We developed the “How We Do It Series” to provide a window into our proactive, innovative approach to solving pressing challenges across our operations, such as managing forest carbon, wildlife habitat, wildfire mitigation and energy efficiency. These two- to four-page reference guides provide a detailed overview of our strategy, the science and research driving it, and also answers to frequently asked questions. We invite you to dig in and learn more!



Clearcutting is a harvesting practice that removes most of the standing trees in a selected area at the same time. This practice can be a polarizing topic — in large part because of how the stand looks immediately after harvest — but the truth is that when done well clearcutting is the safest and fastest way to help our forests grow back quickly. So while it might look more disruptive in the short term, clearcutting is not a shortcut. It is an essential step in making sure our forests keep thriving on a continuous cycle of growing, harvesting and replanting.

Learn more about how we approach clearcutting


  • Clearcutting is the preferred method for regenerating the species of trees we grow.
    We grow trees that reliably produce high-quality wood products, and the primary species we harvest in our forests are Douglas-fir and loblolly pine. Both species are shade intolerant, much like tomatoes in a garden, which means they need full sun to survive as young trees and reach their full growth as quickly as possible. Clearcutting mimics naturally occurring events such as fires or windstorms, creating openings in the forest and space for new trees to take root, mature and thrive. It is also a useful method for growing even-aged tree stands that produce wood with uniform qualities.
  • Clearcutting is efficient, cost effective and safer than other harvest methods.
    Managing harvest plans across large landscapes over many decades is a highly complex process, requiring careful planning and engineering to ensure we are able to deliver a steady supply of sustainable timber to the market. With our 120 years of experience and expertise in understanding how forests grow, aided by science and ongoing advancements in technology, harvesting has become increasingly safe and precise. It is much more efficient to harvest a focused area at one time with fewer trips into the forest. Not only does this method reduce soil disturbance and erosion, but it also reduces operating expenses and exposure to hazards for our people — all while cutting back on fuel use and shrinking our overall carbon footprint.
  • Clearcutting can be beneficial for supporting and creating diverse wildlife habitat.
    Open clearings in forests are good for wildlife species that need different stages of forest growth for food and other habitat components, known as landscape diversity. Open spaces receive more sunlight and create ideal growing conditions for sun-loving shrubs and grasses, which provide food and shelter for deer, elk,1 birds,2 small mammals and pollinators. After harvest, we follow best management practices by leaving standing dead trees, logs and scattered live trees for additional habitat features. We also protect buffers of trees along streams and other water bodies to safeguard land adjacent to water and maintain cool stream temperatures. These practices help provide pools and spawning beds for fish and reduce siltation. And for rare, threatened and endangered species, no matter where they are on our lands, we take additional special measures to protect their habitat.
  • Clearcutting is an overall low-disturbance harvest method.
    Clearcutting requires fewer roads and less-frequent activity on the land than other methods, resulting in fewer disturbances to soil and water, which are vital to forest regeneration, healthy ecosystems and surrounding communities. We have done extensive research on soil management and water quality protection, and we conduct careful analysis to identify locations that are environmentally sensitive to harvest and take appropriate conservation steps.
  • Clearcutting is temporary — we always regrow our forests.
    It is important to remember that we do not clearcut entire forests. Rather, we harvest smaller areas (called stands) within a forest and quickly regenerate these harvested areas, either through planting or planned natural regeneration. In fact, on average we harvest only 2 percent of our land base — spread out across our millions of acres in North America — each year. That means the other 98 percent of our forests are in various stages of growth and maturity, forming a mosaic of different ages and structures.
    We also reforest 100 percent of the stands we harvest — the vast majority (more than 75 percent) within a year after harvest, and more than 95 percent within two years — to ensure another healthy forest will grow and thrive again. Our Sustainable Forestry Initiative® Forest Management certification requires every harvested stand to be regenerated within five years, and every year we plant about 130 to 150 million trees to meet society’s needs for generations to come. Coming directly from our nursery system, these seedlings are matched to suit the specific conditions and needs of our growing regions, contributing to an outstanding survival rate of 85 to 90 percent (or higher). So clearcutting does not simply help us start the process of regeneration quickly; it also helps our new forests take root and reach maturity years sooner than other approaches.
  • Clearcutting is not the only method we use.
    In our northern hardwood region, we selectively harvest stands that contain good-quality, shade-tolerant species such as sugar maple. In other regions, thinning is used in overcrowded stands of trees. Removing selected trees reduces the competition for sunlight, water and nutrients, helping the remaining trees stay healthy and grow faster. Other approaches include shelterwood cutting, group selection and single tree harvesting. Yet regardless of the harvesting method, we follow strict laws and regulations to protect water and wildlife, and we are careful stewards of the biological diversity, recreational benefits and other ecosystem services our forests provide.


  • From 2012 to 2019, we examined the influence of forest harvesting on an at-risk species, Oregon slender salamanders, as part of a collaborative research project with federal, private and university partners. After eight years of rigorous field research, analysis and peer review, researchers3 found that our long-standing practice of leaving coarse woody debris on clearcut harvest sites helps protect this species, which only occurs in the Oregon Cascades.
  • In the 1990s, bird research4 conducted in part on Weyerhaeuser lands led to significant shifts in scientists’ thinking about how working forests, specifically clearcuts and early successional forests, benefit neotropical migrant songbirds. The young forests that grew following a clearcut were found to support an abundance and diversity of breeding songbirds that later migrate and spend their nonbreeding season in Central and South America. This study led to the concept of working forests providing a “shifting mosaic” of forest structure types (i.e., young to mature forests) over time and across the landscape to provide habitat for a variety of wildlife species.
  • Multiple studies5 have explored the short- and long-term impacts of harvesting practices on plant community dynamics and biodiversity, and we have found through our own research that our management activities ensure abundant and diverse plant communities after harvest and throughout the growth cycles of our forests.
  • We have conducted studies6 to measure how much our harvesting practices release carbon in the forest soil — where around 50 percent of all forest carbon is stored — and found no significant impact on carbon levels from clearcutting.
  • One of the longest-running research projects7 to understand the efficacy of contemporary forest management practices in protecting water quality occurs in Washington’s Deschutes River Watershed. Since 1974, Weyerhaeuser has measured streamflow, sediment, turbidity and water temperatures in the watershed and shown that the current riparian buffers we leave after harvest, along our road management practices, maintain water quality. Similarly, as part of a large, collaborative effort involving multiple state and federal agencies and several universities, we completed a long-term water quality study8 in Oregon’s Trask River Watershed. That study examined the relationship between water quality criteria — such as sediment, temperature and turbidity — and timber harvest, road construction and log hauling. The research team found that our forest management practices ensure we meet Oregon’s state water quality standards.


How can cutting down trees be sustainable?

Forestry is sustainable when we grow at least as much as we harvest — and we do. Each year, we cut an average of only 2 percent of our forests, and we plant about 130 to 150 million tree seedlings to replace the ones we cut. That means in any given year, the other 98 percent of our forests are in various stages of growth and maturity. We believe trees are one of the most sustainable, versatile resources on the planet, and we intend to make sure our forests last forever.

Is clearcutting the same as deforestation?

No. Deforestation happens when forests are permanently cleared and removed, but we manage our forests on a continuous cycle of growing, harvesting and replanting. We’ve been doing that for more than a century, often across multiple generations of forests, including on more than 400,000 acres of the original land Frederick Weyerhaeuser purchased in 1900 that we continue to manage today. More broadly, total forest area in the United States has increased around 6.2 percent since 1920.9 And though it may seem counterintuitive, one of the best ways to prevent deforestation and land conversion is to foster a strong wood products market that encourages continuous, fully sustainable forest management. The reality is that the vast majority of our forests stay as forests, and we intend to keep them growing for generations to come.

Isn’t cutting trees bad for climate change?

As trees grow, they absorb carbon dioxide, release oxygen and store carbon. When we cut and convert trees into long-lived wood products, that carbon remains stored for the life of the product. And when we replant our forests, these new trees start removing more CO2 and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Together, sustainable forests and wood products are a dynamic duo and provide a much-needed natural climate solution.

But isn’t clearcutting damaging to the environment?

