook my undergraduate forestry degree), I understood forestry to be the study of forests, leading to a bachelors degree that would enable me to work in the woods, where I found peace, fulfillment, and satisfaction. The formal textbook definition then would not have differed much from how Webster’s online Science Dictionary defines forestry today, “The scientific study of the cultivation, maintenance, and management of forests.” We didn’t use the term sustainable forestry then. However, all of my courses made clear that forestry explicitly encompassed the notion that whatever we did, we must practice the craft (the art and science of forestry) in a way that both met the needs of today and assured that we could meet the demands of tomorrow and beyond, providing from the forest an undiminished flow of goods and services.

Studying forestry did enable my dream of working in the woods, at least for the first decade or so of my career. Positions advancing me in the forest products industry and then in higher education have taken me further from the field, but have allowed me to occasionally live my passion for the craft. I’ve watched forestry shift and adapt, accommodating and encompassing emerging global interest in the broad arena of sustainability consciousness, philosophy, and practice, a movement that continues to gain traction among individuals, business and industry, communities, and nations. When I first began to hear sustainable forestry, probably in the 90s, I questioned the need for a redundant term. I even wrote an editorial for my profession’s scientific journal, challenging the need for stating what to me was unnecessary and somehow suggested that there was a brand of forestry that is not sustainable. I have since come to accept the addition, recognizing that sustainability is such an absolutely required concept and condition for our future that prefacing forestry with the adjective is a mark of progress and affirmation, even if for me it has always been implied.

Is there such a thing as forestry that is not sustainable? For me the answer is an emphatic ‘no.’ Quite simply, if it’s not sustainable, it isn’t forestry. For example, during my tenure at Penn State’s School of Forest Resources in the late 80s through the mid-90s, I worked tirelessly to educate private forest landowners, urging them to seek the assistance of a professional forester before conducting a sale of timber. Far too often, landowners sold timber to a buyer who convinced them that their precious forest “needed” to be “selectively” harvested, a euphemism for “high-grading,” a logging practice that creamed the better trees, leaving the landowner with a degraded forest with little ability to meet future desired objectives, including income generation. Was that unsustainable forestry? No, it was poorly advised timber harvesting persuasively and unscrupulously passed along under the false banner of forestry.

Is all timber harvesting unsustainable? Absolutely not, cutting/harvesting is one of the principal tools of forestry, enabling landowners to generate income and manipulate the forest stand to maximize a particular benefit (like timber yield, water conservation, game production) or optimize a mix of attributes produced by the forest. Timber cutting reallocates the forest site’s productivity to preferred species, designed habitat, or other desired condition. Properly prescribed, science-based cutting is sustainable, in part because forestry depends upon stand management (e.g., prescribed cutting) as a tool for achieving the long term, undiminished flow of goods and services the landowner and society require and demand.

Sustainable forestry has a nice ring to it, even if die-hard, old-school foresters like me view the term as redundant. The forest is an ever-changing, dynamic system. Trees die, species composition shifts, and otherwise undisturbed forests change and develop in a predictable manner over time. Applied forestry modifies and to some extent controls these natural shifts to achieve landowner objectives. Although a still relatively new term, sustainable forestry relies upon several centuries of applied forest science. Sustainable forestry is not a feel-good, emergent version of a kindler and gentler forestry. It’s simply the deliberate and systematic application of what we know and have known, for the purpose of assuring that we can meet the needs of today and provide for tomorrow in a sustainable, undiminished flow.
Stephen Jones, PhD. is a Senior Fellow at the International Sustainability Council and President of Urbana University.
For more information on Sustainable Forestry visit the Sustainable forestry Initiative website at:


References and Sources used in this issue of SustainAbility Newsletter Include:

Audubon Lifestyles 

The International Sustainability Council 

Sustainability Campaign

Golfs Drive Toward Sustainability

World Migratory Bird Day

The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America

The United States Golf Association (USGA)

Sustainable Golf & Development

Sustainable Forest Initiative

National Geographic

International Migratory Bird Day 2011


SustainAbility Newsletter Archive Article (random)

Sustainable Business Tips

  • Save energy! Turn off the lights when it is sunny and use natural daylight. Use motion sensors, and leave emergency lights on at night. 
  • Save money! Turn off your equipment when not in use. Use power strips to connect equipment and turn the power strips off for any equipment that does not need to run overnight. Thus, you will save money by not paying for phantom loads. When electronics and appliances are plugged in, but are not in use, they still burn energy. 
  • Save time and supplies! Maintain your equipment. Use compact fluorescent light bulbs or LED lights that will last for years. Stop printing and faxing and use e-documents. Work with all third party clients to eliminate mail and pay bills online. This will save you time, money, and materials. You all win!
  • Build new opportunities! How can you reuse any material until it reaches its end of life or usefulness? How can you create new products and services from other people’s or your own waste? Can you make something new out of what you once perceived as junk or garbage? Can I buy products that are organic, recycled, remanufactured, or used?
  • Save Your Sanity! Educate and engage your employees and customers. Get them actively involved as you cannot do it alone. Build your network to gain new ideas and share success stories. 
  • Be Proud! Eliminate waste by recycling and offer products your customers can recycle. You can also compost to reduce landfill waste, reduce usage of raw materials, buy local, buy smart, and buy back. Toot your horn if you want. You now have a major competitive advantage. 
  • Buy smart! Buy reused, recycled, remanufactured, or energy efficient appliances.



References and Sources used in this issue of SustainAbility Newsletter Include:

Audubon Lifestyles

The International Sustainability Council

The Daily Green

The Paramus Post

Sustainability Campaign

Energy Star


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A Coalition for Good - Spreading the Seeds of Sustainability

ISC-Audubon is a coalition of non-profit organizations and initiatives that include The International Sustainability Council (ISC), Audubon Lifestyles, Audubon Outdoors, Planit Green, Broadcast Audubon, and the Audubon Network for Sustainability. 

Funds generated through memberships and donations are used to provide fruit & vegetable seeds, wildflower seed mix, and wildlife feed & birdseed to urban and suburban communities around the world. These seeds are used by communities to establish fruit and vegetable gardens, bird and wildlife sanctuaries, and for the beautification of urban and suburban landscapes by creating flower and native plant gardens.

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