Logo header1

Mitsubishi Materials' Forests

Sustainable Management and Operation of Company-Owned Forests

Basic Approach to Sustainable Forest Management

We currently own around 14,000 hectares of forestland in Japan, mainly in Hokkaido, making us one of the largest owners of forestland in the country. We originally began acquiring forests for the purpose of supplying wooden supports for our own mines and coal mining activities. As we no longer operate domestic mines or engage in coal mining however, our forests now fulfill different roles and are subject to different expectations.
We are managing the forests for the purpose of harnessing their ecosystem services in a high level. Those services include not only the production of lumber as a renewable resource but also the provision of public recreational spaces, the prevention of global warming through CO2 fixation, and the conservation of biodiversity. Not all company-owned forests are the same as their location and environmental conditions vary by area, as do the functions they are hoped to fulfill. As such, we divide the forests we manage into four categories (zoning): water and ecosystem conservation zones, health and cultural usage zones, selective natural forest cutting zones, and timber resource recycling zones. We specify what functions need to be developed and what management methods apply for each zone type. While steadily conducting this kind of meticulous forest management, we will pursue beautiful forests that are rich in function, under the slogan: “Mitsubishi Materials’ forests will lead the way for forests throughout Japan.”
By way of outside recognition for sustainable forest management initiatives such as these, on 1st October 1, 2012, we obtained certification from the Sustainable Green Ecosystem Council (SGEC) at Hayakita Forest in Hokkaido. Since then, the SGEC has revised and introduced certification standards outlining transitional procedures for mutual certification with the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), an international forest certification scheme. With that in mind, we simultaneously obtained forest certification under the SGEC’s new standards for a total of nine forests in Hokkaido on September 1, 2015, including Hayakita Forest.

SGEC

The zoning of company forests and management policies

Zone Activity
Water and ecosystem conservation zones Improve conditions by thinning or other activities necessary to improve water and soil conservation or to protect biodiversity, especially in forests by water, while keeping them free from human intervention as the general rule
Health and cultural usage zones Improve the condition of forests to enable local people and others to use them safely and comfortably for recreational or nature activities
Selective natural forest cutting zones Repeat appropriate thinning and selective cutting to produce wooden materials, including broad-leaf tree materials, and to harness ecosystem services at a high level
Timber resource recycling zones Use forest resources in a sustainable, recycling-oriented manner to produce wooden materials, including ones from needle-leaved trees, and to nurture them to develop into forests with tremendous vitality, especially for improving their ability to fix CO2.

Data on Company-owned forests

31 locations nationwide
Total area 14,513 hectares
SGEC certified area 11,541 hectares *9 forests in Hokkaido
Natural forest 6,976 hectares
Manmade forest 7,467 hectares

Hayakita ForestHayakita Forest
The forest is laid out in a mosaic pattern, based on appropriate zoning between naturally regenerated forest (trees that have grown naturally), which has been conserved as a water and ecosystem conservation zone, and afforestation areas (trees grown from seedlings planted manually), planted with Japanese larch to be used as recycled resources for efficient lumber production.

Distribution and scale of company-owned forests[photo]

The Value of Company-Owned Forests: Contributing to a recycling-oriented society, Contributing to a low-carbon society, Contributing to the local community, Conserving Biodiversity

1. Contributing to a recycling-oriented society
–Supplying society with sustainable timber resources–

Timber is an outstanding sustainable resource. We produce approximately 10,000 m³ of timber every year, mainly in timber resource recycling zones and selective natural forest cutting zones, and supply them to society as raw materials for a variety of products, from building materials to woody biomass fuels. We thus contribute to building a recycling-oriented society.
To enable a sustainable lumber supply, we appropriately maintain and regenerate forest resources by following the management policy formulated for each zone. In timber resource recycling zones where we manage artificial forests, we maintain the cycle of felling, planting, and growing trees, thereby ensuring a sustainable, stable supply of lumber from needle-leaved trees such as cedar and Japanese larch. In addition, in selective natural forest cutting zones, we keep forests vital and sound by promoting thinning and selective cutting (lumbering selected trees) within a range not exceeding their growth, as well as appropriate natural regeneration (sprouting young trees from seeds which fall to the ground naturally). Thus, we aim to achieve sustainable supply of timber from broad-leaf trees. In natural forests, a wider variety of tree species coexist than in artificial forests. Accordingly, a high level of knowledge and skill is necessary when managing natural forests. We therefore strive to improve our knowledge and skill through initiatives such as inviting a Swiss forester with a wealth of knowledge on the management of natural forests to teach.
In Japan, many natural forests were replaced with artificial forests in the post-war period. Therefore, the depletion of forest resources, particularly the depletion of broad-leaf trees growing in natural forests, has been a chronic problem. Accordingly, furniture manufacturers have been forced to rely on imported timber, which constitutes the majority of the raw materials they use, because many of their products are made of timber from broad-leaf trees. We are attempting to convert parts of artificial forests into natural ones in our efforts to restore broad-leaf tree resources. In addition, we are advancing a model project to introduce corporate cafeteria tables and office furniture made of timber from broad-leaf trees produced in our company-owned forests at the head office, to promote the cyclical use of timber from broad-leaf trees produced in Japan.

