Many natural resource-based commodity systems exhibit a trio of undesirable behaviors—price instability, resource unsustainability, and inequity among people along the commodity chain. In this article we share findings from a modeling project that focuses primarily on the second problem, unsustainability, in the forest products economy and forest ecosystem of the Northeastern United States. The model shows the structural potential for lumber industry capacity to overshoot the timber resource of the regional forest. Many of the policies commonly advocated in response to resource shortage, such as boosting mill efficiencies and eliminating log exports, appear unlikely to solve the problem. We identify several policies with the potential to help sustain both the industry and resource base. We also share insights on how to design a modeling and intervention process when addressing policy problems for which no single organization has direct responsibility. Finally, we consider ways to navigate through three prevalent “defensive routines”—denial, resignation, and despair—that are often barriers to constructive discussion on how to address potential limits to growth. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.