National Academies Press: OpenBook

Forestry Research: A Mandate for Change (1990)

Chapter:1. Societal Needs and Concerns for the Forest

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Suggested Citation:"1. Societal Needs and Concerns for the Forest." National Research Council. 1990. Forestry Research: A Mandate for Change. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1538.
Suggested Citation:"1. Societal Needs and Concerns for the Forest." National Research Council. 1990. Forestry Research: A Mandate for Change. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1538.
Suggested Citation:"1. Societal Needs and Concerns for the Forest." National Research Council. 1990. Forestry Research: A Mandate for Change. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1538.
Suggested Citation:"1. Societal Needs and Concerns for the Forest." National Research Council. 1990. Forestry Research: A Mandate for Change. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1538.

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1 Societal Needs and Concerns for the Forest Concern about the global role and fate of forests has never been greater. Although many opportunities for the use and improvement of forests are apparent, current land-use practices and policies cause unac- ceptably high damage. Therefore, forestry (see box) and forestry research must become more sensitive to the environmental consequences of land use to provide forest resources for future generations. Some major forest issues that society faces are the following. · Although the relationship between forests and climate is poorly understood, forests are being rapidly modified or destroyed on a global scale, possibly leading to changed regional or global climates. Concern about the loss of biological diversity from forested areas has become global, but management for the maintenance of biological diversity and sustained productivity has been little explored. · The demand for wood and wood-fiber products to satisfy the basic needs of consumers worldwide has grown by 90 percent in the past three decades; it is expected to grow by another 45 percent by the year 2000 (USDA Forest Service, 1982~. Therefore, the United States needs to evaluate its world competitive and cooperative status for supply, demand, and trade of forest products. · The demands in the United States and elsewhere for increased preservation of "pristine" forested areas and increased recreational use of forests contrasts with the industry view that "the forest products industry faces a timber supply crisis of unprecedented proportions." (American 9

10 FORESTRY RESEARCH WHAT ARE FORESTS? WHAT IS FORESTRY? Forests and related renewable natural resources include the or- ganisms, soil, water, and air associated with timberlands as well as forest-related ran~elands. grasslands, brushlands, wetlands and ~ O swamps, alpine lands and tundra, deserts, wildlife habitat, and wa- tersheds. These resources include many different categories of land ownershi?: national forests, parks, and grasslands; federal, state, and private wildlife and wilderness areas; national, state, county, munici- pal, and community parks and forests; urban and suburban parks and forests; private nonindustrial timber and range lands; and industrial forests and rangelands. Forestry consists of the principles and practices utilized in the management, use, and enjoyment of forests. Forestry includes a broad range of activities-managing timber, fish, wildlife, range, and water- shed; protecting forests and timber products from diseases, insects, and fire; harvesting, transporting, manufacturing, marketing, preserv- ing, and protecting wood and other forest products; maintaining water and air quality; and maintaining society's well-being as it is influenced by forests and other renewable natural resources and their derived products and values. Forest Council, personal communication, 1989~. Even though more timber is currently being grown than is being harvested in the United States, industry faces an acute timber supply problem as a result of new harvesting restrictions. ~ Population pressure and economic and social development forecast a growing need to increase forest yields on those lands already dedicated to timber production and to maintain or enhance other outputs (such as recreation, wildlife, and watershed capabilities) of multi-use forest lands. However, our limited understanding of the genetic, physiological, and ecological nature of trees and other forest organisms currently constrains our ability to sustain or increase these yields without risk to forest health. The maintenance of forest health in the face of increased regional and global air pollution, altered pest distribution patterns, and human encroachment is a task of high priority if forest cover, watershed values, and wood supply are to be maintained, but the science of integrated forest protection, which would deal with these issues, needs to be developed.

