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Climate & Energy
The Pinchot Institute at 50: An Appreciation
V. Alaric Sample

Al SampleFifty years ago, the Pinchot Institute was established in large part to conduct independent studies on how best to address key conservation concerns of the present and foreseeable future, and this has remained central to the Institute’s mission and goals. What have been the results from these studies, and how have they made a difference? Here are a few examples:

Forest certification. A nationwide study conducted by the Pinchot Institute demonstrated that public forest lands can be managed consistent with the most rigorous, internationally-recognized standards of sustainable forestry, and that this can be proven through independent, third-party field verification and certification. Certification of federal, state, and tribal forests has brought about improvements in forest management practices, and significantly increased society’s confidence and support of public forest management.

Communities and forest health. A series of Pinchot Institute studies in communities around the country over more than a decade have demonstrated that fire risks on federal forests can be significantly reduced by making relatively minor changes in policies governing how federal agencies contract with local businesses for land management services. With the cooperation of public and private organizations and community leaders in more than six dozen pilot projects around the country, these studies showed that stewardship contracting can become the single most important tool for restoring the health and resilience of forest ecosystems, as well as supporting environmentally sustainable economic development in nearby communities.

Tropical deforestation. Studies in an Ecuadorian rainforest have demonstrated that the tide can be turned on tropical deforestation and its impacts on biodiversity, by introducing sustainable forestry techniques, assisting locally-owned business development, and giving forest-based communities an economically viable alternative to oil palm plantations and other drivers of tropical forest conversion.

New studies currently under way at the Pinchot Institute are helping to answer critical conservation questions for the future, such as:
  • In major river systems, can voluntary private investments by downstream communities and businesses support the conservation of private forest lands in key headwaters areas, to ensure future water supplies and water quality, and protect against flooding and severe storm events in a changing climate?
  • Can we ensure that the increasing use of wood for renewable energy is environmentally sustainable in the long run? To what extent can wood substitute for the use of fossil fuels in meeting the nation’s energy needs? How can this help avoid wildfires and other impacts that are predicted to soon turn US forests from absorbing 13 percent of the nation’s carbon emissions to themselves becoming a net emitter of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases?
  • How will the accelerating effects of climate change on forests force us to come up with new strategies for protecting wildlife habitat, water resources, and biodiversity, along with the many other unseen public benefits from well protected, sustainably managed forests?
The Pinchot Institute remains committed to bringing together people of all perspectives in an atmosphere of mutual understanding and respect, working with one another to address key conservation concerns like these. For five decades, the Pinchot Institute has remained true to this mission, promoting rational civil dialogue, and supporting policy-relevant research and education in conservation. As we all have seen, this approach is all too rare today. As we commemorate this 50th anniversary, and remember President Kennedy’s 1963 dedication of the Pinchot Institute at Grey TowersNationalHistoric Site, we will take the opportunity to rededicate ourselves to this positive and inclusive ideal, and prepare to meet the conservation challenges ahead with optimism and renewed resolve. We would also like to take this opportunity to express our deep appreciation to the many partners and friends whose support is essential to all that we do—in the past, the present, and most especially the future.
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