The Patterns of a Conservation Economy
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Iisaak forests practicing sustainable forestry in Clayoquot Sound, British Columbia.
Image by Cindy Hazenboom.

Sustainable Forestry

Standing forests are tremendously valuable for fish and wildlife, clean water and air, recreational uses, a stable climate, and a wide range of other ecosystem services. When logged conventionally, with large clear-cuts and insufficient attention to the health of the ecosystem, these other benefits are unnecessarily sacrificed.

Forests are enormously complex and richly interconnected ecosystems. Mycorrhizal fungi colonize tree roots and draw sugars from the tree while providing it with more nutrients and water than it could obtain on its own. Rodents eat the fruiting bodies of these vital fungi and disperse their spores through the forest. Salmon migrating upstream to spawn deliver a substantial amount of ocean-derived nutrients to fertilize the streams and woods.

Sustainable Forestry capitalizes on these connections. It is based on the entire forest ecosystem, from soil to canopy, from watercourse to wildlife. It seeks to enhance and restore the natural processes at work in the woods, to take trees while keeping the forest and streams intact, and to consider the landscape-scale implications of the harvests it proposes. It focuses on what is left, rather than what is harvested, ensuring that trees of all ages and species remain, and that the ecosystem remains fully functional. Sustainable Forestry practices are rigorously certified by neutral parties under the auspices of organizations like the Forest Stewardship Council and Scientific Certification Systems, providing favorable product differentiation in the marketplace.

Sustainable Forestry also considers the social and economic benefits of forestry in a new light. The riches of the forest can offer livelihood over the long-term to people in nearby communities. But for the better part of those benefits to be captured, the raw logs must be processed in the area stimulate the . Better to ship out lumber than logs, and better doors, windows, and furniture than raw lumber.

Since the yield from the forest is limited, Resource Efficiency strategies can provide more jobs per acre. Non-timber forest products, including mushrooms, medicinal plants, and decorative florals like salal form an additional income stream from forests. In addition, markets in Ecosystem Services provided by forests, including climate stabilization and water purification, are beginning to mature. For instance, the Pacific Forest Trust is beginning to compensate forest owners for sustainable forestry practices that keep additional carbon stored. Many municipalities protect forested watersheds in order to maintain the integrity of their water supplies.

Practice a system of forestry that takes trees while leaving the forest intact, and seek certification to document these practices in the marketplace. Ensure that benefits from forestry flow back to local communities through diverse networks of value-added production.

Examples of this pattern in action:

Sustainable Forests Marketplace

Certified Wood
From paper to furniture and shelter, even the most devoted environmentalist uses some wood. But not all timber is created equal: some is harvested with care and respect for the land, while some is the product of vast clearcuts and deforestation. Until recently, there was no dependable way for the customer to tell the difference…

The Applegate Partnership
The Applegate Partnership was founded in October 1992 when a group of environmentalists, timber industry representatives, federal agency land managers, farmers, ranchers, and community representatives gathered to talk about common views they shared about how the forests of the area should be managed. They shared a mutual desire to formulate a local solution that could address both the ecological and economic issues over which they had been fighting: Until that time, environmental activists and the forest products community had been involved for two decades in a continuing conflict over management of the region's public forest lands.

Canadian Sustainable Forest Management Standards
Standards for Canada that call for sustainable forest management, public participation, performance measurement, and continuous improvement.

Organizations whose work incorporate this pattern:

Collins Company

Forest Stewardship Council

Pacific Forest Trust

Institute for Sustainable Forestry

EcoForestry Institute

Silva Forest Foundation

Rogue Institute for Ecology and Economy

Scientific Certification Systems

Certified Forest Product Council

Rainforest Action Network


Drengson, Alan Rike and Duncan MacDonald, eds. Taylor. Ecoforestry: The Art and Science of Sustainable Forestry. New Society Publishers. Gabriola Island, BC. 1997.

Hammond, Herb. Seeing the Forest Among the Trees: The Case for Wholistic Forest Use. Polestar Press. Vancouver, BC. 1991.

Marchak, M. Patricia, Scott L. Aycock and Deborah M Herbert. Falldown: Forest Policy in British Columbia. David Suzuki Foundation and Ecotrust Canada. Vancouver, BC. 1999.

Maser, Chris. The Redesigned Forest. Stoddart Publishing Co.. Toronto, Ontario. 1990.

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Pattern Index

A Conservation Economy

Social Capital

Fundamental Needs

Subsistence Rights

Shelter For All


Access To Knowledge


Social Equity


Cultural Diversity

Cultural Preservation

Sense Of Place

Beauty And Play

Just Transitions

Civic Society

Natural Capital

Ecological Land-Use

Connected Wildlands

Core Reserves

Wildlife Corridors

Buffer Zones

Productive Rural Areas

Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable Forestry

Sustainable Fisheries


Compact Towns And Cities

Human-Scale Neighborhoods

Green Building

Transit Access

Ecological Infrastructure

Urban Growth Boundaries

Ecosystem Services

Watershed Services

Soil Services

Climate Services


Economic Capital

Household Economies

Green Business

Long-Term Profitability

Community Benefit

Green Procurement

Renewable Energy

Sustainable Materials Cycles

Resource Efficiency

Waste As Resource

Product As Service

Local Economies

Value-Added Production

Rural-Urban Linkages

Local Assets

Bioregional Economies

Fair Trade

True Cost Pricing

Product Labeling