We plan and execute our harvest operations carefully to ensure we safeguard the environmental health and productivity of our forests. We follow best practices, developed through years of research and partnerships, along with strict guidelines to minimize soil disturbance and protect streams and other bodies of water — including clean drinking water for nearby communities. Once we select the harvest unit, we carefully identify areas that need protection. We minimize road building as much as possible; if we need access to a harvest site, we carefully engineer roads to prevent erosion and protect fish habitat. We leave tree buffers along waterways and other sensitive areas to prevent sediment from entering streams, and we take special measures to protect rare, threatened and endangered species.

Doesn’t clearcutting increase the risk of landslides?

Landslides are a common and naturally occurring geologic disturbance in forests with steep topography. We recognize that forests do play an important role in supporting overall soil stability on steep slopes by maintaining root strength and preventing the occurrence of shallow landslides. To reduce this risk, our team of professional geologists follows a rigorous geological evaluation process to ensure our forest management operations don’t increase the likelihood of triggering landslides.

1 "Elk nutritional resources: Herbicides, herbivory and forest succession at Mount St. Helens,” Forest Ecology and Management (2017)
2Bird community dynamics and vegetation relationships among stand establishment practices in intensively managed pine stands,” Forest Ecology and Management (2012); “Conservation and production responses vary by disturbance intensity in a long-term forest management experiment,” Ecological Applications (2020)
3 “Experimental evidence indicates variable responses to forest disturbance and thermal refugia by two plethodontid salamanders,” Forest Ecology and Management (2020)
4Diversity and abundance of landbirds in a Northeastern industrial forest,” The Journal of Wildlife Management (1997)
5 Plant community responses to a gradient of site preparation intensities in pine plantations in the Coastal Plain of North Carolina,” Forest Ecology and Management(2011)
6Soil Carbon Storage in Douglas-fir Forests of Western Oregon and Washington Before and After Modern Timber Harvesting Practices,” Soil Science Society of America Journal (2019)
7Stream temperature patterns over 35 years in a managed forest of Western Washington,” Journal of the American Water Resources Association (2015)
8Summer stream temperature changes following forest harvest in the headwaters of the Trask River watershed, Oregon Coast Range,” Ecohydrology (2019)
9 “U.S. Forest Resource Facts and Historical Trends,” USDA Forest Service (2014)

Download our "How We Do It: Clearcutting" PDF


Energy Efficiency in Our Wood Products Business

Weyerhaeuser is one of the largest wood products manufacturers in North America, with 35 manufacturing and 19 distribution facilities spread across Canada and the United States that produce everything from dimensional lumber to panels and engineered wood products. Given the scale of our footprint, we understand the importance of carefully managing our energy usage and ensuring that we continually make efficiency improvements at every stage of production. That commitment includes our efforts to significantly cut our greenhouse gas emissions across our supply chain, and to pursue renewable energy sources whenever economically feasible. We view advancing energy efficiency in our operations as essential to our long-term success, and we will continue to explore and implement new technologies and strategies to minimize our environmental impact.

Learn more about how we manage energy efficiency in our wood products business


  • We set ambitious energy efficiency goals.
    In partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Plants program, we’ve committed to a 10 percent improvement in our energy efficiency by 2030.
  • We set aggressive emissions-reduction goals.
    In line with the Science Based Targets initiative1 and the 2015 Paris Agreement to help limit global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius, by 2030, we will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 42 percent from a baseline year of 2020. Currently, our net climate impact is significantly carbon negative — we removed about five times more CO2 than we emitted in 20212 — and we are committed to deepening our impact.
  • We focus on process reliability as a primary lever to improve energy efficiency.
    Our energy efficiency is a measure of how much energy we consume based on the amount of renewable products we produce. During a downtime incident, the machines are still running in some capacity even though no product is being produced while time is taken for removing obstructions from the production line or conducting breakdown repairs. By mitigating downtime incidents, we reduce the average energy needed for each unit of production.
  • We minimize energy waste in our operations.
    From manufacturing to distribution, we focus on reducing energy waste throughout our operations, including by reducing wasted time or movement. For example, our distribution centers prioritize filling orders efficiently with the right, defect-free product every time, and we work to reduce gaps between logs being processed in our mills to ensure that machines are used as efficiently as possible.
  • We educate and empower our people to pursue energy efficiency at every step.
    By providing real-time feedback on energy use to our teams, they can identify opportunities for improvement and track the results. Seemingly small actions — such as finding and fixing air leaks, sharpening chipper knives to reduce motor amps, increasing the efficiency of forklift travel, or turning off equipment when not needed — can add up to create substantive reductions in energy use.
  • We utilize our on-site teams to proactively identify and make improvements.
    By generating, developing and implementing ideas through CuttingEdge, our internal platform for advancing innovation, effective energy-saving strategies developed by local teams are shared and replicated companywide to increase their impact at other sites.
  • We ensure energy efficiency is built into equipment and process design.
    We provide dedicated funding to invest in energy efficiency, and our energy strategy team reviews opportunities for capital projects, such as the replacement or modernization of large-scale machinery, to ensure that equipment updates balance improved production with increased reliability and efficient energy use. We understand that our biggest opportunity to influence the outcome of our manufacturing and distribution processes is at the design stage.
  • We leverage the expertise and resources of local utilities.
    Whenever possible, we partner with local utilities to implement mutually beneficial energy-use upgrades. For example, we negotiated with a utility in Columbia Falls, Montana, to purchase renewable power. We have also taken advantage of local utility programs to upgrade lighting from incandescent to LED, install variable frequency drives and implement similar energy-efficiency improvements.
  • We pilot and deploy the latest proven technologies.
    By evaluating and adopting innovative technologies,3 we continue learning and remain at the forefront of energy efficient improvements. For example, we are on track to convert all of our batch kilns (used to remove moisture from lumber) to continuous drying kilns, which use 50 percent less energy. We are also piloting the use of a non-heated wastewater evaporation unit, which uses 20 percent less energy than a heated unit.


  • At our lumber mill in Millport, Alabama, we saw a 50 percent decrease in thermal energy use per thousand board feet of lumber after replacing two batch kilns with continuous drying kilns.
  • We received approval from the Canadian Federal Department of Environment and Climate Change to join Alberta’s TIER (Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction) program in 2021, which helps industry “find innovative ways to reduce emissions and invest in clean technology to stay competitive and save money.” 4
  • Across our operational sites, staff have identified near-term energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emission reduction opportunities as part of their annual roadmap processes. These actions have been reviewed with management and are slated for implementation.


How do you track energy use at your operations?

We have contracted a reputable third-party vendor to review, inspect for quality control, and convert the electricity and natural gas bills and consumption volumes from our sites into data for internal use. This process enables us to review high-level energy use trends, set appropriate benchmarks and goals, and identify location-specific energy-saving opportunities.

How do you track and report on the emissions from your operations?

We report our yearly carbon emissions, removals, storage and future goals for reducing emissions in our Carbon Record.5 We follow the Greenhouse Gas Protocol’s Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard and Corporate Value Chain Accounting and Reporting Standard, co-published by the World Resources Institute and World Business Council for Sustainable Development, to calculate our annual greenhouse gas emission inventory. We account for and report greenhouse gas emissions — direct (Scope 1), emissions from purchased energy (Scope 2) and value-chain emissions (Scope 3) — according to the equity-share approach. The complete methodology is available on our website.6

How do you set best practices for reductions in energy use?

In addition to setting internal benchmarks and sharing knowledge through our CuttingEdge innovation platform, we proactively engaged an external energy advisor to evaluate our company energy strategy. We also draw on resources and established best practices from the U.S. Department of Energy, refer to publications and studies produced by the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement,7 and review technology improvements piloted or implemented by others in our industry.

Do you use renewable energy in your operations?

We meet more than 70 percent of the energy needs in our manufacturing facilities from renewable biomass, using what would be wood waste from sustainably managed forests and mill residuals to create our own energy. This approach allows us to reduce our reliance on nonrenewable fossil fuels and purchased electricity, and we are looking for additional opportunities to utilize renewable energy at our operational sites.

How does Weyerhaeuser justify expenditures on energy improvements?

Energy improvement ideas are evaluated based on their alignment to our Wood Products strategy, energy strategy and site-specific improvements roadmap. Expenditures and investments are prioritized based on impact — operational and sustainability — and cost-effectivenes.

