Forest Stewards Guild Southeast Program

The Forest Stewards Guild is working in critical areas that affect the Southeast region, including: 1) ensuring the long-term sustainability of forests in regards to biomass harvesting, 2) developing a payment for ecosystems services (PES) model for forested watershed management practices, and 3) defining conservation practices for bottomland hardwood forests of the Southeast.

Bottomland Hardwood Forest Management

The Forest Stewards Guild is working to define and communicate a model of ecological forestry for bottomland hardwood forests in the southeastern United States. Our May 2016 report, Ecological Forestry Practices for Bottomland Hardwood Forests of the Southeastern U.S., combines scientific knowledge with boots-on-the-ground experience to produce meaningful, solution-oriented tools that can help improve the stewardship of this resource.

Bottomland hardwood forests, floodplain forests that are periodically inundated or saturated during the
growing season, are critically important to biodiversity, wildlife, carbon storage, recreation, and clean
water in the Southeastern U.S. Unfortunately, bottomland hardwood forests are exceptionally threatened
by land conversation, invasive species, raising temperatures, more frequent intense storms, and altered
hydrology. There are opportunities for forest owners, natural resource managers, and communities to
protect and enhance bottomland hardwood forests through careful management. Conscientious
stewardship based on recognition of the complex ecology of bottomland hardwood forests can provide a
full suite of benefits. The Forest Stewards Guild would like to acknowledge the members of our bottomland hardwoods working group, field forum participants, and reviewers, without whom this work would not have been possible.

Biomass Harvesting Guidelines for Southeast Forest Types:

The Forest Stewards Guild's new guidelines for sustainable harvest of forest biomass in the Southeast details how to produce renewable energy from the region's forests while still protecting them for future generations. Developing domestic, renewable sources of energy is a national priority, and in the Southeast, forest biomass is a potential source of renewable energy and fuel that also supports local economies. Already, the Southeast is exporting thousands of tons of forest biomass to Europe in the form of wood pellets to be burned instead of coal. Forecasts for forest bioenergy suggest harvesting levels could grow by over 100 percent by 2050. These harvests could also add to ecological stress caused by an expanding population, a warming climate, and spread of exotic plants and animals. The Forest Stewards Guild used the best available science and professional judgment of on-the-ground foresters from the region to identify practices that ensure the forest can support wildlife, maintain biodiversity, provide clean water, sequester carbon, protect soil productivity, and continue to produce income for the long term. The guidelines were developed by a working group of 16 Forest Stewards Guild members from the Southeast and aided by Forest Stewards Guild staff. Together the working group identified practical and flexible targets for biomass retention. The guidelines identify the forest conditions that call for specific amounts of logging residues to remain in the forest during biomass harvest as well as the numbers and sizes of dead and dying standing trees that are necessary to maintain wildlife habitat.

PES for Forested Watershed Management Practices:

The Atlanta, GA metropolitan area is facing a critical, long-term water crisis. The Etowah River watershed encompasses 610 square miles, including parts of five counties and over 100 tributaries. Through the generous support an 18-month grant from the Sapelo Foundation in 2010/2011, the Forest Stewards Guild analyzed the relationship between forest watershed management and water quality in North Georgia by talking with and listening to many different stakeholders and researching approaches used in other areas. This process culminated when the Forest Stewards Guild convened a targeted group of diverse stakeholders on August 31, 2011 where the participants formed the Etowah River Water and Forestry Working Group (The Working Group) and unanimously agreed that the Forest Stewards Guild would lead this group. The Working Group also determined that the best opportunity to improve forest management on private lands in the Etowah watershed is through providing landowners with incentives to keep their lands forested and practice better management.