November 17, 2022

As with many political movements, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact origins of proforestation. While the forestry community has faced similar challenges before, widely read journals and op-eds in major news media have given the issue nationwide publicity in recent years.  

Generally speaking, proforestation advocates seek to ban active forest management on public lands. Active forest management in this case refers to any activity that removes carbon from the forest, which would include activities like logging or wildfire mitigation techniques (e.g., thinning and prescribed burning). Proforestation is founded on the belief that, in the face of climate change, we can maximize carbon sequestration and storage through a halt on all forest management activities. It can therefore be viewed as an extension of the age-old preservationist philosophy with a modern flair.

There are a number of reasons that proforestation is problematic. For one, it does not factor in the loss of benefits outside of carbon storage that are fostered by forest management, such as biodiversity, essential wood products, a clean and stable water supply, adaptation to a changing climate, or rural economic activity. Proforestation also has a misguided view of long-term carbon sequestration and storage. As the IPCC recognizes, sustainable forest management is critical to mitigating climate change because of its ability to minimize emissions-emitting disturbances like wildfire, as well as its capacity as a renewable resource to store carbon in wood products that can replace other emissions-intensive materials.

The proforestation concept has been building in momentum. It has appeared before local legislatures, has been prominently featured by major environmental organizations, and has been adopted as a climate solution by a number of environmental scientists. Recently, its advocates provided testimony before Congress, claiming that wildfire management techniques like restoration and hazardous fuels management are false fronts for profit-driven timber harvesting.

While SAF has always educated diverse audiences about the benefits of forest management and the critical work of forestry professionals, this is the first time we are directly calling out proforestation. This handout is written to educate the public and policymakers on the issue of proforestation, and we hope that it will be shared and distributed by our members across the country who face similar challenges. We are dedicated to supporting forestry and natural resource professionals, which involves educating the public on science-based forest management and the essential services it provides to a growing population, both in the US and abroad.

You can download the handout 

In the future, it can be accessed on the main Advocacy and Outreach page of SAF’s website.