By George Wuerthner, Sept 22.
We hear praise for sustainable forestry from the timber industry, politicians, and even among many environmental groups. While sustainability is an admirable goal, most of what I have seen touted as sustainable practices are far from ecologically sustainable, especially when compared to wild landscapes. In nearly all instances that I have observed, the so called "sustainable" logging, grazing, farming-- fill in the blank-- is only sustainable by externalizing most of the real costs (ecological impacts) of production. That doesn't prevent people from trying to claim that they have achieved the Holy Grail and found a way to exploit nature and protect it too. Everyone wants to think they can take from nature and somehow not have to pay the full cost. It's the free lunch syndrome.
Sustainable forestry as practiced today is usually more of an economic definition than an ecological one. By sustainable, timber companies and their supporters in the "sustainable forestry" movement engage in practices that ensure a continual long term timber supply, not a sustainable forest.