1 The Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) is a partnership between the CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute and the World Wide Fund for Nature. The SBTi “drives ambitious climate action in the private sector by enabling organizations to set science-based emissions reduction targets.” https://sciencebasedtargets.org/about-us
2 In 2021, our total emissions were 7.43 million mtCO2e, and our total removals were 35 million mtCO2e. https://carbonrecord.weyerhaeuser.com
3 We've implemented energy-saving technological updates both large and small. In addition to converting to continuous drying kilns and piloting non-heated wastewater evaporation units, we have also: converted incandescent bulbs to LED bulbs; installed motion sensors to turn on lights only when needed; converted hydraulic and pneumatic power to electric linear actuators; installed soft starts to electric motors; switched from v-belts to power bands; converted press roll infeed and outfeed positioning on curve gangs from air to hydraulic positioning and force control; piloted motors that use AC power to start and convert to DC power when needed for overall energy improvement; and much more.
4 https://www.alberta.ca/technology-innovation-and-emissions-reduction-system.aspx
5 https://carbonrecord.weyerhaeuser.com
6 https://carbonrecord.weyerhaeuser.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/CarbonRecord_Bside-methodology_05-16-2022.pdf
7 https://www.ncasi.org/resource

Download our "How We Do It: Energy Efficiency in Our Wood Products Business" PDF


Forest Carbon

Managed forests represent a critical element of carbon sequestration and climate change mitigation policies. It can seem counterintuitive to view harvesting as an integral part of a sustainable process, but the trees we harvest for wood products continue storing carbon for decades, and as we plant new trees to take their place — about 130 to 150 million seedlings a year — our young forests immediately begin absorbing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It's a continuous cycle1 that makes our operations carbon negative, even when considering the fossil fuels required for harvest and transportation. In fact, industrywide, research has found the life-cycle emissions2 for wood production, transport, harvesting and manufacturing comprise only 5 to 10 percent of the total carbon sequestered in wood products and growing trees. Moreover, the emissions associated with the manufacturing and transport of fertilizer comprise less than 5 percent3 of the additional carbon sequestered through increased tree growth.

Learn more about the carbon and climate benefits of working forests

Our managed forests provide other climate benefits, as well. They mature more quickly and are able to absorb and bank more carbon through faster, continuous rotations4; our harvesting methods do not disturb levels of carbon in the soil; and using wood for construction reduces emissions compared to other building materials, such as steel and concrete. That means our system of sustainable forest management already contributes meaningfully to reducing greenhouse gases and combating climate change5.


  • In the United States, forests and forest products absorb or store about 10 to 20 percent of the country’s annual CO2 emissions6. In Washington, the second-largest softwood lumber producer in the nation, that number is as high as 35 percent7.
  • Our forests store the equivalent of between 2.3 billion and 3.6 billion metric tons of CO2. That is the same number of emissions generated by providing every home in the United States with electricity for three to five years.
  • We reforest 100 percent of the stands we harvest — the vast majority (more than 75 percent) within a year after harvest, and more than 95 percent within two. Every harvested stand is reforested within five years.
  • The carbon stored in harvested trees is replaced by growth in other trees, keeping overall forest carbon stocks even at the landscape level. Plus, portions of our forests are never harvested — such as protected areas and riparian buffers — and they continue to store carbon in perpetuity.
  • Through careful species selection (but not genetic modification), we cultivate seedling stocks that will be resilient under a broad range of potential climactic conditions, and we carefully select appropriate seedlings for different sites and regions.
  • A comprehensive view of the carbon dioxide emissions, removals, and storage of our forests and wood products can be found in our Carbon Record and accompanying methodology at carbonrecord.weyerhaeuser.com.
  • A robust market for wood products incentivizes forest managers to prioritize growing trees over other land uses, such as development or agriculture. Switching to other land uses, rather than keeping forests in a cycle of sustainable harvesting (and thus a continual, necessary supply of wood products), contributes to deforestation, not the other way around.
  • Active forest management reduces the risk of wildfire and other disturbances that cause catastrophic carbon losses, such as insect infestations and disease.8 This benefit can’t be overstated: The 2019 fires in California released = 68 million tons of CO2, and the recent fires in British Columbia released 150 million tons. Also, from 1997 to 2015 in the U.S., the equivalent of 48 million tons of CO2 was lost each year from insect infestations and disease9. Managed forests aren’t immune from fire risk, but they can play an important role in reducing that risk and preventing catastrophic losses of forest carbon — especially compared to unmanaged forests.


  • To determine the impact of our forest management practices on forest soils — which generally contain about half the total carbon in forests — we partnered with Oregon State University on a study designed to evaluate the impact of harvesting on soil carbon over a 40-year rotation10. During the first reassessment three years after harvest, the researchers found that harvesting operations had minimal effect on carbon levels in the forest soils. This result was especially promising given the soil is most exposed to high temperatures — and potentially higher carbon decomposition rates — during this early stage of regrowth.
  • A 2019 study11 by MIT scientists found that using lumber products instead of cement, iron and steel could significantly cut construction emissions and costs. Specifically, the study found that the CO2 intensity — tons of CO2 emissions per dollar of output — of lumber production is about 20 percent less than that of fabricated metal products, under 50 percent that of iron and steel, and under 25 percent that of cement.
  • A long-term study from 1969 to 201612 found a positive carbon feedback loop with fertilization leading to larger crowns, more wood to sequester carbon, and improved water-use efficiency in the wake of climate change, among other benefits.


Does harvesting your forests contribute to deforestation?

Definitely not. Deforestation happens when forests are permanently cleared and removed. We manage our forests on a continuous cycle of harvesting, replanting and growing, and we’ve been doing that for more than 100 years. That said, we use a small fraction of our forests for roads and landings, and we do sell some of our land each year. Still, the vast majority of our forests stay as forests, and we intend to keep them growing for many generations to come. In the U.S. South, for instance, challenging market conditions for wood products have led to forests being converted to other uses, including development and different agricultural crops. When that land gets converted from forests, it’s incredibly difficult to return it to timberlands. That’s deforestation.

But if trees store carbon, shouldn’t we stop harvesting them?

Our millions of acres of sustainably managed forests absorb CO2 from the atmosphere as they grow, and much of the carbon stored in the harvested trees continues to stay captured in our long-lived wood products. By replanting our forests after harvesting, our growing trees once again absorb carbon dioxide, and the next round of wood products store more carbon yet again. That’s a crucial distinction for how working forests — those managed across the landscape to produce wood products — can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere13.

Isn’t clearcutting more disruptive to carbon storage than other practices, such as selective harvesting?

We prefer to clearcut because it’s the safest and most efficient method. It reduces the need to build more forest roads (sediment reaching streams and rivers is most likely to occur through building roads), minimizes entries into the stand (thereby reducing soil compaction from machinery), and allows for higher survival and growth rates in the forests we replant after a harvest. Some species, such as Douglas-fir and Southern yellow pines, aren’t as shade tolerant, so selective harvesting — which can expose regenerating trees to increased shade from mature canopies — could result in slower stand growth overall. So while a clearcut stand may look more disruptive in the short term, it ultimately leads to a faster turnaround in forest regrowth as part of a continuous cycle. Also, we’ve conducted studies to measure how much our harvesting practices release carbon in the forest soil and have found minimal impact on carbon levels. That’s great news, as around 50 percent of all forest carbon is stored in the soil.

Doesn’t cutting trees release greenhouse gases?

Even though there are some emissions associated with harvesting trees and making wood products — running machinery and transportation, for instance — those emissions are outweighed by the carbon stored and absorbed by the millions of trees we grow and harvest on a continuous cycle, and we’ve reduced our greenhouse gas emissions companywide by more than 50 percent over the last two decades. That means the overall process of managing forests and making wood products is a net benefit in terms of reducing greenhouse gases.

But wouldn’t it just be better to let trees grow longer and absorb more carbon?

There is science to show that growing trees longer may sequester more carbon at the individual stand level, but the long-term story is far more complex. For instance, if you compared a stand planted and left untouched for 100 years with unimproved seedlings, versus a similar stand — planted at the same time but carefully managed with improved seedlings and harvested twice at 50-year rotations — the multiple rotations would end up storing about the same amount of carbon as the single longer rotation (assuming the harvested trees are used as lumber and for other solid, long-lived wood products). Then, when you factor in substitution effects and leakage (see below), as well as the increasing risk, magnitude and frequency of catastrophic carbon loss from fire, insects and disease the longer those trees grow, the more the carbon balance tilts in favor of multiple rotations, especially over time. Also, some new research — including an April 2020 study14 in Nature — suggests mature forests are limited in their ability to absorb additional carbon as atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations increase.

