The local food movement – buying and eating food grown within the community, state or region—has garnered a lot of attention of late, creating a buzz not just around locally produced and processed foods but around a larger idea of local economies. This notion, that buying locally keeps a greater portion of economic benefits within communities, has gained traction now expanding to the forestry sector. Going beyond the idea of certified wood, the local forestry movement looks to create relationships between the people who care for forests and the consumers of wood products within communities.
Located in Abingdon, Virginia Appalachian Sustainable Development’s Sustainable Woods Program provides support for landowners and loggers, as well as kiln-dried timber from sustainably managed forests for local woodworkers and consumers. ASD’s Sustainable Woods are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, but the program goes beyond providing a certified commodity, to “recognize that the strength of the local economy is closely linked to the long-term health and productivity of our forests”.
ASD is not alone in pursuing a sustainable forestry-based local economy. The Mountain Association for Community Economic Development in Berea, Kentucky “helps private forest landowners practice sustainable forest management by providing education, financial assistance and new income options” through the Forestry Opportunities Initiative (FOI). The FOI focuses on encouraging sustainably managed forests as the basis for providing real opportunity for private forest landowners in Central Appalachia.
Programs like Sustainable Woods and FOI are finding support in the emerging local, sustainable forestry movement. The Athens, Ohio-based National Network of Forest Practitioners supports rural communities, healthy economies and healthy forests by supporting “people who are deeply committed to the dream of a world where rural people have good living-wage jobs, communities are inclusive and democratic, and where forests are sustained and not depleted.” By supporting practitioners and business owners, and educating policy-makers, NNFN hopes to raise the bar for sustainable timber—beyond trusting that your wood products were made carefully, to knowing who made them and where they are from.