SOCIETAL NEEDS AND CONCERNS FOR THE FOREST 11 Society's needs and demands from the forest have evolved consider- ably in the past century. Although wood products still form a necessary component of everyday life, other forest resources, such as wildlife, water, and recreation, are also essential to the quality of life. In addition, increas- ing concern over environmental degradation (National Research Council, 1986; Wilson, 1988) and global climate change (National Research Council, 19~) is intertwined with these traditional needs and concerns. To be able to meet these needs, new information about forests is required. Wood accounts for approximately one quarter of the value of major industrial materials. As a result, forests contribute substantially to our nation's economy. Concern about our global competitiveness in the industry is also apparent. In 1987, the United States exported the equivalent of about $8.5 billion in wood products, most in raw wood products such as logs and wood pulp; we imported some $10.9 billion worth of lumber and paper (U.S. Department of Commerce, 1989~. Why is the United States exporting timber and importing finished lumber? Questions, such as this, concerning the competitiveness of the forest products industry in the world market have become a critical part of the debate on national competitiveness and productivity. Forests, however, are more than a place for growing trees for harvest. For example, our urban forests are important to people on a daily basis. Urban forests consist of trees growing in close association with people, such as tree-lined streets and city parks. Urban forests provide valuable shade and protection from wind while enhancing the attractiveness of the places we live and work. Growing trees in an urban setting may offer special advantages in that they not only remove carbon from the atmosphere, they also provide direct shade to humans, reducing ambient temperature and the demand for energy that would otherwise be used for cooling. Public concern is increasing over the long-term sustainability of all forest resources such as water, fish, wildlife, and recreation. Awareness of the need to preserve biological diversity in forests that serge as reservoirs of plants and animals for ecological restoration is growing. If we are to protect and conserve forest ecosystems, we must embrace a broader concept of the role such systems play in our society and the world and the kinds of education and research programs required within the professional forestry community to provide knowledge for the future. Heightened public awareness about the environment has increased the demand for scientific information to help solve national, regional, and global problems. The public's need for the most up-to-date scientific information for decision- maldng and public policy has never been greater. The value and importance of knowledge about forests is increasing, and the kinds of information required differ from those of only a few years ago. Therefore, dramatic changes in forestry research and education are

12 FORESTRY RESEARCH required. Changes and improvements should be made in the basic nature of forestry research, human resources devoted to forestry research, technology and information transfer of the results of forestry research, and the funding of forestry research. In particular, the products of forestry research must be consistent with the land ethic articulated by Leopold (Potter, 198%) as well as in the report Our Common Future (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987~. In this regard, forestry research should be a continuing source of information from which improvements in natural resource management can be made more sustainable and environmentally sound. In this report, we propose a research agenda for forestry that will result in new and innovative approaches to arrest forest ecosystem degra- dation and provide the wide array of needed forest products. By gaining an understanding of the fundamental structures, processes, and relationships within forests, we will be better able to anticipate responses, management needs, and capabilities of forest ecosystems to buffer changes in the envi- ronment. By understanding the effects of humans on the forest, we will be better able to meet our needs and promote our long-term well-being. We will use this scientific information to design strategies for sustaining forest ecosystems and their products and to make public policy decisions to meet these strategies.

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Forestry Research: A Mandate for Change Get This Book
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Forests are valuable in our daily lives, crucial to our nation's ecomony, and integral to the long-term health of the environment. Yet, forestry research has been critically underfunded, and the data generated under current research programs is not enough to meet the diverse needs of our society.

Forestry Research provides a research agenda that should yield the information we need to develop responsible policies for forest use and management. In this consensus of forestry experts, the volume explores:

  • The diverse and competing concerns of the timber industry, recreational interests, and wildlife and environmental organizations.
  • The gap between our need for information and the current output of the forestry research program.
  • Areas of research requiring attention: biology of forest organisms, ecosystem function and management, human-forest interactions, wood as raw material, and international trade and competition.

Forestry Research is an important book of special interest to federal and state policymakers involved in forestry issues, research managers, researchers, faculty, and students in the field.

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