Are there other potential impacts from moving to longer rotations?

Yes, several. Lengthening rotation ages on a larger scale could have detrimental, unintended consequences that would cause both economic and environmental harm. Potential impacts include a higher reliance on wood products imported from other regions or countries, which often have weaker social and environmental laws and higher associated transportation emissions (known as leakage), and increased use of other building materials, such as steel and concrete, which generate far more carbon emissions in their manufacture and store no biogenic carbon when in use (called substitution effects). The combined effects of leakage and substitution effects would decrease, and potentially reverse, the climate benefits derived from increasing carbon stored in a local forest with longer rotation length. Additionally, reducing the economic incentives for forest owners to keep lands as forests could cause increased conversions of timberlands to other uses, such as development or different agricultural crops.

1 The latest data from the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis program show that across the U.S. — and particularly in Oregon and Washington — forests are absorbing 50 percent more carbon than is harvested, or lost to fire, annually.
2 “A flexible hybrid model of life cycle carbon balance for loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) management systems,” Forests (2011), and “Cradle-to-gate inventory of wood production from Australia softwood plantations and native hardwood forests; Carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions,” Forest Ecology and Management (2013)
3 “Conclusions and caveats from studies of managed forest carbon budgets,” Forest Ecology and Management (2018)
4 Mid-rotation stands absorb more carbon at a faster rate than more mature stands because old forests — 100-plus years old, for instance — often release the same amount of carbon as absorbed annually as they reach equilibrium (mortality plays a role, and carbon accretion more or less equals carbon loss at that point).
5 The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) points to sustainable forest management as playing a critical role in mitigating the impact of greenhouse gas emissions.
6 “A synthesis of current knowledge on forests and carbon storage in the United States,” Ecological Applications (2011)
7 “Global warming mitigating role of wood products from Washington state’s private forests,” Forests (2020)
8 “Conclusions and caveats from studies of managed forest carbon budgets,” Forest Ecology and Management (2018)
9 “Simulating the recent impacts of multiple biotic disturbances on forest carbon cycling across the United States,” Global Change Biology (2018)
10 “Soil Carbon Storage in Douglas-fir Forests in Western Oregon and Washington Before and After Modern Timber Harvesting Practices,” Soil Science Society of America Journal (2019)
11 “The economic and emissions benefits of engineered wood products in a low-carbon future,” Energy Economics (2020)
12 “Forest Fertilizer Applications in the Southeastern United States from 1969 to 2016,” Forest Science (2018)
13 “The global potential for carbon capture and storage from forestry,” Carbon Balance and Management (2016)
14 “The fate of carbon in a mature forest under carbon dioxide enrichment,” Nature (April 2020)

Download our "How We Do It: Forest Carbon" PDF


Forest Management & Wood Procurement Certification

We are proud of our long history managing our forests sustainably and advancing responsible wood procurement throughout our supply chain. We verify this work through companywide certification to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI) Forest Management, Fiber Sourcing and Certified Sourcing standards, as well as certification of select sites to the SFI® and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) Chain-of-Custody standards. These standards outline the requirements certified companies must meet when managing timberlands and procuring wood materials. Requirements cover a range of activities such as protecting biodiversity, soil health, water and special sites, providing recreational access, conducting forestry research and using professionally trained loggers. Certification to credible certification standards provides our customers and stakeholders with an objective, third-party determination that we implement sustainable forestry practices and make products that come from legal and responsibly managed sources.

Learn more about how we certify our forests and wood procurement to independent, third-party standards


  • Certification standards are determined by independent organizations, such as SFI, and cover three main areas: sustainable forest management, wood procurement practices and supply chain assurances.
  • Our conformance to SFI and PEFC standards is measured and verified by external, third-party auditors through annual, on-site audits.
  • All our timberlands are certified to the SFI Forest Management Standard, which contains more than 140 different indicators of sustainable forest management. Certification to this standard requires that we:
    • Promptly reforest after harvest and protect our forests from damaging agents such as wildfire, pests, diseases and invasive species.
    • Manage our forests in ways that protect and promote biological diversity and protect water quality and water quantity of rivers, streams, lakes, wetlands and other water bodies.
    • Ensure our forest management activities address climate change adaptation and mitigation measures, and that we limit the susceptibility of our forests to undesirable impacts of wildfire.
  • Across our wood products manufacturing facilities, we certify all our sites to either the SFI Fiber Sourcing or Certified Sourcing standards. Certification to these standards require that we:
    • Verify whether our wood originates from a certified or non-certified land base or supplier.
    • Collect and confirm the location of origin (e.g., county or municipality) for all wood we procure.
    • Assess the risk of procuring wood from controversial sources and implement mitigation action where risk is identified.
    • Have the systems and controls in place to credibly pass certified forest content claims to our customers.


  • The SFI Forest Management and Fiber Sourcing standards are unique in that they require certified organizations to invest in research, science and technology and integrate the best available science into forest management practices.
  • Our internal teams conduct and collaborate on research to improve our understanding of topics such as biodiversity, forest health and productivity, restoration after wildfires and climate change impacts. We conduct research internally and collaboratively by partnering with organizations including universities, environmental non-governmental groups, government agencies and other forest product industries.
  • In 2023, we invested over $11 million toward these research activities and collaborative efforts.


How does a company become certified?

The process is slightly different for every company, but generally the first step is to develop procedures and processes that comply with all the requirements of a standard. Then we work with functional teams to implement these procedures and processes across all our operations. To ensure actions taken on the ground align with standard requirements, companies must conduct internal audits. These audits allow companies to self-identify any gaps between on-the-ground outcomes and standard requirements and put corrective actions in place, such as enhanced training, site visits or changes in operational guidance. Finally, conformance with the standard is verified through third-party auditing of a company’s operations; if successful, that results in the issuance of a certificate.

How often do you get externally audited against standard requirements?

Every year, auditors visit different portions of our land base and mill operations to determine whether we are meeting the standard’s requirements. The audited operations change each year and are scheduled to provide a representative sample of our forest management and mill operations. During visits, auditors conduct staff interviews, review documentation and directly observe forest management and fiber procurement outcomes.

How often do you conduct internal audits?

Our internal audit schedule depends on the certification standard. For sites with Chain-of-Custody and Certified Sourcing certification, every site is internally audited every year. Sites with Forest Management and Fiber Sourcing certification are internally audited on a cycle that aligns with our external audit schedule, meaning these sites are internally (and externally) audited once every four to five years. Just like our external audits, our internal audits include staff interviews, documentation review and extensive field time to observe the outcomes of our certification programs (we also report internal audit findings of non-conformance and corrective actions to external auditors to demonstrate effective internal controls). Internal audits are a key part of how we ensure our operations meet standard requirements and how we help our teams get comfortable presenting their work to auditors.

How did you choose SFI as your primary certification standard?

There are multiple internationally recognized forest certification standards — such as SFI, Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, the American Tree Farm System and the Forest Stewardship Council — that provide sustainability assurance to customers and stakeholders. Each of these programs provides its own set of requirements that are best suited for different types of landowners and managers. No matter which standard a company or landowner chooses, all credible standards help raise the bar of sustainable forest and procurement practices.

At Weyerhaeuser, we choose to certify our timberlands and operations to SFI’s standards because they are strong, science-based standards that have effectively pushed forestry in a more sustainable direction. The SFI standards are designed specifically for operations in North America and in a way that is scalable to the large scope of our operational footprint. We value SFI’s collaborative approach to both standard development and standard implementation, especially around logger training and the requirement to invest in research and apply it to our operations. Recent updates to the SFI standard include an increased focus on protecting biodiversity, engaging with Indigenous Peoples, promoting fire resiliency and mitigating and adapting to climate change. After implementing the SFI standards across our land base and procurement program, we’ve seen firsthand the positive effect the SFI standards have had on sustainable forestry outcomes. We are proud to directly contribute to this work.

How do we know if a product is covered by a sustainable forestry standard?