Supplying timber from forest thinning to societySupplying timber from forest thinning to society

Forest management training taught by a forester from SwitzerlandForest management training taught by a forester from Switzerland

Use of timber from company-owned forests for furniture in the new Head Office building and Sapporo Office

Our Head Office was relocated in March 2019. We took this as an opportunity to introduce tables and other furniture made of timber from broad-leaf trees produced in our company-owned forests to the new Head Office and Sapporo Office, where the forest management division is located. We have thus chosen our own offices as the places to begin implementing the model of cyclical use of timber from our company-owned forests.

Office furniture made of timber from broad-leaf trees produced in company-owned forests

A big table at the corporate cafeteria of the new Head OfficeA big table at the corporate cafeteria of the new Head Office

Internal stairs as the symbol of the “office where we connect with each other”Internal stairs as the symbol of the “office where we connect with each other”

Work desks at Sapporo OfficeWork desks at Sapporo Office

2. Contributing to the local community
–Forests where local people can relax and interact with the wonders of nature–

As well as being company’s assets, our company-owned forests are also an important element of the environment, in terms of shaping the local area. We contribute to local communities through appropriate forest management, which improves the quality of ecosystem services, including watershed protection, prevention of soil loss and recreation.
Company-owned forests located on the outskirts of urban areas meanwhile are positioned as “environmental forests,” parts of which are open to local people to enjoy the natural environment up close. Located in the Teine area of Sapporo, Teine Forest is blessed with a slice of rich forestland that also has excellent transport access from the city center. We open up part of the forest to the people of Sapporo as a public forest, for purposes such as nature walks and camping ground. We also provide access to fields for nature activities organized by a local NPO, as a practice slope for local elementary school children to improve their skiing, and for research by universities and other institutions. That is why it is important to maintain an environment that is suitable for each of these purposes, so that everyone in the local community is able to use our company-owned forests in a meaningful way. In addition, we are proactive in activities such as thinning trees to add light to the interior of our forests, removing dangerous trees, and creating and maintaining paths in the forests.
Instead of just offering our company-owned forests for use by local residents, we hold tree planting festivals, tree growing festivals, and other environmental events in our forests to teach people about the value and fun that forests provide, including their biodiversity. Through these and other activities, we proactively reach out to local residents. In addition, we worked on the recovery of a forest owned by Mori Town, Hokkaido, which was damaged by the typhoon in 2016. We also produced Christmas trees using trees from our company-owned forests and sent them to local nurseries in Atsuma Town, which were affected by the Hokkaido Eastern Iburi earthquake in 2018. We continue to engage in activities like this.
We continue to contribute to local communities through these kinds of active initiatives and increase our efforts to make the forests of Mitsubishi Materials into valuable features of their local areas.

An environmental event making tree name plates in a company-owned forestAn environmental event making tree name plates in a company-owned forest

A Christmas tree sent to a nursery in Atsuma Town , which was affected by the Hokkaido Eastern Iburi earthquakeA Christmas tree sent to a nursery in Atsuma Town , which was affected by the Hokkaido Eastern Iburi earthquake

3. Contributing to a low-carbon society
–CO2 fixation–

One important ecosystem services of forests is CO2 fixation. As one of the largest owners of forestland in Japan, we dedicate ourselves to the steady promotion of necessary forest maintenance, and do our level best to enhance the CO2 fixation capabilities of the trees in our forests, so that we can do our bit to prevent global warming. The CO2 fixation capabilities of our forests is estimated* to be 54,000 tons per year (equivalent to the annual amount of CO2 emitted by approximately 26,000 people).
The ability of trees to fix CO2 peaks during the period when they are young or middle-aged. When they age beyond that point, their fixation capabilities start to decline. That is why we make every effort to regenerate our forests, by felling and planting new trees at the right time, or through natural regeneration, in order to maintain CO2 fixation capabilities over the long term.
We also strive to fix CO2 in forests by promoting the use of usable timber from forest thinning, which is a forest maintenance measure, instead of leaving this timber in forests. In addition, we have made it our primary objective to produce high-quality, large-diameter timber to be used over long time frames, as building materials or for furniture for instance. This is another of our initiatives for effective CO2 fixation.

