Another view on a commodity

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It happens: the inability to see the forest for the trees. And in a world that tends to be commodity-based, it has been hard in some circles to see forests otherwise than as commodities.
That makes a study reported last week from British Columbia doubly interesting.
With the proposal in some countries and provinces to put a price on carbon, a report from Simon Fraser University argues that mature forests in many cases are worth more left standing than being cut for timber and other products. The factor included in this counter-intuitive calculation is the value forests have for capturing carbon from the atmosphere.
The study backed by three environmental groups - Wilderness Committee, David Suzuki Foundation, and Ecojustice - used computer modelling to look at a variety of conservation and logging scenarios in a large tract of forest near Vancouver.
In almost every scenario, researchers say they found the value of the carbon captured and stored by the trees far outweighed the value of the lumber harvested from the logs. Trees absorb and store carbon dioxide as they grow and develop - a giant benefit amid concerns about global warming.
This alternative view comes as the B.C. government and some other western provinces and states begin a system of carbon credits for industry - the option of buying credits when unable to reduce emissions.
The study did not include other roles forests play, such as purifying water and protecting fish habitat. In other words, they offer value far and beyond what is illustrated in this report.
It provides an interesting bigger picture for other areas. Nova Scotia is finding itself at a crossroads in the forestry industry. Woodlot owners are trying to find ways to continue developing and harvesting while finding more sustainable models.
We're certainly dependent on the products that trees offer, but it's essential to see the value of forests in more than a one-dimensional way.

Organizations: Simon Fraser University, Wilderness Committee, David Suzuki Foundation

Geographic location: British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C. Nova Scotia

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