The easiest way to tell is to look for an on-product certification logo. On our wood products, we use the SFI Certified Sourcing logo. Any time you see a logo like this on a product, it means the wood fiber in the product comes from legal, responsible and non-controversial sources. Next time you’re at the hardware store picking lumber or at the grocery store buying anything in a carton or a box, look for a forest certification logo.

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Download our "How We Do It: Forest Management & Wood Procurement" PDF


Managing Forest Fires

Fire is a natural disturbance in many forest ecosystems. Depending on the region and type of forest, wildfires have often played an important ecological role in opening up space on the forest floor, returning nutrients to the soil and sparking new cycles of growth and biodiversity. However, changing climate conditions — coupled with long-term patterns of fire suppression and human development into fire-prone areas — are leading to an increasing number of wildfires. Some of these fires can become uncharacteristically large and severe and have the potential to cause catastrophic damage to forests, watersheds, wildlife and communities. That’s why it is essential that we address fire risk as much as possible through careful management of our forests, proactive outreach and engagement with communities, and close partnerships with state and federal agencies and other forest landowners.

Learn more about our approach to managing forest fire


  • Fire has always been a natural part of the landscape, though fire frequency and severity vary widely by region and forest type.
    Drier forests on the eastern slopes of the Cascades in Oregon and Washington, for instance, are often dominated by ponderosa pine and have evolved with more frequent fires of low to moderate intensity. The probability of fire in these forests is greater, even as their severity has generally been lower.1 In historically wetter forests, such as those on the Cascades’ highly productive western slopes, fire is still a natural part of the ecosystem even though those environments have typically seen fires only at intervals of more than 200 years. These forests tend to grow more quickly and densely, so the fires that do reach them are able to feed off naturally heavy fuels, as well as trees that have not evolved to resist fire quite as well. So while the overall probability of fires in westside forests has been lower, the potential severity of fires that do occur can be higher.
  • Well-managed forests are less susceptible to fire.
    We cannot prevent all fires, but the proactive steps we take to manage fire risk in our forests — from clearing excess fuels on the forest floor to building fire breaks and periodically thinning smaller trees — support overall forest health and can play an important role in reducing the frequency and intensity of fires that do occur.
  • Active forest management is not just about prevention and mitigation — it can also be a powerful force to accelerate forest and landscape recovery after a fire and other natural disasters.
    We have the resources and expertise to replant where appropriate as quickly as possible following a major disruption, and we have proven — including after the Mount St. Helens eruption in 1980 and the 2020 fires in Oregon2 — that we can jump-start regeneration and more swiftly rehabilitate forests and restore the benefits they provide, from wildlife habitat to clean air and water for surrounding communities. Quick and careful regeneration also helps reduce the likelihood of landslides after a burn as new growth begins to restabilize slopes.
  • The threat of uncharacteristically large and severe fire events is greater than ever.
    While large, severe fires are not new — the Silverton Fire in 1865, for instance, was a single fire that burned a million acres in Oregon — changing climate conditions and more people living in the wildland-urban interface will almost certainly contribute to increasingly dangerous fires. These extreme fires often burn at high intensity, spread quickly,3 reach and engulf the crowns of trees, and can ultimately cause as much as 100 percent mortality in a forest.
  • Many of our employees are actively trained to support fire suppression.
    Our Timberlands teams undergo thorough fire prevention training and readiness drills every spring. And whenever a fire does approach our forests, our employees and contractors work alongside federal, state and local firefighting crews to establish fire breaks and perimeters, reduce vegetation and fight the fires. We also combat active fires with aerial surveys, quick-response teams, tanker trucks and helicopters.
  • We help provide resources and support the mental health of wildland firefighters.
    In 2022 we launched a partnership with Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance, Fighting First Together, to create an online resource hub that includes content especially designed for wildland firefighters and their families, including mental health tips, educational articles and contacts for support groups and counselors located in the Pacific Northwest (including B.C.). Addressing mental health challenges without stigma is critical to keeping firefighters safe, during and after fire season, as they risk their lives to protect our forests and communities.
  • Our goal with all of the timberlands we manage is to create healthy, resilient forest ecosystems.
    We manage our forests to ensure they are filled with healthy trees that resist pests and disease and are less likely to die and become dry fuel for fires. We continually conduct research to better understand fire ecology and respond to wildfires, including under changing climate conditions. And we partner with government agencies and academic institutions to continue learning more and better ways to integrate science into our practices.


  • A 2020 study in Environmental Research Letters4 explores the new reality of fires in an increasingly arid American West and how we need to be more responsive and adaptable in learning to live with fire. Fire is a shared challenge across landscapes, and the research highlights the need for collaborative, integrated approaches to assessing risk and preparing for and responding to fires.
  • In a 2016 paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America,5 researchers found that increased forest fire activity across the western U.S. in recent decades has likely been enabled by a number of factors, including the legacy of fire suppression and human settlement, natural climate variability, and human-caused climate change. The authors estimated that climate change, in particular, has likely contributed to an additional 10 million-plus acres of forest fire between 1984 and 2015 — nearly doubling the amount of fire that would have been expected under normal conditions.
  • A separate 2017 study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America6 found that human-started wildfires account for 84 percent of all wildfires, and roughly half of all burned acreage. Humans often play a key — and in many cases preventable — role in starting fires, and this research highlights the need for successful mitigation efforts to include engagement and outreach to improve overall awareness and understanding of forest fires.
  • In a 2020 paper in Hydrological Processes7 on the Valley Fire in the northern California Coast Range, researchers found that salvage logging following a fire was associated with a short-term decrease in hillslope sediment yield — such as through infiltration, runoff, erosion and sediment delivery to streams — compared to areas that had burned but were not actively managed. By three years after the fire, differences in rates of soil movement were not detectable.


Is fire a new threat to our forests?

Fire has always been a natural part of the landscape. It’s not a new challenge, nor is it new to forest management. In fact, Indigenous peoples of North America have long used fire intentionally, through what is now called prescribed burning, to manage forests sustainably. Developed through generations of experience and observations of forest fires, prescribed burns can mimic naturally occurring fires that burn at a lower intensity and generally promote improved forest health. At Weyerhaeuser, we sometimes use prescribed burns in our timberlands in the U.S. Southeast to help clear out woody vegetation under trees, prepare new seedbeds and reduce woody debris on the forest floor. In these areas, prescribed burns can have positive impacts on biodiversity by creating open-canopy pine habitat that’s ideal for certain species, such as the red-cockaded woodpecker, gopher tortoise and Louisiana pinesnake.

Is it possible to prevent all wildfires?

No, we can’t prevent all fires — nor should we, given the important benefits they bring to certain forest ecosystems (some trees, such as lodgepole pine, have even evolved with fire and depend on it for regeneration, with thick protective bark and serotinous pine cones that release seeds only after a fire has passed). We’ve also learned that completely suppressing wildfires causes other, more destructive damage, so we must learn to live with fire.

But why are we seeing more — and especially larger and more severe — wildfires?

There’s no single factor responsible for fire size and severity. Several related and compounding variables are at play, and some of the key drivers include extreme dry conditions, excess buildup of fuels in forests and on the forest floor (downed trees, branches, leaves, etc.), topography and a range of meteorological factors, including wind speed and direction, humidity, temperature and precipitation. Another contributing factor is that communities have gradually spread farther into historically forested and fire-prone areas, which increases the risk to people, homes and infrastructure — and also removes some of the natural buffers in an ecosystem that might otherwise slow a fire’s progress, such as open space in and around forested areas (as a result, fire crews often spend more time defending structures than forests during a fire). There’s also no question that climate change has accelerated and expanded some of these risks, including extending fire seasons through longer and hotter summers, intensifying droughts, and creating conditions for insect and disease infestations that can weaken individual trees and forest ecosystems.

Does that mean all forests are more vulnerable to fire?

