Summer 2017 ForestLife
Healthy Forests, Healthy People
We live in stressful, uncertain times—for both people and forests. But stress is a fact of life; it won’t go away. Indeed, climate change is exacerbating many forms of stress from uncertain and intense weather to introducing new pests and diseases that affect both people and forests. How we manage that stress makes all the difference to our quality of life and to our future.
And, for both people and forests, there are shared strategies for success.
First, there is no single “silver bullet” that can be relied on to restore and maintain health. So just as we need multiple approaches to addressing obesity, for example, needing to address diet, exercise, sleep patterns, and lifestyles—focusing just on fuels thinning to restore forest health in crowded young forests is good but insufficient. We need to look at restoring species composition and age structure as well as persistence and connectivity, among other factors.
Second, we have to approach the whole system and underlying causes of stress, rather than just the symptoms. Just as we recognize that healing people with physical or emotional challenges needs to not only engage their larger community of family and friends but also take economic, housing, and educational factors into account, so too, we need to look at forests through the landscape lens, recognizing the interactions across ownerships and taking into account financial, economic, and social forces impacting forests and forest landowners.
Third, we need to look at how we are naturally healthy and use that as guidance for maintaining health in the future. Humans evolved as very active beings. We know that the more active we are, the more we improve our brain function, emotional balance, and immune system response. So too, managing forests to promote more natural function and process is key to sustaining resilience in the face of increasing stress. A more natural stand structure is more fire resilient; a diversity of age classes enables larger, older trees to survive fires and pests. The more connectivity and the less fragmentation, the better the forest processes will function and enable forests to thrive across the landscape.
In this issue of ForestLife, we discuss several examples of how Pacific Forest Trust is seeking to restore and maintain resilient, healthy forests for the future: ours and theirs!