Promoting the Long-term Sustainability of White Oak with the White Oak Initiative

Promoting the Long-term Sustainability of White Oak with the White Oak Initiative

Sustainability is always top of mind at ISC Barrels. Continuity of log supply is essential to ensuring we can make the barrels that our customers need to craft the world’s finest spirits. As a fourth generation, family-owned company, we plan for the future of our next generation and routinely ask the question – what do we need to be doing to guarantee the continued abundance of cooperage quality white oak that we have today, 50 to 100 years from now?

As good stewards of the land, we also recognize that white oak is a cornerstone species in the Eastern Hardwood Forest (which covers about 20 states) and provides critical habitat and food sources to numerous wildlife – deer, rabbit, wild turkey, beaver, fox – just to name a few.

White oak is also essential to other industries making forest products such as furniture, flooring, and cabinetry, as well as for recreational activities like hunting. In short, it generates billions of dollars to local economies throughout the white oak region.

When asked to assist in forming and supporting the White Oak Initiative, it was a clear “yes” as it aligned with our goals for a sustainable white oak source for generations to come.


The White Oak Initiative works to ensure the long-term sustainability of America’s white oak and the economic, social and conservation benefits derived from white oak dominated forests.

In November of 2017, an unusually wide variety of organizations teamed up to form the White Oak Initiative (WOI). Conservation agencies, trade associations, forest industries along with academia and private landowners – everyone with a vested interest in the long-term sustainability of the white oak hardwood forest came together.

There are five different areas of focus for the WOI – research, technical assistance, on the ground implementation, communication, and policy. Find out more about each focus area and who is involved the White Oak Initiative website.

Independent Stave Company wanted to contribute not only monetary resources to the initiative, but our expertise as well. Enter ISCO Director of Log Procurement and Sales, Garret Nowell. He is the Chairman of the On the Ground Committee which works on strategies to engage and support family forest owners and gives assistance to public land foresters. Garret and the committee members provide guidance and recommendations on surveying stands of timber for landowners and foresters.


“We will educate professional foresters and landowners to take a look at their land - the trees, soil, elevation, etc – and then determine a custom treatment or “prescription” on how to best manage the specific area to foster healthy, fast growth of the pole sized white oak,” said Nowell. “Our committee also helps families take advantage of government cost-share programs available to make implementing our suggested treatment more affordable. A lot of the time people aren’t even aware these programs exist, so it’s great when we can give them new information and break down some of the barriers to managing their land properly.”

In addition, the White Oak Initiative is surveying thousands of landowners and loggers to discover exactly what the barriers are for landowners to put practices in place for better, sustainable management of the forest. This survey will be a valuable asset in crafting a plan for more sustainable forest management in the Eastern Hardwood Forest.

Changing forest management practices among landowners is not easy or fast, but a worthwhile endeavor for the health of our industry and the continued long-term sustainability of our white oak forests.

“We have a plentiful supply of mature logs to harvest and use right now, but the life-cycle for white oak is over 100 years – and we have to think in ‘hundreds of years’ in this industry if we want to be a sustainable company,” said Independent Stave Company CEO and Fourth Generation Cooper Brad Boswell. “Independent Stave Company and all the members of the WOI are up to the challenge and look forward to sharing our successes over the coming years.”


To learn more about the White Oak Initiative, it’s goals and focus visit

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