Letter to Staples, Inc. in response to reported move toward boycott of
National Forest-source wood products
by Laura DeWald
May 23, 2002
3550 North Goldwater Blvd.
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
We have received information indicating your company may be moving towards a boycott of National Forest-sourced wood products as part of a proposed commitment to phasing out paper products generated from harvests on U.S. federal public lands. We, the members of the Southwestern Society of American Foresters, would like to explain to you why this proposed policy would actually do more harm than good for the health of our southwestern forests.
- Many scientists, forest managers, and even some groups previously opposed to all management now agree that the forests of the Southwest are in crisis. A GAO report issued in April 1999 (GAO/RCED-99-65) describes “over-accumulation of vegetation” as “the most extensive and serious problem related to the health of national forests in the interior West”. The implications for catastrophic wildfire are obvious. Stress induced by competing for limited moisture and nutrients under these crowded conditions also makes the trees more susceptible to insect attacks. Reduced harvesting on the National Forests has meant reduced opportunity for thinning these stands and thus has precluded moving them to a healthier condition.
- Forests in the West in general, and the Southwest in particular, are currently at densities beyond the historical range of variability. This means these forest ecosystems did not evolve under the current conditions—that historically, our forests were much more open due to the influence of natural fire. Our forests are not sustainable in their present state—as our catastrophic fires of the last few years show.
- Fires that occurred in the more open forests of the past burned relatively cool and with low flame heights. In today’s dense forests, the fires are extremely hot, damaging soil, watersheds, and wildlife, as well as trees. People are affected seriously too, as fires burn into communities and homes. They are further damaged with the loss of a resource base in the area, loss of tourism and other economic losses.
- Thinning is a necessary step in the restoration of these forests. Many of the excess trees, which would be removed by thinning, are small and unsuitable for sawn wood products, but ideal for pulp and paper.
If Staples refuses products having a National Forest source component, they will be turning their backs on an opportunity to support the restoration of these forests, which are presently in a health crisis and extremely vulnerable to catastrophic fire and pests.
We ask that you, as manager of a Staples store, make the needs of Southwestern people and ecosystems known to your corporate managers who are considering the decision to phase out the use of forest products from public lands. The proposed boycott would damage the forests of the Southwest and the people, their property and economies that depend upon them.
Members of the Southwestern Society of American Foresters work for the Forest Service and other Public Land Management Agencies, as well as States, Universities and other entities. We are fully aware of the stringent standards of sustainability that must be met on federal lands before management practices are implemented and know that forests in the Southwest will be better off with carefully applied treatments than they will if such treatments are not done. Please do whatever you can to prevent Staples from making a decision that would reduce a much-needed market for small-diameter products generated by thinning the forests of the Southwest.
If you have questions regarding this statement or would like to discuss it further, please call Marlin Johnson, 505-842-3242 or John Hinz, 602-225-5271.
The Society of American Foresters (SAF) is the national scientific and educational organization representing the forestry profession in the United States. There are over 17,000 members of the Society, and about 350 members in the Southwestern Section in Arizona and New Mexico. Founded in 1900 by Gifford Pinchot, it is the largest professional society for foresters in the world. Throughout its more than 100-year history, SAF has advanced the science, education, technology, and practice of forestry. SAF is committed to maintaining the connection between environmental stewardship and the professional practitioner in the field.
Southwestern Section, Society of American Foresters