Trees and Paper – Part 1: The Economic Perspective

As a forest owner I’ve accumulated a number of books on trees, but the one that I reach for the most is “An Eclectic Guide to Trees East of the Rockies(1)”. It’s a very thorough book on Eastern tree species and discusses the cultural and economic value of trees throughout documented history. The author, Glen Blouin, has an extensive forestry background and is an award-winning member of the Society of Environmental Journalists. In my next few blogs I would like to share with you a few sections of Glen’s book because they may help put the topic of “trees and paper” in perspective.

Wood and Paper Industry

Part of the history and reality of the forest is that people have cut down trees and used their wood. From prehistoric times, wood was the sole source of heat for cooking and warmth. Later, our Native people harvested firewood—they knew from experience which trees burned the hottest and longest—and used trees to construct their tipis, lodges, longhouses, canoes, implements, and weapons.

European settlers took it one step further. They not only cleared the forest for fuel, farmland, fencing, barns, houses, villages, and roads, but they began harvesting trees for market—the genesis of a forest industry in North America. Pines were cut for ships’ masts and spars, oaks for sailing vessels and barrels, hemlocks and chestnuts for tannin in the leather industry, other hard woods for potash, and pitch pine for charcoal, to name but a few.

Some people adamantly believe that we should not cut down trees for commercial purposes. The fact remains that trees do not live forever. Like people, they are born, live, and die. When sustainably managed, trees are a renewable resource, unlike cement and concrete, steel and aluminum, plastics, and oil and natural gas—all nonrenewable.

Nothing has the warmth of wood. Without harvesting trees, you could not sit comfortably in front of the fire in a log cabin, put your feet up on the coffee table, set aside the newspaper or magazine, and sit back and relax reading this book or any other.

Phil has over 25 years of international experience related to sustainability and the forest products industry. He currently leads Two Sides North America, a non-profit that promotes the unique sustainable features of print and paper, as well as their responsible production and use. Two Sides operates globally in four continents with members that span the entire graphic communication value chain. Phil has written extensively on sustainability and environmental topics related to the forest products sector. He received his Bachelor and Master's of Science degrees from McGill University in Montreal. He is a private forest owner and manages over 200 acres of forestland for both recreational and economic benefits.
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