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Responsibly and sustainably farmed timber can help protect old-growth forests.

World Tree’s Curtis Gobbett gazes at Big Lonely Doug, Canada’s second largest Douglas-fir tree, in a clear-cut forest near Port Renfrew, British Columbia.

In a speech given to mark Earth Day, President Biden stated, “Our forests are our planets’ lungs.” Shortly after, he signed an executive order to protect old-growth forests by mandating an inventory of all mature and old-growth forests in the United States. The order also commissions an outline of the threats faced by specific forests and takes a few steps to help protect old-growth forests internationally.

The significance of old-growth forests

Conservationists have long understood the importance of old-growth forests. They provide massive carbon sinks, which aid us in fighting climate change, and also hold cleaner water, valuable food resources, and rich biodiversity. Millions of people across the globe rely on forests for their livelihoods. Additionally, a study of old-growth forests in the United States Pacific Northwest found that the largest trees, which account for only 3 percent of all stems, contain 42 percent of the above-ground carbon sequestered in forests.

Deforestation in North America

Despite the critical significance of forests to the environment, approximately 10 percent of the world’s tree cover has been lost since 2000, and forest loss continued to be incredibly high last year. A National Geographic article notes that old-growth forests are still being logged across the planet, especially in North America.

Protecting the world’s forests is a multi-faceted issue, mainly because not all deforestation stems from the forestry industry. Additional tree cover loss can be attributed to wildfire, shifting agriculture, and commodity-driven deforestation. Nonetheless, in North America, legal forestry practices are the leading cause of tree cover loss. Many hardwood forestry companies in the United States and Canada have built some sustainability into their business models—companies often plant two, three, or even four new seedlings for each felled tree. However, replacing a 40- or 50-year-old tree with seedlings does not fully restore what is lost, especially when considering the next ten years where it will be critical to address the climate crisis.

World Tree's sustainable timber farming can make a difference

At World Tree, we believe that we can be part of the solution by tackling old-growth deforestation through sustainable and renewable timber farming. By growing the Empress Splendor tree, World Tree can provide lumber quickly, sustainably, and without cutting into existing forests. The Empress Splendor tree itself is an asset, reaching maturity in 8-12 years and supplying hardwood timber in a shorter amount of time than what is required for other hardwood-tree species to mature. Following the harvest, the tree can regenerate for up to seven generations without replanting. Additionally, once we harvest Empress timber, World Tree takes care to sell our lumber to companies that transform the wood into valuable, long-lasting products such as cabinets, furniture, musical instruments, etc. In doing so, World Tree’s lumber replaces unsustainable hardwoods in those industries and ensures that the Empress lumber continues to sequester carbon for an extended period.

Regenerative agriculture can fight deforestation

As we incorporate regenerative agriculture into our practices, World Tree’s farms increasingly foster some of the biodiversity found in old-growth forests while replenishing the soil and preventing further depletion caused by forest degradation. And by encouraging our farmers to engage in silvopasture and intercropping, we can further increase the soil, carbon, and biodiversity benefits. Our hope is that in having other crops and livestock cultivated alongside our trees, we discourage tree cover loss stemming from commodity-driven deforestation.

With mature and old-growth forests being critical to the earth’s future, it is vital to look for ways to protect them. Simply tightening laws and regulations without offering a viable substitution for a needed resource is untenable. We must be able to supply eco-friendly, renewable farmed timber to replace lumber derived from old-growth forests. Because these forests provide valuable carbon sinks, their degradation and deforestation create immense carbon deficits, which are unsustainable when our forests to help modulate our ongoing fossil fuel emissions and contribute to the livelihoods of millions of people. Part of deepening World Tree’s contribution to the planet means providing short- and long-term solutions to some of the challenges we face. Our farms will help create a sustainable future for years to come.

By Doug Willmore – World Tree, CEO

as a part of the CEO Insights Series

Sharing insights into new and ongoing developments within the sustainability sphere, as well as our own progress in deepening World Tree’s contribution.