by Cindy Humiston Weed
Sustainable Forestry Management (SFM) is the management of forests according to the principles of sustainable development. The concept can be described as the attainment of balance between society’s increasing demands for forest products and benefits, and the preservation of forest health and diversity.
Nancy Patch has been the Franklin and Grand Isle, VT County Forester for the past seven years and works with sustainable forests on a daily basis.
“Sustainable management of the forest means that you will be harvesting a product from the forest in a manner that keeps the forest ecosystem intact over a pre-determined time interval,” Patch said. “Harvesting the forest in such a way maintains, enhances or increases the values of those products as well as the ecological values of the forest. When practicing good forest, the quality of the forest product and the ecosystem in improved at each entry. Sustainability is defined by the time frame of the management goals.”
This important balance is critical to the survival of forests, and to the prosperity of forest-dependent communities at large.
“All sustainability is related to science, using practices that are rooted in science which follow silvicultural guides,” Patch noted. “Silviculture is the art and science of managing a forest.”
Vermont’s Current Use program uses minimum sustainable forest standards. Every year, according to Patch, new parcels in the Current Use program are enrolled with a forest management plan; the plans are reviewed and approved by the county foresters. Each parcel is also inspected at least once every ten years, but generally more often in Franklin and Grand Isle counties.
“My job is to review the management plans I receive from the consultants and approve them, or ask questions to clarify or correct them,” said Patch. “My other job is to do periodic inspections on all of the Current Use properties. I have approximately 900 enrolled parcels in my two counties of Franklin and Grand Isle.”
Whether or not landowners are enrolled in programs like the Current Use program, Vermont law requires landowners to adhere to water quality standards that keep the soil from eroding and causing silt to enter a stream. The other relevant statute states basically that you cannot implement a heavy cut on more than 40 acres without a permit.
“The water quality and heavy cut laws are the only ones on Vermont books,” Patch noted.
Other than that, there are no sustainability rules, she said. Wikipedia notes that because forests and societies are in constant flux, the desired outcome of sustainable forest management is not a fixed one. What constitutes a sustainably managed forest will change over time as values held by the public change.