Appeals court restores lumber companies’ challenge to spotted owl habitat

By Michael Doyle
A top federal appeals court has added fuel to a long-running fight over federal protections for the northern spotted owl in California, Oregon and Washington state.

In a unanimous decision Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the lumber companies united as the American Forest Resource Council have the legal standing to challenge the owl’s designated “critical habitat.” Federal officials in 2012 designated more than 9.5 million acres in the three states as essential for the owl’s survival.

“The council has demonstrated a substantial probability that the critical habitat designation will cause a decrease in the supply of timber from the designated forest lands,” Judge Brett Kavanaugh wrote, adding that there’s also evidence that “council members will suffer economic harm as a result of the decrease in the timber supply from those forest lands.”

Source: Appeals court restores lumber companies’ challenge to spotted owl habitat – The Daily World, 2017-04-11

Foresters struggle to tell tree tales

By Rob Chaney
If a tree issue blows up in the forest, does anyone hear it?

Considering that eight of every 10 Americans live in big cities, that’s a problem for the Society of American Foresters. On Friday, the organization of forest professionals, loggers, mill workers, academics and government land managers gathered to puzzle how to better get their stories told.

Because while millions of Americans may never see a Ponderosa pine burn in a wildfire, they will breathe the smoke and may cancel their vacation plans and might pay more taxes for disaster relief. Meanwhile, the assembled society members at the University of Montana struggled with their own mixed messages, long-standing mistrust of opponents and unfamiliarity with a fast-changing media landscape.

“If we can’t get our collective act together, how can we expect the public to come around to broader agreement on forest issues?” asked Dave Atkins, a retired forester who now runs the online Treesource.org media outlet and serves on the National Association of Forest Professionals communication committee. He cited a recent NAFP survey that found 45 percent of U.S. and Canadian residents think that trees are harvested in national parks and protected areas (not true), and 64 percent believe deforestation is a major threat in North America (forests here are shrinking, but not at the rate of tropical forests in the Amazon or Indonesia).

“We have to take responsibility for the fact that people don’t understand what the forest condition really is,” Atkins said. “Seventy-one percent of the respondents had not heard about a forestry sector story in the past year. In places like Montana, we see this stuff all the time. But 83 percent of Americans live in urban areas.”

Source: Foresters struggle to tell tree tales – Missoulian, 2017-04-14

Research links decline in hemlock forests to changes in water resources

An insect infestation that is killing hemlock trees in New England forests is having a significant impact on the water resources of forested ecosystems that provide essential water supplies to one of the nation’s most populous regions, according to research by Indiana University geographers and colleagues at three universities in Massachusetts.

The study is the first to show an increase in water yield—the amount of water reaching streams and rivers—resulting from forest damage caused by an insect pest called the hemlock woolly adelgid. Insect-damaged trees use less rainfall and allow more water to reach the ground and run off into waterways. With less foliage, the trees return less moisture to the atmosphere via transpiration and evaporation.
“We observed a 15 percent increase in annual water yield,” said Taehee Hwang, an assistant professor in the Department of Geography in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences. “But there are a lot of issues involved with this subject. Water quality may suffer as rainfall runs off more quickly from forested areas and carries higher concentrations of nutrients. The long-term picture may change as hemlocks are replaced with broad-leaved trees that have a different impact on water resources.”

Source: Research links decline in hemlock forests to changes in water resources – Phys.org, 2017-04-05

Land titling for indigenous communities leads to forest protection

By Mike Gaworecki
New research provides yet more evidence that granting indigenous and other local communities formal title to their traditional lands can be a boon to efforts to conserve forests.

Deforestation is responsible for as much as 10 percent of total global carbon emissions, which means that finding effective means of keeping forests standing is crucial to global efforts to halt climate change.

Previous studies have found that securing indigenous land rights is a successful path to keeping forests and the carbon sinks they represent intact. A 2016 analysis by the World Resources Institute (WRI) focused on Bolivia, Brazil, and Colombia, for instance, determined that tenure-secure indigenous forestlands could help avoid the release of carbon emissions equivalent to taking nine to 12 million passenger vehicles off the road over the next 20 years.

