Paper: A Natural Resource

Processing Paper

Paper is perhaps the most familiar product developed from natural resources. The first step in the papermaking process is taking raw material from plant fibers, usually trees, and breaking them down with water to form a pulp. The watery pulp is spread and rolled into a thin layer, and the excess water is pressed and drawn off. Once dried, this leaves behind a sheet of paper. In ancient times, this process was completed by hand, but giant machines now make the process into a much larger-scale and more efficient system. This means a lot of trees must be used because you can't make paper without cellulose from trees or other fibrous plants.

Managing a Natural Resource

To maintain a steady supply of wood, some paper mills own and manage their own forestland. Can these areas be part of a working landscape? The can if these lands are managed to not only provide a long-range and renewable supply of wood, but to protect and enhance wildlife habitats and other important ecosystem values. The forest managers must pay close attention to water quality; roads, lakes, and other areas that cannot be forested; areas with special or unique features, such as historic sites or endangered species habitats; the biodiversity of the landscape and habitat; and the aesthetic value of the area.

Not Managing a Natural Resource

Not all paper mills take these steps to ensure balance among ecology, economics, and our social needs. Those that don't strive for this balance cannot be considered part of working landscapes. When mills don't replant trees, don't process waste water, and ignore the environment, serious problems occur. Some paper mills are at least partially responsible for deforested and even desert areas that have, as a result, destroyed wildlife habitats and harmed the ecosystem.


Explore More: Working Landscapes
Copyright 2004, Iowa Public Television
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