U.S. Forest Service hopes new minimum rates can help clear forests

By Scott Buffon
The U.S. Forest Service in Washington D.C. changed its national policy on the price of selling Forest Service timber in a way they hope will help forestry projects clear cut timber off of its thinning areas.

Across the country, Forest Service officials are now able to sell bundles of logs for a new minimum price that applies to trees regardless of its diameter — 25 cents per CCF. As 5 CCFs can fill a log truck, the new metric means a truck could be carrying a load worth only about $1.25 in areas with low-value lumber. John Crockett, Deputy Director of Forest Management, Range Management and Ecology at the Forest Service in Washington D.C., expects the change will not impact areas where trees are sold at high value, and will only help areas that are struggling to remove unhealthy swaths of trees.

The Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI) works across four national forests and offers timber sales and stewardship contracts to clear unhealthy forests around northern Arizona. The new minimum rate will help 4FRI lower the cost of the wood, in the hopes that a business might be able to save money on the wood and afford the costs of removing it from the site.

Source: U.S. Forest Service hopes new minimum rates can help clear forests – Arizona Daily Sun, 2019-07-09

Money Growing on Trees? Vermont Forest First In State For California Carbon Market

By John Dillon
A chunk of northern Vermont forest will soon help reduce greenhouse gas pollution in California.

The idea is that companies will pay to reduce their carbon footprint by buying the carbon sequestered in a forest on the other side of the country. But determining how much carbon is being stored, and then enrolling in that expanding carbon market, is far from simple. It involves a lot of time, money and long hours walking the woods.

Forester Charlie Stabolsepszy turned off a logging road and tramped uphill on a mountainside in northern Franklin County. He was headed for a point marked on his GPS, where he’d begin a carbon inventory.

He was at the base of Burnt Mountain, where the air was cool, the breeze was light, and the songbirds seemed to be celebrating their first glimpse of sunshine in days. The 5,400 acre parcel has been owned for years by the Vermont chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

The woods were once logged but are now being managed as forever wild – eventually even the logging road will grow over to trees. All those trees are now part of an emerging system designed to reduce greenhouse gas pollution. The Burnt Mountain tract will be the first in Vermont to be enrolled in the regulated California carbon market.

“We saw it as an opportunity to hang on to the property, and to think about how we might manage the property as a core area, in an unmanaged condition,” said Heather Furman, director of the Vermont chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

Source: Money Growing on Trees? Vermont Forest First In State For California Carbon Market – VPR, 2019-06-26

Carbon program offers forest owners a way to profit — by letting their trees stand

By Laura Legere
HEGINS TOWNSHIP — The Hoover family hunting camp sits alone on a ridge called Sherman Mountain or Little Mountain, depending on whom you ask, surrounded by nearly 900 acres of trees.

It is built from the concrete remains of a coal tipple — a building where coal cars were hauled up through a nearby mine shaft to dump their loads of soft anthracite into waiting trucks that would take it away to be burned in power plants.

The Schuylkill County parcel’s legacy is in harvesting carbon. Its future is in storing it.

Mark Hoover, 43, his father, Bryan, and uncle Brent signed an easement with the Nature Conservancy in 2017 to preserve their forest forever and manage it sustainably.

The Hoovers’ caretaking of the forest will allow them to market the property as a kind of carbon bank — a place where carbon dioxide is pulled from the air by healthy and growing trees that store it in their trunks and roots and soil for a century.

At current prices on the voluntary carbon market, the Hoovers could make more than $100,000 over 10 years for leaving their forest standing, Josh Parrish, the director of the Nature Conservancy program, estimated.

Source: Carbon program offers forest owners a way to profit — by letting their trees stand – Pittsburgh Post Gazette, 2019-06-24

Wealthy Families Are Adding Forests to Their Portfolios

By Lananh Nguyen
Tom Crowder spent much of his two-year career in the NFL running away from men who weighed upwards of 300 pounds. These days? He worries about bears and snakes. As a senior vice president at Bank of America Corp., Crowder spends most days in the woods, from the evergreen forests of New England to the wetlands of the Carolinas, scouting U.S. timberland assets for people with a net worth of at least $100 million and a minimum of $10 million to invest.

