Here in the Pacific Northwest, forests are fundamental to our way of life — providing immeasurable social, economic, and environmental benefits to local communities. But too often, our forests are managed only for the timber they produce.
Ecotrust’s Forests & Ecosystem Services program aims to transform the dominant forest management paradigm here in the Northwest and around the world to one that more closely mimics natural forest processes, while providing for our region. In a carbon-constrained world, the transition to climate-smart forestry will only be possible if we better align our policies and markets with our values. Ecotrust creates the tools, the structures, and the research to support climate-smart forest management. We are demonstrating that our forests can store more carbon, provide high quality habitat for native fish and wildlife, offer recreational and economic development opportunities, and produce clean and abundant water, all while supporting a robust and reliable forest products industry.
The iconic forests of the Pacific Northwest stand to offer one the best solutions in our increasingly warming world: the ability to draw carbon down from the atmosphere and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Our Forests & Ecosystem Services team, in partnership with the University of Washington, recently published a peer-reviewed study that quantified the impacts of forest management on carbon storage, culminating with the article “Tradeoffs in Timber, Carbon, and Cash Flow under Alternative Management Systems for Douglas-Fir in the Pacific Northwest” in the open-source journal Forests. The study results illustrate a path forward for increased carbon storage in our forests by opting to change forest management practices to what we call climate-smart forestry, forestry that can sequester and store an average of at least 30% more carbon than common practice.
To move the needle towards wide-scale adoption of climate-smart forest management, we need new policies that support the wide array of goods and services forests provide. And we need to link forest to frame, bridging the gap between builders and the raw materials from forests managed with our rapidly changing climate in mind. One such connection is the new Climate-Smart Wood Group, convening for the first time in March 2019. Launched by Ecotrust and partners NW Natural Resource Group, Sustainable NW, Forest Stewardship Council, and Washington Environmental Council, the group is meant to activate architects, designers, green builders, and construction organizations interested in addressing climate change through their use of wood and their procurement processes of buying wood.
A partner for tribes, landowners, and communities
Ecotrust is working to spur a significant shift in ecological, climate-smart forest management through our work with family forest landowners, Native American tribes, and public land managers across the region.
Our Forest Planner tool was built to help landowners large and small meet the challenges of managing forestlands for their many benefits — from wildlife habitat, carbon storage, clean water and other ecosystem services, to timber products. This user-friendly tool allows landowners and forest managers to visualize changes to their forests over time under different harvest scenarios and then compare the results with a focus on outputs such as timber, carbon, and revenue.
Healthy watersheds, healthy forests, healthy ecosystems
Restoring our forests and critical watersheds not only makes good ecological sense, but is a boon to local economies: Did you know that over the last decade, restoration work across the state of Oregon has created over 6,000 jobs and $900 million in economic output? Through a public-private partnership program, we worked for more than a decade to coordinate investments from federal and state agencies and restore the major ecological functions of priority watersheds that have high ecological importance and strong community support in Oregon, Washington and Idaho as partners in the Whole Watershed Restoration Initiative.
We have long known that forests are an integral part of the solution to climate change. In the Pacific Northwest, our forests are globally unique in their capacity to capture and store immense amounts of carbon from the atmosphere.