Two of the most important considerations when gauging fire risk are region and forest type. Forests on the eastern slopes of the Cascades in Oregon and Washington, for instance, have evolved more closely with fires of low to moderate severity. These drier forests, often dominated by ponderosa pine, tend to have wider spacing, fewer trees and less forest fuels, and they are more resistant to fire overall — especially when properly managed. The probability of fire in these forests is greater, even as their severity has generally — if not always — been lower. Yet if you look at historically wetter forests, such as on the Cascades’ highly productive western slopes, fire is still a natural part of the ecosystem even though these environments have typically seen far less frequent fires, generally at intervals of more than 200 years. These forests tend to grow more quickly and densely, and when fires do reach these fast-growing forests, they are able to feed off naturally heavy fuels — as well as trees that have not evolved to resist fire quite as well. In this case, the overall probability of fires is lower, though the potential severity of fires that do occur can be higher.

So how does active forest management help mitigate this fire risk?

All fires need three ingredients: fuel, oxygen and ignition. The easiest variable for us to control is managing the fuel load in our forests. To achieve optimal forest health and productivity, our foresters follow a number of best practices in our timberlands, including selective harvesting and thinning treatments to reduce crowding, and brush and debris removal to limit available fuels, such as branches and dense undergrowth. We also place fuel breaks, which create more spacing between trees to slow the spread of fires. Coupled with well-maintained roads, these breaks have an added benefit of providing firefighters with better opportunities to contain wildfires and protect communities, plus safer evacuation routes for displaced individuals and communities.

Ignition is another variable that can be mitigated through proactive management — particularly with regard to human-caused ignitions. Working closely with neighboring landowners and local authorities to minimize human-caused ignitions is an important step in reducing fire frequency in the regions where we operate.

Is the risk of fire greater in unmanaged forests?

From a fuel perspective, yes. Throughout the 1900s, many land managers, including the U.S. government, enforced strict fire-suppression policies, generally trying to prevent or put out every fire immediately. One legacy of these practices is that many national forests, particularly on the eastern slopes of the Cascades, have become unnaturally dense and packed with fuel. Though fire-suppression efforts have often delayed fire, they haven’t eliminated the risk. As a consequence, we’re seeing uncharacteristic fires that burn hotter from feeding off the excess fuels, and that present considerable danger to forest ecosystems and surrounding communities, particularly when exacerbated by weather conditions.

Does that mean all forests should be actively managed?

Public forests are not — and should not be — always managed for the same values as private working forests, and not all private forests are managed for the same objectives. But all forest owners have a responsibility to manage for forest health, resilience and fire across the landscape, as fires easily move across boundaries and impact adjacent forests and communities. That’s why we partner with other private landowners and local, state and federal agencies to ensure consistent approaches and best management practices for managing fire risk, as well as appropriate funding for firefighting.

But don’t managed forests burn more intensely than unmanaged forests?

It’s complicated, but generally no. Particularly following Oregon’s historic 2020 fire season, there was a fair amount of speculation that plantation forests — which feature trees of a single species, all of similar age8 — suffered hotter and more severe damage. With few exceptions, that was simply not the case, and there’s little science to support the idea that working forests are more susceptible to hotter fires. Also, while it’s true that working forests don’t typically have as many old trees as unmanaged forests, severe fires can burn due to extreme local weather and topography, and not even all old-growth trees can necessarily survive such extreme conditions.9 We have many old trees, for instance, in our permanent forest buffers, and they were damaged equally in Oregon. But it’s important to remember that active management isn’t strictly about whether our practices can lower the severity and frequency of fires. It’s also about our ability to help these forests bounce back through immediate, careful and sustained replanting efforts to accelerate the recovery of the ecosystem.

Could any forest have survived the most intense fires in Oregon?

Probably not. There were several overlapping conditions that fueled those devastating fires, including drought conditions in normally wet forests, as well as strong easterly winds that dramatically fanned the fires across vast landscapes. Yet while conditions might fluctuate from year to year, even favorably at times, there’s not much debate that climate change is contributing to longer, hotter, drier summers in the Pacific Northwest, which will invariably increase fire risk throughout the region — including in areas that historically experienced fire only rarely. Warmer climates will also expand the range of catastrophic insect infestations, such as the widespread damage from pine beetles in Colorado and British Columbia. In the face of these emerging challenges, we take very seriously our responsibility to manage our forests well so that they continue to thrive for generations to come.

Are managed forests more vulnerable to insect infestations or disease?

It’s true that having one dominant tree species across a large area of our timberlands, such as Douglas-fir in the Pacific Northwest, could potentially make a forest more vulnerable to insect attacks compared with a more heterogeneous forest. But we offset that risk through our intensive silviculture practices and focus on high-quality seedlings, carefully matched to the right site and growing conditions. Stressed trees can provide signals for insects to move in, but when you manage your forests well to ensure healthy, resilient, vigorous trees, you have less likelihood of infestations overall.

1 Though fire severity has historically been lower in these eastside forests, the impacts of fire on surrounding communities can nonetheless be devastating, especially when certain compounding variables are involved (extreme drought, excess buildup of fuels, topography, wind speed and direction, etc.).
2 As part of our recovery efforts following the Oregon fires, we prioritized replanting tree buffers along sensitive streams and connecting tributaries. Many of these streams feed municipal water systems and help provide clean drinking water for up to 100,000 residents in surrounding communities; others provide critical habitat for wildlife, including salmon. Targeted replanting in these areas can help reduce sediment delivery to waterways and also minimize potential detrimental effects to stream temperature and aquatic ecosystems.
3 Of the 240,000 acres burned in Oregon’s Tillamook fire in 1933, most — about 75 percent — of the burn occurred in a 24- to 36-hour period during an east wind event, even though the fire had started 10 days before.
4Wildfire risk science facilitates adaptation of fire-prone social-ecological systems to the new fire reality,” Environmental Research Letters (2020)
5Impact of anthropogenic climate change on wildfire across western US forests,” PNAS (2016)
6Human-started wildfires expand the fire niche across the United States,” PNAS (2017)
7Hillslope sediment production after wildfire and post-fire forest management in northern California,” Hydrological Processes (2020)
8 The idea that working forests are “even aged” is itself a misnomer. We conduct management at the level of stands — which are much smaller parts of a forest — so no forest is ever entirely the same age, but rather a mosaic of stands at different ages and stages of growth.
9 Evidence from the 2020 fires in Oregon and California suggests that under certain scenarios, no forest will survive, regardless of age or stand structure.

Download our "How We Do It: Managing Forest Fires" PDF


Riparian Buffers

Forests supply almost 60 percent1 of the nation’s drinking water and provide habitat for a wide range of terrestrial and aquatic species. To make sure our harvesting operations do not endanger soil health, water quality or biodiversity, we take special care to leave buffers of overstory trees around aquatic ecosystems, including streams and wetlands. We follow strict guidelines and best practices developed through years of research and partnerships, and we have high confidence that the riparian buffers2 we leave on our lands are fully protective of sensitive ecosystems and species across North America, including salmon in Oregon and Washington.

Learn more about how we manage riparian buffers


  • The development of riparian buffer rules or guidance in the United States is the responsibility of each state, and buffer widths and best practices are typically developed in cooperation with state and federal agencies, landowners and other interested parties. Most state forestry agencies conduct monitoring and research to evaluate the effectiveness of riparian and water protection rules established under the Clean Water Act. The results of this periodic monitoring and research then help forestry agencies or state forestry boards and commissions improve best practices as needed.
  • In the Pacific Northwest, buffer width requirements are continually revisited and updated, with some of the contemporary changes occurring in the mid-1990s as part of the Northwest Forest Plan and state forest practice rules in Oregon and Washington.
  • In other regions of the U.S., riparian buffers are implemented under voluntary or quasi-regulatory forestry best management practices, with very high implementation rates that protect water quality.
  • Determining effective buffer widths involves careful consideration of how different riparian functions — such as shade, sediment and wood delivery — occur at different distances from the stream edge. Litter fall and bank stability, for instance, can be addressed with a relatively narrow buffer; shade and wood input occur from a greater distance. Through years of research and experience on our lands in Washington and Oregon, we have determined the buffer widths we leave are all large enough to capture the vast majority of these functional interactions between riparian areas and streams.
  • In Oregon and Washington, one of the biggest questions regarding buffer widths is the extent to which they protect aquatic resources for salmon. In response to a petition submitted to the Oregon Board of Forestry in 2019, Weyerhaeuser helped assemble a document3 that addressed the effectiveness of the current rules at protecting coho salmon, which are listed under the Endangered Species Act on the Oregon coast. We concluded that our forest practices are working to preserve and support coho salmon stocks in Oregon.
  • We also prevent sediment from entering streams and other waterways by using well-designed culverts, bridges and roads, as well as limiting equipment entry near streams. The careful placement and ongoing maintenance of roads is the best way to protect water quality, as the building of improperly designed roads can be a leading cause of soil disturbance and sediment reaching rivers and streams.


