Consulting Forestry / Certification and Ecosystem Services

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The industrialization of the United States throughout the 19th century resulted in the exploitation of millions of acres of timberland across the country. Logging during that era was described by critics as “cut out and get out” because the land was usually abandoned after the merchantable timber was exhausted. Concern about future timber supplies and the effect of logging on watersheds spurred the development of professional forestry after the Civil War. The first forestry leaders, including Bernhard Fernow and Gifford Pinchot, encouraged private non-industrial forest owners to sustainably manage their woodlands and specifically warned against destructive logging practices—including “cutting the best and leaving the rest”—aka high-grading. During the 1920s and 30s both the Forest Service and SAF spurred initiatives to encourage sustainable timber harvesting practices on private forestland. Although great progress has been made in forest management, logging on most private non-industrial forest land in the east has not changed significantly since the 19th century. Landowners usually sell timber without using the services of a forester, allowing the buyer to selectively cut the most valuable trees in the woodlot. Although this can reduce future value by 70‐90%, it remains common practice because both the landowner and the timber buyer maximize short term income. The timber value and productivity of millions of acres of woodland throughout the United States have been significantly degraded as a result. This paper will trace the history of high-grading as described by forestry leaders from the 19th century through the 21st and will show that much work remains unfinished.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2011

More about this publication?
  • The Journal of Forestry is the most widely circulated scholarly forestry journal in the world. In print since 1902, the Journal has received several national awards for excellence. The mission of the Journal of Forestry is to advance the profession of forestry by keeping forest management professionals informed about significant developments and ideas in the many facets of forestry: economics, education and communication, entomology and pathology, fire, forest ecology, geospatial technologies, history, international forestry, measurements, policy, recreation, silviculture, social sciences, soils and hydrology, urban and community forestry, utilization and engineering, and wildlife management. The Journal is published bimonthly: January, March, May, July, September, and November.
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