* Method of calculation
Growth (m3) x material volume weight (t/m3) x carbon conversion efficiency x tree/trunk ratio x CO2 molecular weight / carbon molecular weight

Japanese larchJapanese larch

Relationship between tree age and carbon absorption/emissions figure* Edited from documents published by the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute (FFPRI)

4. Conserving biodiversity
–Maintaining an environment suitable for a wider range of wildlife–

Our company-owned forests are extremely important as a habitat for a diverse range of wildlife. We therefore take the utmost care to ensure that our various activities, including timber production, do not have a detrimental impact on living organisms.
Forest ridge and riverside areas are migration pathways for creatures. They are called green corridors because those forests are extremely important for expanding the habitat of wild animals and allowing their interactions. We therefore prohibit clearcutting these forests, in principle. We also refrain from clearcutting large areas of land even in artificial forests, where we proactively produce timber, because it may reduce biodiversity in those forests. Instead, we clearcut small, dispersed areas. In addition, we are planning not to clearcut artificial forests which are judged difficult to manage efficiently. We aim to nurture these forests into natural forests with richer biodiversity. We are also introducing trial forest maintenance methods in selected areas, aimed at conserving biodiversity. These include managing felling so that we leave underlayer trees after cutting down upper layer trees, rather than bare earth, and actively mixing coniferous and broad leaf trees in certain areas, in order to give the forest a more diverse structure. By developing various types of forests in this way, we are striving to increase the diversity of the overall forest environment, thereby contributing to conserving biodiversity.
We also proactively monitor wildlife. As well as recording wildlife sightings while on daily patrol around our forests, we have positioned a large number of wildlife survey sites in our forests, where we regularly inspect the animals and plants living there and confirm the positive or negative impact of our forest maintenance. In particular, when we do forest maintenance involving felling, we separately carry out monitoring surveys before and after, to confirm that wildlife has not been affected. If any rare species are found in an area in a monitoring survey before felling, we change the time or method to one that will not affect those species, or consider the postponement of the planned maintenance.
Rare species that have been confirmed to be living in the area (most endangered species included on red lists published by the Ministry of the Environment and Hokkaido Government) are included in our own red list of rare species living in Mitsubishi Materials company-owned forests. We issue warnings to all involved parties with access to the relevant forests to conserve biodiversity, such as by holding regular training sessions for them.

Daily monitoring activitiesDaily monitoring activities

Wildlife camera trapWildlife camera trap

Japanese sableJapanese sable

Black woodpeckerBlack woodpecker

Masu salmonMasu salmon

Japanese primroseJapanese primrose

Dogtooth violetDogtooth violet

Policies for maintaining and improving biodiversity

  1. In order to maintain and improve the biodiversity of individual forest, we conduct flora and fauna surveys, either by ourselves or by hiring someone. Based on the results, we prescribe a biodiversity conservation program in each company forest’s management and administration plan.
  2. The abovementioned flora and fauna surveys prioritize resource recycling forests for clearcutting.
  3. The results of the abovementioned flora and fauna surveys are of highest priority for the zoning in the individual company forest’s management and administration plans.
  4. We stipulate preservation plans for animals and plants listed in the red data book.
  5. All waterside forests in fens or marshes should be zoned as biodiversity preservation zones in the individual company forest’s management and administration plan, and forest operations should not be conducted as a principle. The extent of the waterside forests’ preservation zones are individually determined based on the terrain, but they should generally cover about 10 meters on each side.
  6. Natural forests are as a rule zoned as either water and ecosystem conservation zones or selective cutting zones. Taking into consideration the continuity of natural forests, only suitable places will be made timber resource recycling zones for needle-leaved artificial forests.
  7. Natural forests along ridges are maintained as water and ecosystem preservation zones.
  8. With the exception of Japanese larches, no non-native species are to be planted.
  9. Hunting is prohibited in company forests as a principle. Moreover, non-forestry activities that hinder the maintenance of biodiversity should also not be conducted as a rule.
  10. The picking of wild animals and plants should not exceed sustainable levels and efforts should be made to prevent inappropriate activities.

(Excerpt from a company forest management and administration plan)

MMC