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Conservation forestry is a specialty within the area of forestry which is focused on conserving and protecting forests. Conservation foresters can work for government agencies, nonprofit forest protection groups, environmental advisory committees, private companies, or families interested in engaging in conservation activity on private land. Many colleges and universities with forestry programs offer conservation forestry training to students who are interested in this specialty, along with research opportunities for people who are interested in the academic site of forestry.
Forestry itself is an ancient profession. People have been harvesting trees and using forested land for hunting and other activities for centuries. As human societies evolved, a need to manage forests was recognized in many regions of the world, and the profession of forestry began to emerge. Approaches to forest management have varied considerably around the world. In Japan, for example, an aggressive program of conservation preserved many ancient forests even as foresters in Europe were supervising the felling of ancient trees for their timber.
The focus of conservation forestry is to preserve or restore a forest. Preservation is believed to be beneficial to the environment for a wide array of reasons. Forests provide habitat and shelter for numerous plants and animals, some of which may be quite unique, and they also help retain topsoil, which protects resources such as waterways while providing ample soil for plants to grow in. Forests also act as temperature regulators and carbon sinks, protecting the climate.
While forests have traditionally been viewed as sources of income in many societies, conservation forestry often ends up depriving people of income, asking them to preserve the forest although it will cost money in the long term. As a consolation for the loss of income, people do have the opportunity to enjoy virgin or restored forests as recreation areas, and foresters may carefully manage minimal logging activities to allow people to harvest small amounts of timber from the forest.
Forestry resources are recognized as intrinsically valuable in many nations around the world, especially in countries where deforestation in the past has destroyed much of the natural forestland. For this reason, many governments engage in conservation forestry to protect their dwindling resources for the benefit of future generations. Private groups also work to preserve forests, including the numerous forests around the world on private land. People who opt to preserve rather than log may be eligible for special benefits in recognition of their conservation efforts, especially if they combine efforts with people who own surrounding forested land, creating a contiguous patch of forest which will be preserved.
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