Sustainable forestry is a forestry practice which is designed to be sustainable in the long term, meaning that it can be continued into the foreseeable future without running out of resources or threatening the environment. This approach to forestry and forest management is increasingly popular in many regions of the world as consumer concern about the environment grows, driving companies which use environmental resources to think about environmental problems when developing business practices. Many forestry schools offer training in sustainable forestry for students who are interested in this practice.
Forestry in general is focused on exploiting timber resources as effectively and efficiently as possible. Timber products are used to make a wide variety of things, from parchment paper for baking to houses, and there is a steady demand for such products. Historically, foresters primarily focused on finding usable trees and cutting them, but by the middle ages in many regions of the world, foresters were recognizing the environmental problems associated with practices such as clear cutting, and steps were being taken to conserve and replenish timber resources.
One area of sustainable forestry involves the replenishment of resources by planting trees and promoting the creation of protected areas which can provide habitat for animals. Foresters are also concerned about issues such as erosion caused by clearcutting, damage to rivers which results from establishing roads for logging, and disruption to wildlife which can occur during helicopter logging. Sustainable foresters think about the short and long term impacts of logging and try to devise plans which allow them to get the resources they need without causing permanent damage.
For example, in sustainable forestry, instead of clearcutting, foresters may opt for selective logging, in which key trees are removed. This practice is more expensive and takes longer, but is less harmful to the environment. Likewise, foresters might opt to hold off on harvesting young trees until they have a chance to mature and become more useful, because the bigger the tree, the more potential value it has. Sustainable forestry is also concerned with topics like the types of fuels used in logging equipment, managing the demand for timber products, and keeping people employed in the timber industry to prevent economic problems, reflecting the fact that social sustainability is as important as environmental sustainability.
This practice is also applied in developing nations, where forestry education and outreach programs are used to get populations thinking about the value of natural resources. Historically, timber resources in the developing world have been heavily exploited, often by other nations, and sustainable foresters are working to protect these valuable resources for the citizens of these nations.