Forestry is a big deal, a really big deal

Published 5:00 am Friday, September 29, 2023

By Steve Roark

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

Many consider forestry to only mean growing trees to cut for lumber, and in the old days that was true. But the forest is much more than a place to produce wood fiber and has multiple uses it can be managed for. Many of these uses can be managed simultaneously with proper planning. Here is a list of the major uses.

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Wood: The forest does supply a raw material that society depends on. We each use wood fiber almost hourly. Managing for wood involves encouraging the desired trees to grow at their fastest growth rate until mature, and then properly harvesting them in a way that is not detrimental to the soil and water. Once harvested, the woodlands should be properly made ready for the next generation of trees.

Wildlife: The forest contains many species of wildlife, some hunted for sport, others not. The forest can be managed to encourage individual species or a variety. Management involves seeing that desired species have what they need to survive and reproduce, things like food, water, and protective cover. Some wildlife can be managed along with timber and other uses, but it requires planning.

Recreation: Hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, horseback riding, nature viewing, picnics; the list is long. Management here includes proper trails layout, preserving special areas, protecting streams and vistas, etc.

Aesthetics: The love of the sights, smells, and sounds of a forest is deeply entrenched in the human soul. Management involves keeping the natural setting intact. Other uses can be carried out with proper precautions.

Water Quality: In the mountainous terrain of our area, the forest has the important function of keeping soil from eroding into rivers and streams. Trees can be harvested without causing undue soil loss, but it must be carefully planned with properly laid out roads and protection of stream-sides.

There are other uses of the forest such as medicinals, fruits and nuts, and craft materials. If you own forestland or know someone who does, being a good steward of it is kind of a big deal, because the benefits it provides reach way beyond the boundary line. If you’re breathing, you’re using a forest to some degree. Local state forestry offices can provide guidance on proper care of a forest. “What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.” Mahatma Gandhi.

Steve Roark is a volunteer at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.

Forestry means a lot more than just supplying wood for lumber. Photo by Steve Roark