Last week I came across the 2010 RPA (Resources Planning Act) Assessment. This the report generated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture reflecting the state of the America’s forests now and into the future. This report comes out every 10 years and it is interesting to note that in 2000 the report painted a rosy picture of America’s forest resource. I would characterize the 2010 report as the “glass half empty” report.
The basic facts remain the same about our forest resource – we are growing about twice as much as we are cutting, all of those trees are busily absorbing carbon and providing healthy ecosystems for flora and fauna. The more than 4 million private landowners who control the majority of the hardwood producing land spearhead America’s sustainable forest management. We have been sustainably managing our forests for more than 100 years and those practices will continue well into the future. The “glass half empty” tone comes from applying computer-modeled scenarios of forest resource stressors gone awry in various ways. Those stressors could be in the form of climate change, water usage, pest infestations, urbanization and myriad land use issues. The report takes these various doomsday scenarios out to 50 years in the future, leaving the reader to wonder how healthy our forests are. The answer is that empirically verifiable data suggests that our forests are extremely healthy. For example, the report suggests that “forests face threats to their long-term health and sustainability”. It goes further to say that 8% of our forests are at risk to increased activity by forest insect pests and pathogens. It doesn’t say that with all of the possible threats that our forests face in the future, 92% of our forests will remain healthy and vibrant in the worst-case scenarios.
Perhaps representatives of competing construction materials, suggesting that wood is not as sustainable as promoted, could manipulate this “glass half empty” tone. When thinking about sustainable American hardwoods in design, you can feel good knowing that trees keep growing and absorbing carbon. Concrete and steel are manufactured in carbon-costly processes that can hardly be described as sustainable.
I refer designers and architects to The Life Cycle Assessment put together on behalf of AHEC (American Hardwood Export Council) and peer reviewed to assure data integrity. It was published in July of 2012 and addresses all concerns about using hardwoods in sustainable design. Please look it up:
The glass is definitely half full.