Conservationists use market to save Cumberland Plateau hardwood forests

The 19.4 million acres that comprise the Cumberland Plateau and surrounding mountains in the southeastern U.S. contain more threatened and endangered species than any ecosystem in the country outside California’s Central Valley. But the hardwood forests that cover the area are rapidly being clearcut and replaced with swaths of faster-growing pine trees — monocultural systems that support considerably less biodiversity. Rather than relying on lawsuits and regulations, enviro activists are trying to marshal market forces to save the forests, lobbying businesses and other organizations to scrutinize their purchasing choices and opt for recycled paper and sustainably harvested wood products whenever possible. “It’s a way for our clients to be good citizens, to distinguish themselves as citizen brands,” says consultant Tim Sexton, who is working with the Natural Resources Defense Council in the region.