“Trees don’t move as fast as Pro Bowl linebackers,” Crowder says on a recent field trip to a client’s timber farm in South Carolina overlooking the alligator-­populated Waccamaw River. As turtles sun themselves and wild turkeys roam, he recounts over a picnic lunch the “neat experience” of his stint as a wide receiver and safety for the Dallas Cowboys. After a busted jaw and emergency surgery, he was happy to go back to his roots, as a third-generation forester.

Crowder is among more than 200 experts employed by Bank of America’s Specialty Asset Management group, or SAM, which manages more than 94,000 assets with a value of $13.6 billion for individuals and institutions. The target client is looking for timberland, farms, ranches, energy interests, or real estate, so-called alternative investments that can diversify portfolios mostly made up of stocks and bonds and can provide a hedge against inflation.

Returns for timberland totaled 3.2% in 2018, compared with 2.4% so far this year, according to an index from the National Council of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries.

Source: Wealthy Families Are Adding Forests to Their Portfolios – Bloomberg, 2019-06-16

World’s largest wood pellet plant planned in Lucedale

BY MARY PEREZ
Largest wood pellet manufacturer in the U.S. is proposing to build the world’s largest wood pellet mill in Lucedale, Mississippi in George County. Some residents are for it, others question environmental impact.

Residents of Lucedale who showed up in force to a public hearing Tuesday already made up their minds about the largest wood pellet mill in the country locating in their town.

They wore stickers announcing their position. And they weren’t swayed by speakers who came mostly from outside the area, arguing that while Enviva might be good for the bottom line, it might not be good for the health of the community.

The company proposes building a $140 million pellet plant in the George County Industrial Park in Lucedale and a $60 million shipping terminal in Pascagoula. The state Legislature appropriated more than $2 million to fix the rail spur between the two.

The pellets will be made mostly from pine trees in and around George County and shipped overseas to supply fuel for power plants in the United Kingdom, Asia and other countries.

Tuesday’s meeting was the last step in the review process before the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality decides whether to approve the pollution control equipment so the plant can operate within the legal limits of Mississippi. The decision could come as early as the June 11 meeting of the MDEQ review board, which meets the second Tuesday of each month.

Source: World’s largest wood pellet plant planned in Lucedale. Residents, environmental activists at odds. – Biloxi Sun Herald, 2019-05-16

The State of Canada’s Forests 2018

The State of Canada’s Forests Annual Report provides a national snap shot of Canada’s forests and forest industry. We’ve been tracking our journey toward sustainable forest management for 28 years. This year’s report focuses on the theme “faces of forestry” and features the innovative ways people work and learn in forests.

Download the report

Source: The State of Canada’s forests report – Natural Resources Canada

The economic importance of U.S. forests

The U.S. forest products sector is very dynamic, and contributes a substantial amount of employment, income, manufacturing sales, and value added to rural forest economies throughout the country. Overall, forest products comprise about 1.5% of the total U.S. economy, and contribute about 5% of total manufacturing output in the country. Furthermore, the forest products sector is one of the top three contributors to most southern state economies.

The forest products industry creates incentives for property owners to manage their forests rather than convert them to other uses with a higher financial return, such as development. These working forests deliver many ecosystem services that society values—fresh water, carbon sequestration and storage, erosion control, natural disaster mitigation, biodiversity, recreation, foods, and medicinal plants.

The industry also provides markets for the by-products of forest management and restoration, such as small timber from hazardous fuels reduction and after-fire salvage harvests. In some areas of the West and interior Alaska, the lack of a forest products industry means that owners have no financial incentive to improve forest health. These owners must then decide whether to restore their forests at their own expense, for the benefit of all.

