Forests are crucial to Earth’s survival, and in too many places in our world, forests are being lost to ranching, farming, and urban sprawl.

Often called the lungs of our planet, trees take in and store carbon dioxide and release life-giving oxygen. Our forests help regulate our global climate, absorbing almost 40 percent of carbon emissions created by humans’ burning of fossil fuels. Trees prevent erosion, help purify drinking water, shade plants from destructive sunlight, raise humidity, cool our cities, and filter pollutants from the air. Forests preserve natural habitat and provide a livelihood for millions of people—lumber, nuts, fruits, oils, plants, and even animals.

The alarming loss of forests and rainforests through clearcutting and poaching threatens not only the forests but the entire world. Even more, the widespread practice of burning forested areas to create pastures releases tons of carbon into the atmosphere—doubly destructive for the environment.

Advocating to Preserve and Manage Forests

The Franciscan Sisters of Mary support a number of collaborators who are working to manage forests sustainably—restoring the urban tree canopy, replanting and preserving forests, and protecting watersheds. Responsible management of forests involves balancing the needs of the environment, the area’s wildlife, and the communities that depend on the forests for their livelihood.

Wise forest management determines which trees can be harvested and in what numbers so as to preserve the forest’s overall health. Instead of burning or clearcutting forests, sustainable timbering encourages pruning rather than cutting down entire trees; cutting down older trees to encourage growth and diversity; thinning the tree population to encourage healthy growth; and planting new trees to replace ones that are cut—trees that will provide the desired timber but also fit with the area’s ecosystem. Reduced-impact logging allows trees to be harvested with minimal disturbance to neighboring trees.

Partnering with Others in Global Forest Conservation

We collaborate with a number of organizations that practice and promote forest conservation.

Conservation Forestry, for instance, helps manage forest use in the United States’ Southeast, Northeast, and Pacific Northwest, working to conserve soil, water, and wildlife resources and partnering with conservation organizations to preserve ecologically important forestland.

The Nature Conservancy works with cattle ranchers in 87 municipalities in Colombia, South America, to adopt sustainable ranching practices that conserve forests and protect critical wildlife habitats. Their systems increase biodiversity and native species, reduce water contamination, and at the same time increase yields for the ranchers. TNC runs nurseries to distribute more than 2.5 million trees to ranchers.

Planet Indonesia works with local communities to preserve and heal the native mangrove forests, which absorb some of the greatest amounts of greenhouse gas emissions anywhere in the world.

By helping local communities nurture and harvest the acai berry, which grows only in the Amazon regions of Brazil, Sambazon helps local people earn a livelihood based on sustainable use of the forest’s resources and stop the clearcutting of the rainforest that leads to severe erosion and complete degradation of the local land and soil.

Managing Forestry in Our Area

Much closer to home, FSM collaborator Forest ReLeaf of Missouri grows and provides native trees to repopulate the state’s tree canopy, especially when fires, floods, tornados, earthquakes, and other disasters have destroyed forested regions.

The Incarnate Word Foundation and the Missouri Foundation for Health, also FSM collaborators, have created pilot orchards on Land Reclamation Act-owned properties in St. Louis as part of their Urban Orchard Project. The project encourages new fruit producers to grow organic, high-quality, locally adapted fruit varieties for areas of St. Louis that lack easy access to fresh produce.

The loss of the Earth’s forests through unrestricted lumbering and poaching of wildlife has been alarming. The FSM are proud to partner with these and other organizations to encourage wise, sustainable forestry management and conservation.

How to Help?

Caring for Earth’s forests and trees is everyone’s concern. Whether you plant a tree or support others like our collaborators who are working to maintain and repopulate the Earth’s forests, you will be helping to clean the air and limit climate change.