To help you understand what we are. We get asked these all the time.
Please contact us if you have questions we haven't addressed below!
Beneath the surface of Appalachian forests’ green is the lesser known story of widespread forest degradation. Upon the hundreds of properties and tens of thousands of acres EcoForesters’ staff has visited throughout the region, more often than not the forest is greatly diminished from past clear-cuts, repeated high-grading, invasive species infestations, eroded soils, fire suppression, and other past unsustainable forest management practices. Much of the forests that regional conservation groups spend millions of dollars to protect are in a degraded state, significantly at risk to future threats, and in desperate need of proactive stewardship. This is largely an untold story of our forests and telling this story is part one of EcoForesters’ educational mission.
Part two of our educational mission, what we hope becomes the story of our forests, is that positive impact forestry can transform our forests from their currently degraded state to diverse, vibrant and resilient woodlands. With the existential threats today’s degraded forestlands face, standing by and doing nothing will likely lead our forests toward ecological wastelands of invasive plants and stagnant trees bent over with vines. Traditional and unsustainable forest management practices will only hasten this outcome. Positive impact forestry can transform a forest’s unsustainable trajectory toward a healthy and vibrant forest to benefit current and future generations. There are three steps involved. Step one is to assess a landowner’s forests to underestand its history, current state, and likely future condition. Step two is to prescribe and implement actions that will meet the landowner’s long-term stewardship objectives and EcoForesters’ sustainability mission. Step 3 is to monitor the forests over time and adapt stewardship as necessary. Typical positive impact forestry actions include but are not limited to: invasive species control, vine control, crop tree release, timber stand improvement, erosion control, tree planting, and timber harvests.
We believe that sustainable timber management is an important part of a sustainable future for our forests. Natural forestland that is not economically productive to landowners is often converted to plantations, agricultural use, or development. Wood is a sustainable and desirable building material, a great fuel source, and an essential natural product in the global economy. Appalachian hardwoods are used in floors, cabinets, fine furniture, firewood, and pallets across the globe. Active timber management should and will continue to be a part of life in Appalachian forests. However, timber management needs to be implemented as positive impact forestry. Timber management that has a positive impact is one that sustains or improves not only the long term timber prospects of a forests, but also all the ecological benefits a forest should provide. There are numerous examples in which timber management can actually improve the ecological benefits of a forest. Much of our forestland was clear-cut or high-graded in the past (where the best trees are cut and less healthy trees remain). This has left much of the forest lacking in species diversity, in structural diversity, and of diminished health. Here is how positive impact timber management can restore each of these factors:
The first line of our mission states that EcoForesters is “led by professional foresters”. This is largely what sets EcoForesters apart from other conservation organizations. Most non-profit organizations focus on protecting land with high conservation value through conservation easements or direct land acquisition. Generally, their expertise and ability to actively steward these properties and the private lands that surround them is limited or non-existent. As professional foresters, we can read and tell the story of any particular piece of forestland in a way that most other conservation professionals are untrained to do. EcoForesters can implement active forest stewardship in a practical and comprehensive way, providing positive impact forestry services to landowners that achieves desirable on the ground results. No other conservation organization is designed for this purpose.
EcoForesters is wholly different from a private for-profit consulting foresters. We are totally mission driven, and that mission is to conserve and restore ecological resilience to our Appalachian forests. Commercial forestry is generally directed towards obtaining the maximum profit for a client. The contrasts (as well as the need for EcoForesters), can be seen by viewing the website for the Association of Consulting Foresters, which is the trade organization for commercial foresters. As the representative of commercial foresters, that organization emphasizes capitalism and free enterprise as the guiding principles for commercial forestry. EcoForesters emphasizes the public good and will not compromise its principles. Our activities may appear similar, but commercial foresters generally make recommendations based on a course of action which yields the most profit for the landowner, while EcoForesters will recommend a course of action which will most effectively conserve and restore the forest for current and future generations.
EcoForesters, charges a fee for its services, which is computed to be slightly above cost. However, the standard business practice for commercial foresters is to charge clients on a commission basis. This commission would be a percentage of the revenue received by the landowner from the sale of timber, which encourages the commercial forester to recommend the destruction of ‘high value’ trees because of their value as lumber producers. This can set up a conflict of interest between the forester and the landowner if the landowner’s sole motivation is not profiting from their timber. EcoForesters, always makes its recommendations based on the values stated in its mission.
The ACF website states as its current policy that it “believes that free aid, or subsidized aid, advice, guidance, and/or service to owners of an economically viable forest property is not in the public interest.” The objective of EcoForesters, is to provide such guidance and service at cost, and eventually below cost or at no cost for some of our services. Positive impact forestry frequently requires actions, such as invasive species control and timber stand improvement, which provide a significant benefit to the forest and society, but are not affordable for individual landowners.
Unlike commercial consulting foresters, EcoForesters has an educational mission. We utilize our expertise and stewardship plans as an educational tool for landowners and the general public as to the importance of responsible proactive stewardship. We engage students to help develop and implement these plans to further our educational mission. And we collaborate on scientific research with other non-profits, government entities, and educational institutions to monitor natural resource change, further our understanding of sound resource management, and implement the best known methods using the most current science.
Lastly, EcoForesters works to implement positive impact forestry strategically and at a landscape scale. We partner and build collaborative efforts with conservation organizations, educational institutions, government agencies and natural resource professionals that share our mission and vision. It is these strategic and collaborative efforts that will allow us to restore the ecological health and resilience of forests at a landscape scale. Unlike a for-profit business, it is our function as a mission driven non-profit to divert resources toward working in this strategic capacity, and thereby have the greatest positive impact on the forest at a landscape scale.