  • One of the longest-running research projects to understand the efficacy of contemporary forest management practices in protecting water quality occurs in Washington’s Deschutes River Watershed. Since 1974, Weyerhaeuser has measured streamflow, sediment, turbidity and water temperatures in the watershed and shown that current riparian buffers and road management practices maintain water quality. These data4 have been instrumental for policy and regulatory decisions related to forest management, including in the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court case on stormwater discharges from forest roads.
  • In 2019, as part of a large, collaborative effort involving multiple state and federal agencies and several universities, we completed a long-term water quality study in Oregon’s Trask Watershed. That study5 examined the relationship between water quality criteria — such as sediment, temperature and turbidity — and timber harvest, road construction and log hauling. The research team found that our forest management practices ensure we meet Oregon’s state water quality standards.
  • The governments of Oregon and Washington have conducted extensive monitoring and research to study forest conditions and expand scientific knowledge. These studies and findings are used by state forestry agencies to implement potential changes to Forest Practices Act rules. A list of technical reports can be obtained directly from the Oregon Department of Forestry and the Washington Department of Natural Resources. Washington also provides guidance through the Forests and Fish law, adopted in 1999, which established the set of scientifically based changes that private landowners, tribal nations, state and federal agencies and other parties supported that would lead to salmon recovery in areas involving forest practices. The parties involved determined that the Forests and Fish laws were sufficient to satisfy the requirements of the ESA and CWA with respect to salmon, aquatic resources and water quality.


How do you know your riparian buffers are adequate to preserve water quality and adjacent ecosystems?

Many factors influence buffer effectiveness, and we’ve carried out several experimental watershed studies to evaluate potential impacts to water quality from forestry practices. Results from these research studies and monitoring indicate that contemporary forest practices have minimal influence on water temperatures and sediment movement. We’ve studied the impacts of changing forest practices on these parameters for decades, and we continually invest in research related to water quality, biodiversity, forest health and productivity — including more than $9 million in 2018 alone.

Can these strips of habitat really make a difference?

Definitely. Our managed forests provide a wide variety of habitat types, and maintaining riparian buffers is an essential component of our strategy to conserve biodiversity across our timberlands. Riparian buffers help filter water and keep stream temperatures cool during warmer months, which can be critical for certain aquatic species, including salmon, as well as provide downstream benefits for other sensitive species, such as orcas. During rainfall, buffers help prevent sediment from entering streams, and forest buffers also provide a long-term source of large wood to streams. Wood is a key component of habitat formation in streams; in some channels, wood is the primary element responsible for the formation of pools. These protected buffers also support the long-term growth of large, older trees.

Wouldn’t expanding these buffers provide even greater ecosystem benefits?

Not necessarily. Understanding buffer width and effectiveness is a complicated issue, and we carefully monitor and research multiple factors, including biological (fish, wildlife) and abiotic (temperatures, sediment delivery) responses to existing best practices. Sometimes narrow buffers provide all the necessary protections for aquatic ecosystems; in other cases, we determine a need to adjust our practices based on new research or technical guidelines. In Oregon, for instance, we increased buffer widths on small- and medium-size fish streams a few years ago, and we’ve found that our buffers effectively protect soil health, water quality and biodiversity.

Do these buffers do enough to protect salmon spawning grounds?

Absolutely. Forest practice regulations in Oregon and Washington require forest landowners to determine the presence or absence, as well as the distribution, of fish in streams on forested lands. Once these streams have been accurately studied and categorized, we retain riparian buffers of varying widths. Streams with fish present, particularly salmon species, are afforded wider buffers than those without fish present. The buffers also serve to prevent sediment from entering the streams, providing a further measure of protection for fish, especially spawning salmon, which require clean gravels to deposit their eggs.

But doesn’t forestry contribute to the decline in orca populations?

No. Three primary factors are considered responsible for the plight of the Puget Sound’s Southern Resident orcas: ship traffic and its resultant noise, contaminants in Puget Sound, and food availability. Of those factors, forest management impacts only food availability, and these orcas eat primarily salmon — particularly Chinook salmon. The management measures we employ on our lands to ensure the protection of freshwater spawning and rearing habitat for salmon help provide a vital food source for the whales and can contribute to their recovery.

1 “Mean Annual Renewable Water Supply of the Contiguous United States,” Briefing Paper, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fort Collins, CO (2016)
2 About 8.1 percent of our forested acreage in WA and OR is set aside for riparian buffers or similar wetland areas.
3 OFIC response to Petition for Rulemaking to Identify and Develop Protection Requirements for Coho Salmon Resource Sites.
4 “Stream temperature patterns over 35 years in a managed forest of western Washington,” Journal of the Water Resources Association (2015)
5 “Summer stream temperature changes following forest harvest in the headwaters of the Trask River watershed, Oregon Coast Range,” Ecohydrology (2019)

Download our "How We Do It: Riparian Buffers" PDF


Wildlife Habitat

A common misperception of managed forests is that they do not support diverse plant and animal communities — but the truth is our forests are home to vibrant ecosystems throughout the United States and Canada. The forests we manage in the western U.S. alone host hundreds of native vertebrate species, including large mammals such as deer, elk, cougar, black bear and bobcat, as well as a tremendous diversity of birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, native fish and other aquatic species. Many of these species prefer different forest age classes and forest structures, or other habitat features on the landscape, such as riparian areas. Since our timberlands contain a matrix of forest stand ages, along with other special areas we protect around streams and wetlands, these forests support a high level of native biodiversity.

Learn more about how we manage wildlife habitat in our forests


  • To manage these habitat types and protect biological diversity at multiple spatial scales, we participate in conservation partnerships with state and federal agencies and nonprofit organizations1, and we support our planning and decision-making with our internal Environmental Research and Operational Support teams.
  • We also frequently partner with other research organizations to ensure our practices are consistent with the best available science — and that we are meeting our conservation objectives, including protecting water quality and biodiversity, and providing habitat for threatened, endangered and sensitive species.
  • Weyerhaeuser has a long history of contributing timberlands for conservation initiatives through land exchanges, sales, donations and conservation easements.
  • Through special programs, including Habitat Conservation Plans and Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances, we are able to enroll our timberlands in conservation agreements that ensure our forests provide habitat features that support at-risk or sensitive species — and still sustainably harvest and regenerate timber. In 2021, 3.6 million acres of our timberlands were enrolled in formal habitat conservation agreements.
  • We leave forest buffers around rivers and streams to protect habitat for aquatic species. These riparian buffers help filter water and keep stream temperatures cool during warmer months, which can be critical for certain aquatic species, including salmon, as well as provide downstream benefits for other sensitive species, such as orcas.
  • Focal species of special concern on our Pacific Northwest timberlands include the Pacific fisher, Humboldt marten, Oregon slender salamander2, red tree vole, northern spotted owl, marbled murrelet and salmon. In our Southern Timberlands, focal species include the Louisiana pinesnake, gopher tortoise and red-cockaded woodpecker, and we also have conservation agreements protecting the American burying beetle and Red Hills salamander.
  • Further, we examine habitat relationships, estimate biodiversity and measure overall environmental performance across different stand age classes, forest types and harvest configurations, or when we implement new technology, such as tethered logging.


