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What's the Point in Standing up for Forestry

It's pretty easy to get despondent about public policy and a negative public perception regarding forestry. At a "meet the candidates" session at the Blue Baths in Rotorua two weeks ago, Catherine Delahunty (# 6 on the Green Party list) told us that forestry "corporates" were providing propaganda to schools disguised as curriculum. This is news to anyone in the forestry industry. On one hand, we should rejoice that maybe someone is being proactive about providing the education system teaching resources (we haven't seen anything like this since the excellent Forestry Insights programme launched, perhaps, over 25 years ago?). But the reality is that it is doubtful anyone is doing this at all and maybe Catherine just made it up. If not, we would like details. The point is, why would a Greens candidate present this sort of negative stuff about the forestry sector - a relatively green-friendly land use in the scheme of things?

It's important that we all, as a sector, stand up and be heard, and take mis-informants to task. Kit Richards, PF Olsen's Environment Manager, amongst other things, spends some of his time responding to misinformation in the media (see Clear as mud in Wood Matters Issue 61). What's the point in doing that, you may ask, and why does it matter?

The problem with not responding is that the more forestry is portrayed negatively (e.g. a dangerous and environmentally damaging land use), the more public opinion is formed that forestry is bad. Does this matter? Yes it does. Let's consider a few scenarios.

  1. Young people choosing training, education or a career avoid forestry as it is not a "socially acceptable" industry to be involved in. Result – fewer qualified and trained people and a shortage of forestry managers, engineers and workers. This leads to delays in harvesting, trucking; lower quality services and poorer safety and environmental performance.

  2. A young planner graduates from university with a negative bias against forestry as a land use and ultimately becomes influential forming policy and rules for land plans – forestry is subjected to unnecessarily stringent rules and costs go up, forestry returns go down and there is less forest investment.

  3. Politicians get a sense that public opinion is negative about forestry. Government support for forestry goes down (e.g. R&D and training funding, trade support, Emissions Trading Scheme, no recognition of forestry's eco-services, no development of a National Forest Policy, disinterest in deforestation rates). All of these things result in a weaker forestry sector and lower returns for forest owners. Maybe we even get net deforestation of the national forest estate!

So, one of the things PF Olsen does is be proactive in advocating for forestry to try to educate the public and politicians about the value and benefit of forestry to help create a favourable operating environment for forest owners. PF Olsen is on every pan-industry/ cooperative/ association/ committee/working group and routinely takes a stand on important forestry issues. Most of this work is not paid for and has to be recovered from general income from other fee-paying services. And the reason we do it – is that (like Wood Matters) it matters!

Well managed forest
Well-managed plantation forestry is good for the economy and good for the environment. Forestry needs advocates to spread the word (and politicians to listen)!