This year from Oct. 31 through Nov. 6, the Florida Forest Service along with the Florida Forestry Association are celebrating a week in forestry called the “Working Forests Week”. You may not realize it, but our forests continuously work hard to provide us with essential resources needed for our day to day lives. Because of this, we need to work just as hard if not harder than our forests to maintain and protect them.
Both public and privately owned forests produce timber, provides homes for wildlife, improves air and water quality and provides a place for recreational activities such as hiking, camping, horseback riding, hunting, fishing, geocaching and many others. Let’s not forget that forests have a unique feature which is sequestering carbon dioxide from the air. This not only contributes to better quality air, but it also helps us fight one of the world’s most problematic issues; global warming.
Did you know that hundreds of products are created from the materials in our forests? These products range from school and copy paper, pencils, ink for your pens and printers, furniture, airplane propellers, and charcoal to maple syrup, toothpaste, airplane propellers, charcoal, cellophane, and even Doritos! The list goes on and on.
Forests like many other resources need to be managed. There are management principles that guide forest managers. Sustainability is one of those key principles. When it comes to forest management, sustainability is the balance between proper resource gathering versus overharvesting of materials. An example of this is that when trees are removed, they are then quickly replaced with seedlings to provide new healthy trees in their place. Fun fact; more than 70 million trees are planted in Florida every year.
An important tool that forest managers use to keep forests healthy are prescribed burns. Although there is a bit of controversy among the public as to whether or not prescribed burns are beneficial, I can tell you as a Forester with over 10 years of forestry experience that prescribed burns are most certainly vital for a healthy ecosystem. Florida in particular is a state that is fire dependent and contains plants and animals that require fire in order to survive. Prescribed burns decrease the intensity of catastrophic wildfires, provides essential nutrients to the soil which promotes healthy tree growth, and eliminates invasive plants and insects so that are native species can flourish. Prescribed fire has been utilized for thousands of years and we will continue to use it for the sake of sustaining a healthy and prosperous environment.
Large tracts of forest land are managed by foresters. Landowners that own tracts of forest land who do not have their own private foresters can contact the Florida Forest Service. The Florida Forest Service has their own foresters who have years of experience that will provide advice and assistance to landowners.
In Florida, forestry is an important activity that provides over 125,000 jobs. The total revenue of forestry-based products (wood and paper) in Florida last year was more than 10 billion dollars. It’s important to take note that timber alone is a livelihood for many people in the state. Without the growth of healthy trees, many people would be out of a job and the economy as a whole would suffer because of it.
Natural disasters such as hurricanes can have a huge impact on our forests. When hurricane Irma came tumbling through our state in September of 2017, Irma uprooted trees, tore off branches, damaged cars, ripped powerlines, knocked over fences, and destroyed homes at a massive scale. Although we cannot stop natural disasters from occurring, what we can do is be proactive by utilizing the tools we have at our disposal. Prescribed burning is a great example of this as it leads to less dead vegetation on the ground and it helps to lower chances of invasive seedlings from spreading to different areas. Another great proactive tool to use is pruning. Proper pruning of trees actually makes those trees more resistant to hurricane impact winds.