Nature Conservancy President's message
forestfair at aol.com
Wed Dec 9 21:31:56 EST 1998
The following come from The Nature Conservancy's magazine. For more about of
the magazine, go to:
The President's View
Seeing the forest for the trees
Many years ago, hiking through a remote section of the Adirondacks, I
stumbled upon the forest primeval: a stand of trees seemingly as old as
the Earth itself, utterly untouched by the woodsman's ax or the logger's
chainsaw. Majestic white pines almost blotted out the sun. No scraggly
second-growth trees or brambles competed for light or space.
It was breathtaking in its beauty, yet heartbreaking in its evocation of
times past. Most of eastern North America once looked like this. Sadly,
all that is left of the original forest are scattered remnants.
When I came to The Nature Conservancy more than eight years ago, I began
speaking regularly about forest conservation issues and thought of this
old-growth forest. Eager to experience its glow again, I retraced my
steps to the same spot that had enchanted me before-and received instead
an instructive lesson in ecology.
A number the grand old white pines still stood as before. But many
others were gone, rending great holes in the canopy and giving the
forest a dramatically different feel. Seedlings, shoulder-high saplings
and young trees abounded.
Perplexed, I asked my companion what had happened. What I was witnessing
was not the effects of timbering, but rather a dynamic forest in action.
A freak wind storm a few years before had knocked down a bunch of the
old trees, setting in motion the timeless pattern of forest
regeneration. "You were focusing on the trees, not the forest," he said,
laughing. "Some of these trees may have died, but the forest is
I recall this lesson every time the Conservancy engages in another
forestry initiative. On one hand, it illustrates the point that forests
are ever-changing. People tend to think of forests as static, when in
fact they are just the opposite. But even more important, it reinforces
in my mind the need to look at the fate of entire forests-not that of
individual trees-when designing conservation strategies for our
Simply put, an organization such as the Conservancy cannot possibly hope
to acquire and set aside forests on the scale necessary to conserve
biodiversity for the long term. Rather, we must find ways to engage the
owners of America's working forests-from private landowners of small
woodlots to multinational timber giants-in productive partnerships that
meet their needs for economic return while meeting the Conservancy's
desire for intact, healthy ecosystems.
To that end, over the past several years we have engaged in a number of
ground-breaking partnerships centered around compatible forestry-with
Georgia-Pacific in North Carolina, with the Vermont Land Trust in the
Northeast Kingdom and, soon, with landowners in Virginia's Clinch Valley
(see "A Clearing in the Forest," page 18).
Some of our most impressive forestry work is taking place abroad. We
have emerged as the world's leader in developing carbon sequestration
projects, which rely on forest conservation as a mechanism for
addressing the threat of climate change. Our proj-ects in Bolivia and
Belize-and, we hope, other places as well-are at the cutting edge of
conservation and represent tremendous opportunities not only for
reducing the emission of greenhouse gases, but also for protecting
forests (see "Re-leaf from the Heat," page 12).
Some trees will fall as a result of our involvement in these projects. I
and many of our members, I suspect, would prefer that things were
otherwise. But ever since my walk in the Adirondacks a few years back,
I'm looking out for the forest-not the trees-and so is The Nature
President / CEO
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