Rayonier takes careful measures to ensure the long-term sustainability of our forests, as well as the wildlife, soils and water within them. We are committed to looking after our land for both current and future generations, as the company’s long-term success ultimately depends on the environmental and economic sustainability of our forests.
Climate Change & Carbon Footprint
Growing our trees is an inherent climate change solution. During photosynthesis, trees sequester carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere – using it to grow, while also emitting oxygen. Even after trees have been harvested, carbon continues to be stored in the soil, as well as in the wood products, such as lumber, that are produced from the trees, providing a long-term positive impact to the environment. See our “Renewable Forest Cycle” diagram for an illustration.
Thus, our evaluation of climate change and Rayonier’s role in addressing it begins with the basic premise that our underlying assets offer a solution that we should seek to promote, rather than a problem that we need to mitigate.
We measure the carbon footprint of our forests by assessing the net carbon sequestered and emitted through the full process from the growth of trees to the delivery of logs to customers. This analysis demonstrates that we are climate positive—that is, we remove more carbon than we emit. For a complete analysis of the carbon footprint across our regions, see our “Carbon Report”.
Climate Change Risks & Mitigation Strategy
Over the long-term, there are potential risks to Rayonier’s business posed by climate change. Rayonier’s management and Board of Directors regularly consider the potential risks associated with climate change, as well as the actions we can take to mitigate these risks. Our Enterprise Risk Management committee identifies risks to the business, including environmental and climate change risks. Climate change-related risks and mitigants include:
Risk: The introduction of new diseases / pests or the proliferation of known diseases / pests.
Mitigants: This risk is mitigated through our research and development efforts. Specifically, our proactive tree improvement program seeks to identify, select and reproduce seedling genotypes that are more resistant to diseases and pests. The geographic diversity of our forests, as well as our active forest management, also serve to mitigate these risks. Our active forest management processes allow us to better identify and contain disease and/or pest infestations. We also limit our forestry investment in areas that are known to be affected by major disease or pest risks. We seek to mitigate the corresponding risks of excess salvage volume by focusing our investments in markets that we believe have favorable supply-demand dynamics.
Risk: The potential increase in the frequency and severity of catastrophic weather events and forest fires, which increase the risk of casualty loss in our forests.
Mitigants: This risk is largely mitigated by the geographic diversity of our timberlands and the physical distance between major tracts of land within our portfolio. We also take deliberate steps to mitigate fire risks, such as prescribing controlled burns to limit flammable understory and digging fire lines where necessary to limit the potential spread of fires.
Risk: Changes in the biodiversity of plants and trees growing across different regions, which could impact the long-term growing conditions in our forests.
Mitigants: Through our research and development program, we actively undertake research designed to identify, quantify and mitigate risks associated with long-term changes in biodiversity. We also support and participate in external research initiatives that are designed to address these issues.
Refer to our Form 10-K for a list of additional climate and weather-related risk factors.
We operate an environmental management system (EMS) aligned with the certification requirements of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) in the United States and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) in New Zealand. Employees receive extensive environmental training to ensure compliance with our policies and our forestry certification requirements. Our senior leadership team has ultimate responsibility for environmental management, and annually reviews our performance against forest certification standards.
We regularly demonstrate our dedication to meeting the highest standards in forestry operations by obtaining forest certifications. In the U.S., our timberlands are certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI) and in New Zealand, by the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC) and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification™ (PEFC). See our latest SFI and FSC audit results.
We voluntarily maintain these certifications, working with third-party independent auditors to ensure our practices measure up to the rigorous standards associated with the sustainable growth and harvest of our forests, the protection of water and soil quality, the preservation of critical plant and wildlife ecosystems and other goals focused on conservation.
For a complete breakdown of Rayonier’s acreage certified to a third-party standard, see our Environmental Report.
Consistent with our forestry certification requirements, we are committed to protecting and closely monitoring the biodiversity in our forests. Our Senior Vice President, Forest Resources has managerial oversight of our programs and we maintain a handbook of best practices that guides our biodiversity mitigation strategy.
