Timber Harvesting on State, Federal , and Other Public Forest Lands


Responsible timber harvesting serves a critical role in achieving social, environmental and economic values on publicly-owned forested lands.


Public forestlands include a broad array of ecosystems and landscape types, successional stages (age classes), ownership structures, management objectives, and historic origins or legal mandates in the public domain. As such, this position statement applies to the vast majority of public lands but cannot be 100% inclusive.


The Society of American Foresters (SAF) supports responsible commercial and non-commercial timber harvesting as the primary means for maintaining and restoring resilient and sustainable forests and for providing financial returns from managed public lands. Timber harvests should be conducted in the most efficient and economically-viable manner possible while taking into consideration biological diversity and social factors. SAF believes that the use of renewable, recyclable, and biodegradable forest products from public lands is necessary to sustain functional ecosystems, meet societal material needs, and achieve public revenue objectives.

Scientific and social analysis shows that responsible harvesting using Best Management Practices (BMPs) is an effective mechanism for maintaining and/or restoring healthy, diverse forested landscapes that provide robust and mutually supportive complements of environmental, economic and social values. Although the relative emphasis of these values varies among public land ownership types and locations, it is essential that all values be considered as legitimate options in the management of public forestlands. Timber harvesting needs to be implemented at a scale large enough to address the myriad of current threats facing overstocked public forests. Most public forestlands are governed by laws and policies that allow or mandate sustainable timber harvesting with appropriate resource management planning. When planned and supervised by foresters with input from the public and other resource specialists, responsible timber harvesting supports, and often enhances, attributes such as fish and wildlife habitat, improved water quality, reliable water supplies and recreation. 

Approved: June 2019


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