According to another report released last year as part of a collaborative research project by the Woods Hole Research Center, the Rights and Resources Initiative, and WRI, there is a lot of carbon stored on indigenous lands, making increased land titling a significant opportunity for climate mitigation. But the research found that, while indigenous peoples and other local forest communities manage at least 24 percent of the carbon stored above-ground in Earth’s tropical forests, or some 54,546 million metric tons of carbon (MtC), more than 22,000 MtC of that is at risk of deforestation or degradation because it is found in regions where the local communities do not enjoy formal recognition of their claim to the land.

A more recent study not only found that well-trained indigenous technicians are every bit as capable of collecting the necessary data to monitor forest carbon stocks as professionals, but that in some cases, at least, they can do it quicker and cheaper than the professionals.

The efficacy of land titling as a forest protection measure are less clear, however. But now the authors of a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) last week say they found that forest clearance is actually reduced by more than three-quarters and forest disturbance by roughly two-thirds over the two-year time span immediately following the granting of land title to an indigenous community.

Source: Land titling for indigenous communities leads to forest protection, peer-reviewed study finds – Mongabay, 2017-04-10

Sizing Up Biofuel Markets

By Tim Portz
The combined export value of wood pellets, ethanol and biodiesel for U.S. producers has flirted with $3 billion since 2012, and depending upon how the final numbers shake out for last year, 2016 may very well be the year this milestone is surpassed. For both wood pellets and fuel ethanol, export numbers have never been higher than they are right now, and all three sectors are eyeing foreign markets as a means to significantly grow their businesses.

An analysis of the same data reveals key and informative differences. While foreign markets are an important part of the overall market picture for fuel ethanol and biodiesel producers, exports account for less than 10 percent of annual production while, from a volumetric perspective, wood pellet production in the U.S. is heavily reliant on foreign markets.

Now, the looming question is, what impact will a Trump administration, which campaigned on a promise to revisit the nation’s trade agreements, have on the export opportunities for each of these industries?

Global Market Leaders
In both the fuel ethanol and wood pellet categories, the U.S. can boast the largest production capacity and the largest share of the global export market. In both cases, U.S. exports outstrip the closest competitor by a wide margin. Wood pellet export volumes for U.S. producers were well over 4 million tons, while Canada has yet to surpass 2 million tons of exports. Brazil is the world’s second leading producer of fuel ethanol, and while production and export volumes there vary from year to year, in 2015, its export volumes were about half of what U.S. producers achieved. Additionally, Brazil is a prominent market for U.S. ethanol producers taking over 100 million gallons in 2015.

Source: Sizing Them Up | Biomassmagazine.com, 2017-03-27

Conference addresses environmental impact of mass timber industry

Organizers of last week’s International Mass Timber Conference in Portland, Ore., devoted a whole track of the three-day event to environmental and sustainability aspects of the mass timber sector — an indication of the importance of sustainability to the tall timber building brand.

Manufacturing of cross laminated timber, or CLT — the product used to construct tall timber buildings — has the potential to revitalize the timber sector and the rural communities in Oregon that have fallen on hard times because of the widespread closure of timber mills across the state, reports Oregon Business.

But experts concede the environmental benefits of CLT are complex and difficult to measure.

Structural engineers look at the lifecycle emissions of CLT when assessing the environmental impact of tall timber buildings. The lifecycle analysis takes account of the greenhouse gas emissions from the harvesting of the wood, through the manufacturing and construction of tall timber buildings, to their eventual demolition.

When taking this cradle-to-grave assessment, the environmental benefits of CLT are not clear.

Source: Conference focuses on mass timber industry | Proud Green Building, 2017-04-03

Lumber prices remain strong as home values improve

Lumber prices continue to be robust two months in a row. Logs are also strong. Home values continue improving with relatively brisk sales and building. Industry manufacturing has improved. Recent trends of lumber, logs, home construction, and housing markets, are compared.

