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Cut and stay:Managing forestsfor the long run

Beyond rhetoric and theory, the Ecotrust Forest Management model of managing resources for the long term is benefiting investors, communities, and forests right now.

“There is cut and run, but there is also cut and stay.”

So said Dr. John Gordon at a recent meeting with Ecotrust Forest Management (EFM), a for-profit forestland investment management subsidiary created by Ecotrust in 2004.

Dr. Gordon, former Dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences and current board member of EFM, refutes the shopworn paradigm of jobs vs the environment, or in this case forest preservation vs logging. Most people now know that this is nonsense: the product of another false dichotomy that favors short-term “cash” versus long-term “wealth” generation.

At Ecotrust and EFM we don’t just believe it is possible to restore formerly degraded forests, mitigate climate change, create jobs, and at the same time generate returns for investors. We do it every day.

large group of men and women standing in a deep green forest talking
Board members from Ecotrust and Ecotrust Forest Management gather for a field tour of Garibaldi.

Taking the long view

What John Gordon meant by “cut and stay” is harvesting trees in a way that best mimics natural disturbance regimes — lengthening the average rotation age at which a tree is cut, increasing species, age class and structural diversity, and reducing chemical use. Staying with a forest also implies relying more on natural regeneration, reducing the risk of invasive species, insects, disease and fire, and paying close attention to soil health, while improving water quality and biodiversity.

This may sound like a tall order, but “staying” is simply taking the long view and building wealth and resilience for generations to come.

This is what Ecotrust Forest Management is all about. In the 12 years since EFM was founded, we’ve made significant progress with our “cut and stay” strategy. Some of the results include:

Raising almost $100 million in equity, program-related investments from foundations, and New Markets Tax Credits from more than 100 investors in two separate funds.

Acquiring 13 separate forest properties, totaling more than 36,000 acres in Oregon and Washington.

Logging a total of more than 10 million board feet — enough to build more than 330 homes — while growing over four times more forest volume than we have cut.

Storing more than 1.7 million metric tons of CO2 in our forests, an equivalent of to the annual emissions from over 380,000 cars.

Generating direct and indirect employment of approximately 28 full time equivalent positions — including loggers, foresters, tree planters, road contractors, fence builders, researchers, professional consultants, and EFM staff.

And this is just the beginning. EFM has facilitated the restoration and transition of more than 3,300 acres to tribal and conservation ownership and is working closely with tribes and local partners to fence springs, seeps, aspen groves and wetlands, replaced culverts, improved roads, and restored 60 miles of salmon and steelhead streams. They have sold conservation easements and forest carbon credits, leased forest grasslands to ranchers for grazing, and created public access for hunting, camping, and recreational uses.

“It is an investment, pure and simple, in the only future we have.”

 

an aerial view of a patchwork of forest
An aerial view of the Sooes River Forest.

None of this would have been possible without the partnership of dozens of tribes, public agencies, forest product companies, conservation organizations, ranchers, and committed investors — collaborations that by their very composition are the antithesis of short-term self-interest; who know there is another way than to cut and run.

What is important about the tangible benefits that EFM has realized over the last 12 years is that they are real-world examples and proofs positive that restoration forestry works. There is nothing ephemeral or aspirational about a cut-and-stay approach to forest management. The fact is it works, and as a metaphor for a new way of doing forestry in our bioregion, it is all the more powerful for being grounded in real experience, not rhetoric.

That’s how Ecotrust Forest Management has chosen and will continue to place our bets. Except it actually is no gamble at all. It is an investment in nature, pure and simple, in the only future we have, the only future we can share.