Managing the quality and distribution of wildlife habitats is core to conserving the biodiversity associated with our timberland. To accomplish this within our forests, along with other procedures and oversight measures, we only plant indigenous species, maintain riparian/streamside management zones, and employ green-up adjacency requirements.
One desirable aspect for a landscape is a mosaic of age classes and species. Our species diversity is a result of planting various indigenous species, plus maintaining the species composition found in riparian/streamside management zones. These zones provide travel corridors, nesting, and a food source for wildlife.
We are also proactive in establishing biodiversity management plans for priority areas, which were identified with the help of outside professional biologists, including those that focus on habitats for threatened or endangered species. Furthermore, we are committed to engaging with local communities on biodiversity issues. Our engagement includes reaching out to adjacent land owners and consulting with tribal ities, where relevant.
Rayonier foresters identify and conserve habitats of protected, threatened and endangered species. Importantly, our forest management practices help ensure that our actions are not adversely impacting the normal life cycle or habitat of wildlife. Of the thousands of plants and animals in Rayonier’s forests, a few species are considered threatened or endangered, which we work to protect. See how our foresters are helping to restore salmon habitat in the U.S. Pacific Northwest and how we are partnering to preserve kiwi, which are threatened national symbols of New Zealand.
Our foresters and contractors are trained to recognize protected, threatened and endangered species and their habitats. They rely on mapping and database tools, as well as a working knowledge of the land to determine where particular conservation practices are needed. In addition to our own efforts, we also participate in broader industry and conservation initiatives such as population studies and surveys.
Example Species in U.S.
- Endangered* - Altamaha Spinymussel (aquatic), Hairy Rattleweed, Pondberry
- Threatened* - Northern Spotted Owl, Marbled Murrelet, Red Hills Salamander, Indigo Snake, Wood Stork
- Candidate for Listing* - Eastern Gopher Tortoise
- Delisted due to Recovery* - Bald Eagle
*Federal Status and Species are subject to change.
Example Species in N.Z.
- Critical* - Blue Duck, Hochstetters Frog, Archeys Frog, Dwarf Greenhood, Kaka Beak, Thick Leaved Tree Daisy
- Endangered* -Short and Long Tailed Bat, Deciduous Tree Daisy, Land Snails, Canterbury and Northland Mudfish, Canterbury Pink Broom, Cypress Hebe
- Vulnerable* -North Island Brown Kiwi, Great Spotted Kiwi, Kaka, NZ Falcon, Kokako, Heart-leaved Kohuhu
- Declining* - Giant Kokopu, Fernbird, Bloodwood, Skinks and Geckos
*Status (Classification per N.Z. Dept. of Conservation) and Species are subject to change.
Water, Wetlands & Soil
Forests and watersheds play a critical role in capturing, storing and filtering water used by people and wildlife. We adhere to all regulatory requirements and deploy best management practices (BMPs) to protect the water in our forests, which is essential to the long-term sustainability of our forests and the communities they support. Rayonier has specific guidelines that are maintained, updated and used for mapping our forestlands to help ensure that our harvest plans and timber inventories exclude lands that are environmentally sensitive. By example, for environmental protection purposes, we exclude approximately 18% of our acreage in the U.S. Pacific Northwest from our harvest plans and timber inventory.
See how our U.S. and New Zealand forests improve water quality.
Soil quality is also imperative to the health and productivity of our forests. Across our operations, we employ BMPs as well as adhere to non-regulatory forest practice guides, which are designed to minimize erosion and prevent sediment from entering waterways during forest management activities. We have also made significant investments in soil mapping for large portions of our acreage, which includes data such as soil horizons, texture and drainage class. As such, Rayonier has accumulated extensive knowledge of soil properties that affect the retention and movement of erodible sediments as well as fertilizers and herbicides — enabling Rayonier to fine-tune application rates and seasonal timing to optimize the efficiency of silviculture treatments while minimizing the potential for off-site movement.