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Opinion: Are policies enough to protect and grow our forests?

April 11, 2024  By Ritikaa Gupta, RPF

Photo: Annex Business Media.

Forests are taking center stage in national and international environmental agendas, dialogues, and policy forums. 

With a changing climate, increase in wildfires and biodiversity loss, there is expected to be increasing attention on forests and how they are managed. 

There is growing interest in every aspect of a forester’s work, from the forest floor to the tree stand and finished product, including forest management planning, operations, and policy decisions.

While this focus highlights forests as a nature-based solution, it invites questions about forestry practices and management, which are encouraged. 


However, informed dialogue is crucial to counter misconceptions. The sector needs to realize that the future of forestry depends not only on existing policies or actions of foresters, but also on public and political awareness of how forests are sustainably managed, utilized and restored by foresters.

As the human footprint expands and demand for timber and non-timber forest products rises, safeguarding forests is not enough. Strategic and sustainable management interventions must be implemented to ensure forest health and resilience. 

It’s evident people are unaware of the multifaceted roles of forests as providers of ecosystem services, non-timber forest products, livelihoods and biodiversity – and it may not be totally their fault. 

Although students are being taught about the importance of flora and fauna biodiversity and planting trees, topics central to understanding forest management are absent. 

Additionally, Indigenous peoples and their cultural connections to forests are overlooked.

Mainstream media further perpetuates a limited view of forests, which risks seeping deeper into policies, initiatives, businesses, and the collective mindset resulting in incomplete and often incorrect notions about the forest sector.

Achieving universal understanding of sustainable forest management, wood and its benefits will require comprehensive and all-rounded information on forestry, starting from the seed to the tree stand and end of the forest supply chain, and everything in between. 

An unbiased and balanced perspective on the forest’s role in society, coupled with transparency and data-based viewpoints, will be crucial for effective forestry communication.

Industry professionals bear the responsibility of proactively communicating about their role in ensuring sustainable forest management. 

This includes, forest managers, mill operators, academia, foresters and all forest professionals along the supply chain. By sharing their knowledge and experiences, both within and beyond the sector, they can collectively enhance public understanding of forestry.

A way to do this is take advantage of digital technology to communicate information within and outside the sector. A simple phone with a camera and internet connection can make anyone an impactful communicator. 

Effective communication is done through storytelling and visuals. The broader sector can further enhance communication through digital outreach, strategic communication development around different aspects of forestry and social media engagement. This will stimulate discussion and needed dialogue between the public, companies and forest professionals.

Beyond foresters, I urge civil society, industry, academia, and governments to deepen their understanding of forestry. It is a collective responsibility to better articulate and communicate accurately about forestry, much like how we collectively share life-sustaining oxygen forests provide.

I anticipate the day when forestry terminology such as sustainable harvest levels and silviculture become common knowledge. 

Ritikaa Gupta, RPF, is a youth advocate for forests and has academic expertise in political science and forestry. She currently works in wildfire policy.

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