The United States is both the biggest consumer and the biggest producer of forest products, making almost 30 percent of the world’s forest products in all major categories.

The size and organization of the forest products sector have changed over recent decades because it is a cyclical industry, sensitive to fluctuations in the domestic economy and to long-term changes in output markets, consumer preferences, technology, and global economic growth.

The overall trend in the U.S. share of global production, mostly made up by solidwood products and pulp and paper, has been decreased production in most categories. For some products, the decline has been evident since the 1960s; others have slipped since the late 1990s. Trends point toward further declines, even while domestic production of particular products, such as wood pellets, increases.

Source: The economic importance of U.S. forests – U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities

Rural, forested school districts face federal funding loss

By Sarah Plummer
School officials in some of West Virginia’s most rural counties are slated to see major losses in financial support they receive from the U.S. Forest Service.

The Secure Rural Schools Act provides financial support for 775 counties across the nation located near national forests. These counties once relied on a portion of timber revenue, but increased logging regulations on federal land in the 1990s caused these revenues to dip drastically. The act was developed to shore up these forested counties.

Babete Anderson, national press officer for the Forest Service, said, without congressional reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools Act, payments to these rural schools must revert to 1908 guidelines regarding timber revenues.

Source: Rural, forested school districts face federal funding loss – The Register Herald, 2017-03-14

How local elites earn money from burning land in Indonesia

by Alice Cuddy
A “fire economy” has emerged in Indonesia in which the blazes tearing through the country’s land and forests, driven largely by the global demand for palm oil, are lining the pockets of local elites and their patronage networks, according to a new study.

“Fire economy and actor network of forest and land fires in Indonesia,” published in the journal Forest Policy and Economics, details the ways in which a variety of people “benefit directly and indirectly from the business of fire, enjoying profits and economic rents at the expense of environmental quality.”

The study — carried out by scientists from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the University of Riau and Bogor Agricultural University — focuses on four districts in Riau province, on Indonesia’s main western island of Sumatra.

The province reportedly experiences the most frequent fires in Indonesia, due largely to the massive conversion of forests and peatlands to oil palm estates, where slash-and-burn methods are employed to clear land for planting. The practice is illegal in almost all cases.

The fires do not only impact the local environment, with blazes in Indonesia regularly resulting in haze that affects the whole region, particularly Malaysia and Singapore, and that has been linked to a slew of premature deaths.

At the heart of the issue are the “enormous benefits” reaped by those involved in the fires, said one of the study’s authors, Herry Purnomo.

Source: How local elites earn money from burning land in Indonesia – Mongabay, 2017-01-16

Forests Are a Treasure. But Are They Good Investments?

By Tim Gray
Trees don’t watch the stock market. Forests keep growing — and potentially increasing their value — even when inflation surges or the market swoons.

Big investors, like university endowments and insurance companies, have long allocated money to timberland in places like Oregon’s fir-and-spruce forests, Georgia’s pine plantations and Appalachia’s hardwood groves.

Until a few years ago, retail investors were mostly shut out of this market. The deals were too big, involving thousands of acres and tens of millions of dollars.

That changed over the last 15 years with the introduction of two timber-focused E.T.F.s — the iShares Global Timber & Forestry E.T.F. and the Guggenheim MSCI Global Timber E.T.F. — and the evolution of big forest-products companies like Weyerhaeuser and Rayonier. Today, the big timber companies are organized as real estate investment trusts (R.E.I.T.s) focused on managing forestlands, having sold off many other operations.

Ordinary investors can now put money into timber without venturing into the woods. Buying shares of an E.T.F. or a R.E.I.T. won’t replicate the benefits of directly owning vast timberlands, but it does enable one to bet on timber.

And there’s an old-fashioned option: buying a little woodlot of one’s own. That’s more akin to a part-time job than a passive investment, but it can yield financial gains.

Source: Forests Are a Treasure. But Are They Good Investments? – The New York Times, 2017-01-13