Statistics look quite good this month. Median home value continues to rise, mortgage rates have somewhat stabilized, unsold inventories of homes remain low, albeit creeping up, and housing starts and building permits remain consistently in the 1200s, which is an improvement. But lumber prices and log prices are a big story, along with real estate selling briskly in both Portland and Roseburg.

The log price is holding up at $720. The lumber price has also held for two months in a row, at $360. This is the highest price for studs since 2013, and before that, since 2005. 2013 was the year the snails-pace recovery began in earnest. One year earlier, in 2012, median home prices hit rock bottom ($151,600 in January, 2012). Housing starts moved from the 800’s in 2012 to 1000’s in 2013 and there was a feeling of optimism. During the midst of the Great Recession, mill production levels were at their lowest and the increased demand in 2013 raised the lumber prices. Once mill production increased from basement levels, in anticipation of increased housing starts, prices dropped again. Now we are entering a new cycle.

Source: Lumber prices remain strong as home values improve – nrtoday.com, 2017-04-05

Bridging the gap between agriculture and forestry in Scotland

By Andrew Arbuckle
Farming and forestry have traditionally been at odds over the use of land but moves are being made to bridge the gap by increased forestry grants for landowners facing an otherwise uncertain rural future.

Specialists from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) have urged farmers and land managers in the north of Scotland to think hard about how woodlands could fit into their future plans and what recent changes in the Scottish Government grants available could mean for them.

Douglas Priest, a forestry specialist with SAC Consulting, which is part of SRUC, said that, within the new “Native Woodland Target Area” for Highland Scotland there were higher payments available for establishing native Scots pine, upland birch and broadleaves.

“In essence the forestry grant scheme payments for these have been increased by £400 per hectare, with additional help for deer fencing and bracken control,” he said.

“There are a multitude of reasons why so many areas of the Highlands would benefit from woodland cover and this is a great time to think seriously about it. We can help with technical forestry advice and [with] the application process.”

Compared with many places in the rest of Europe, Scotland, at 17 per cent, has very low forest cover but this is expected to rise with the governments’ target of planting 15,000 hectares a year by 2025.

Source: Bridging the gap between agriculture and forestry – The Scotsman, 2017-03-29

Fires, thinning create healthier forest

by Peter Aleshire
Patchy.

That’s what you want.

Whether it comes to bark beetles, forest fires, migrating birds, elk or deer — what you want are forests with patches thick with trees, open areas and hillsides burned decades ago.

This conclusion has emerged from a series of recent studies on bark beetles and tree densities.

The studies support the underlying logic of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI), an ambitious effort to use a reinvented, small-tree logging industry to thin the forest and diversify the landscape.

The project has lagged far behind the schedule needed to thin the first installment of 300,000 acres, mostly because the 4FRI contractor Good Earth has struggled to build up the infrastructure needed to thin 30,000 to 50,000 acres annually.

However, recent research validates the underlying blueprint for 4FRI, which would dramatically lower tree densities in the ponderosa pine forests, while creating a landscape with denser patches separated by a wide-open, thinned forest.

Source: Fires, thinning create healthier forest = Payson Roundup, 2016-04-04

Global paper and forest products industry outlook to remain stable on steady operating income growth

Higher prices and stronger wood product, paper packaging and market pulp demand offsetting rising input costs and lower paper demand will keep the outlook for the global paper and forest products industry stable, says Moody’s Investors Service in a newly published global outlook for the sector. Consistent with the stable outlook, the rating agency expects consolidated operating income increases of 2-4% for its 46 globally-rated forest product companies over the next 12-18 months.

Moody’s expects that the consolidated operating income of the 29 North American companies it rates will remain essentially flat, with 2-4% growth over the outlook period. Such growth is consistent with analysts’ expectations of modest operating income growth from North American paper packaging, wood products and timberland producers being partially offset by lower operating earnings from pulp and paper companies. Significantly, these same companies account for about 60% of the global rated industry’s operating income.

Source: Moody’s: Global paper and forest products industry outlook to remain stable on steady operating income growth – Business Standard News, 17-03-27