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Outside Voice: Kerry Cesareo on Responsible Forest Management

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(Text originally presented by Domtar paper company)

Our Outside Voice series highlights the perspectives of stakeholders and leaders on important sustainability topics, such as global forests. On the particulars, we may not always agree. But we believe in hearing and learning from others who offer valuable insights and a different point of view on issues that are important to us all.

Kerry Cesareo,WWF's SVP of forests, leads a portfolio of strategic forest management initiatives in pursuit of World Wildlife Fund’s goal to conserve the world’s most important forests, including the rainforests in the Amazon, which have drawn public attention because of widespread fires.

(Note to readers: Domtar uses only wood harvested from managed forests in North America. We do not procure any wood from Brazil.)

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) initiatives include using an innovative financial model to ensure protected forest areas are properly managed, and combining policy and market-based interventions to address unsustainable agricultural expansion, logging and infrastructure development in key landscapes.

Cesareo previously led WWF’s forest markets work, launching the North American arm of the Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN) and forging partnerships with Fortune 500 companies on environmentally responsible supply chains for wood and paper products. She recently answered questions from the Outside Voice team about global forest management:

Why are forests important globally?
Forests are home to eight out of 10 species found on land. That’s a huge cross section of global biodiversity, but these animals aren’t the only species to call forests home.

Almost 750 million people, approximately one-fifth of the total rural population, live in forests. This includes 60 million indigenous peoples. And people everywhere depend on forests for clean water, fresh air, food, energy, medicine, materials and more.

Forests also keep us healthy and safe in other ways. When forests are cleared, we often see increases in disease outbreaks, such as malaria. Coastal mangroves protect millions of people from storms and coastal erosion. We can’t solve the climate crisis without forests. Trees are the best available technology we have for sucking carbon out of the atmosphere.

Forests are also huge job creators. According to The World Bank, the formal timber sector employs some 13.2 million people across the world and another 41 million indirectly. The forest industry generates more than $600 billion in global trade in primary wood products to supply the growing population of consumers around the world.

In short, we literally can’t live without forests.

What are basic forest management principles that help keep our ecosystems healthy? The most basic principle of forest management is to never take out more than the forest itself can regenerate. But responsible forestry is not just about avoiding the impacts of overexploited forests; it’s also about maintaining the value of forests and ensuring they remain resilient. To do that effectively, we need to recognize forests as a shared, global resource. With that in mind, keeping our ecosystems healthy requires forest management practices that:

  • Support biological diversity
  • Safeguard elements of the forest considered to have high conservation value
  • Respect the ownership and use rights of local communities and indigenous peoples
  • Provide a forum for dialogue between different stakeholders and establish frameworks for conflict resolution
  • Embrace transparency

WWF considers the Forest Stewardship Council® standard and system for independent third-party certification of forest management to be the best in addressing these principles.

As an advocate for responsible forest management globally, how do you balance challenges in different regions, from protecting animal habitats in North America to stopping expansive burning in the Amazon rainforest?

Globally, the rate of deforestation remains high. We lose approximately 18.7 million acres of forests each year — equivalent to 27 soccer fields a minute. Expanding agriculture, urban and infrastructure development, and demand for cheap wood and paper puts forests under pressure. We’re experiencing the consequences of this around the world with increasing intensity, as we are seeing with recent devastating fires in the Amazon.

Responsible forest management — motivated by commercial interest in maintaining a healthy wood and ecosystem services supply — can help protect vulnerable forests from illegal logging, encroachment and agricultural conversion.

In the context of our changing climate, there are always tradeoffs. These need to be considered and integrated into forest management for it to be effective. We need to shift from status-quo methods for setting sustainability targets, which are focused on incremental improvement, to setting forest-related goals that are informed by nature.

 

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