  • We examined the influence of forest harvesting on an at-risk species, Oregon slender salamanders, from 2012 to 2019 on a collaborative research project3 with federal, private and university partners. This species occurs only in the Oregon Cascades, and much of its distribution overlaps our timberlands. We sampled harvest units before and after clearcutting and determined that occupancy of this species did not appear to decline with forest harvesting. This research contributed to a decision to remove this species from Endangered Species Act listing consideration.
  • Red tree voles are small rodents that spend most of their lives in the canopy of Douglas-fir trees and were until recently considered for listing under the ESA. Although most monitoring efforts have found that these voles are associated with forests that have complex tree crowns, often a characteristic of old growth, our recent research indicates that intensively managed forest as young as 25 years old supports occupancy of this species. Our continued research on this species is examining whether young forest serves as long-term habitat that supports reproduction and survival of red tree voles.
  • Our Intensive Forest Management study examined the responses of multiple species groups, including birds, moths4 and plants, to a gradient of stand establishment procedures, using intensity of herbicide application as the treatment. Since 2011, we have worked with partners at Oregon State University, the Oregon Department of Forestry and other private landowners and found that even with higher levels of vegetation control, reduction of biological diversity either did not occur or was minor and short-lived when it occurred.
  • We have investigated small mammals, as well as amphibians and reptiles, across habitat types in the southeastern U.S., from North Carolina to Mississippi5. Our collaborative research has documented diverse and abundant small-mammal communities, which are important because they serve as essential prey for raptors, carnivores and snakes. And we consistently find high species diversity of amphibians and reptiles in managed forests, including species of conservation concern, such as the spotted turtle and green salamander.
  • Red tree voles are small rodents that spend most of their lives in the canopy of Douglas-fir trees and were until recently considered for listing under the ESA. Although most monitoring efforts have found that these voles are associated with forests that have complex tree crowns, often a characteristic of old growth, our recent research indicates that intensively managed forest as young as 25 years old supports occupancy of this species. Our continued research on this species is examining whether young forest serves as long-term habitat that supports reproduction and survival of red tree voles.
  • Our Intensive Forest Management study examined the responses of multiple species groups, including birds, moths4 and plants, to a gradient of stand establishment procedures, using intensity of herbicide application as the treatment. Since 2011, we have worked with partners at Oregon State University, the Oregon Department of Forestry and other private landowners and found that even with higher levels of vegetation control, reduction of biological diversity either did not occur or was minor and short-lived when it occurred.
  • We have investigated small mammals, as well as amphibians and reptiles, across habitat types in the southeastern U.S., from North Carolina to Mississippi5. Our collaborative research has documented diverse and abundant small-mammal communities, which are important because they serve as essential prey for raptors, carnivores and snakes. And we consistently find high species diversity of amphibians and reptiles in managed forests, including species of conservation concern, such as the spotted turtle and green salamander.


How can harvested forests create habitat?

Each species requires a unique set of habitat conditions. Managed forests, with a large variety of age classes, structural conditions and areas set aside for riparian buffers, unstable slopes or other sites, support high levels of biodiversity. For example, we documented 40 species of songbirds associated with early seral forest6 in regenerating clearcuts in the Oregon Coast Range as part of the Intensive Forest Management study7.

But isn’t monoculture bad for biodiversity?

Although we primarily plant a single species of native tree to grow into crop trees after a harvest, our landscapes still support a highly diverse plant community. Other species of trees, shrubs and plants naturally regenerate in forest stands, and areas that are not harvested and planted, such as riparian buffers or other special places, provide additional plant diversity. Some studies, in fact, have found that clearcutting — like other natural disturbances — produces a boon of early forage growth (spurred in part by an increase in sunlight that reaches the forest floor) that elk and other species, including many birds and insects, prefer.

Wouldn’t old-growth forests still provide better habitat?

It’s true that old-growth forests provide great habitat for certain species, but young forests provide ideal habitat for many others. That’s a key benefit of our managed forests: Since they reflect a diverse mix of forest types and ages, they consistently provide access to food, shelter and other required habitat elements for a broad array of wildlife species. So while a clearcut stand might look empty from a distance, it immediately starts springing to life as a forest ecosystem with new seedlings and other native grasses, forbs and bushes — along with the myriad animals that depend on them.

How do you create special habitat features for a particular species?

We participate in conservation agreements or collaborative efforts that address specific habitat needs of at-risk or sensitive species. For example, we leave retention trees — large trees that are left standing through harvest and regeneration practices — to support use by many species, from hawks to bats to forest carnivores. We also work with watershed councils and other groups on stream restoration projects to enhance habitat for salmon.

What about the marbled murrelet?

Nesting high up in mature trees and generally solitary by nature, marbled murrelets can be an especially challenging species to track and protect. In our Washington timberlands, we follow clear forest practice rules to identify potentially suitable habitat for murrelets — in short, older forests within 50 miles of the Pacific coast, and with branches wide enough to provide adequate nesting platforms for the birds. For any stands that match these habitat characteristics, we conduct a widely used survey protocol to determine if any murrelets are using that forest to nest. If they are, we immediately remove that stand from harvest consideration. Oregon forest practice rules don’t require the same surveys, but as a company we voluntarily extend our Washington standard to all our timberlands in Oregon that are within 50 miles of the coast.

How do you partner with state and federal agencies?

One great partnership tool is through formal conservation agreements with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, such as Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances, a specific habitat protection agreement authorized by the federal ESA. In early 2020, we signed a Conservation Management Agreement with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries that grants us inclusion into a CCAA to protect the Louisiana pinesnake on 667,000 acres of our Southern Timberlands. Listed as threatened in 2018 under the ESA, the pinesnake is one of the rarest snakes in the world, and this CCAA is the largest ever negotiated between the USFWS and a single private landowner in the southeastern U.S.

We also have a CCAA in place for the Pacific fisher on our timberlands in both Washington and Oregon. Our internal scientists participate in the Forest Carnivore Working Group, and we’ve provided technical expertise and equipment to support research and monitoring of fisher and marten.

We developed a Northern Spotted Owl Habitat Conservation Plan with USFWS for our Coos Bay Tree Farm in Oregon. This 50-year commitment was first implemented in 1995 and continues today. The plan provides habitat for the owl on our timberlands and is designed to complement owl recovery efforts on state and federal lands in the Coos Bay region. Similarly, we’re implementing a Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan, also with USFWS, on our lands in Washington’s Central Cascades. This plan focuses on northern spotted owl habitat as well as a host of other species, including grizzly bear, wolf and lynx.

Do animals get hurt from forest operations?

Large machinery and human activity in any environment could cause harm to some animals. However, most animals will leave active logging areas, and we avoid disrupting the breeding activities of sensitive species.

What other steps do you take to protect wildlife habitat?

We use state-level occurrence data from NatureServe8 and other programs to identify potential habitat for sensitive species and follow up with site visits to ensure appropriate management decisions. These data are integrated into our geographic information system and used by planners and harvest managers. For species that have specific regulatory requirements, we often conduct surveys to understand where they occur on our timberlands and adjust management as needed.

How do you know your programs are working?

We collect data from a number of sources, including state-level occurrence data, such as from NatureServe and natural heritage programs. Our staff review relevant data on species or community occurrences, and we run it through our company’s GIS, with certain special sites triggered by the Compliance Warning System. This warning system allows for heightened attention to any special management risks and facilitates immediate communication and action to address management needs. We also review regional conservation planning efforts, such as state wildlife action plans, habitat conservation plans, or species conservation action plans (e.g., Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, Partners in Flight, cerulean and golden-winged warbler habitat management guidelines) to help guide our management decisions and research efforts.

1 Partners include the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Geological Survey, National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, and Oregon State University, among others.
2 “Slow lives in the fast landscape: Conservation and management of plethodontid salamanders in production forests of the United States,” Forests (2014)
3 “Evaluating Multi-Level Models to Test Occupancy State Responses of Plethodontid Salamanders,” PLOS One (2015)
4 “Plant diversity enhances moth diversity in an intensive forest management experiment,” Ecological Applications (2016)
5 “Herpetofaunal assemblages of aquatic systems in a managed pine forest,” Forest Ecology and Management (2016); “Rodent response to harvesting woody biomass for bioenergy production in the Southeastern United States,” Journal of Wildlife Management (2017); “Effects of biomass harvesting guidelines on herpetofauna following harvests of logging residues,” Ecological Applications (2016); “Effects of habitat modification on rodent population dynamics and community structure,” Forest Ecology and Management (2016)
6 Complex early seral forests, or snag forests, are ecosystems that occupy potentially forested sites after a stand-replacement disturbance (such as a fire) and before reestablishment of a closed forest canopy. Harvested sites mimic some of these characteristics.
7 “Assembly dynamics of a forest bird community depend on disturbance intensity and foraging guild,” Journal of Applied Ecology (2016)
8 NatureServe is a Virginia-based nonprofit that provides proprietary wildlife conservation-related data, tools and services to private and government clients, partner organizations, and the public.

Download our "How We Do It: Wildlife Habitat" PDF