New restoration approach could save forest industry

By Peter Aleshire
WHITE MOUNTAINS — Granted, getting up your hopes for the 4-Forest Restoration Initiatives (4FRI) is just a little like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football, with Lucy grinning at him like a crazy person.

Still, the most recent developments point to potenial improvements. This might really work out well for the struggling wood products industry in the White Mountains.

The Four Forests Restoration Initiative is the most ambitious forest restoration effort in the country, with the goal of thinning tree densities on more than 2 million acres of ponderosa pine forests in Arizona from perhaps 1,000 per acre to more like 100 per acre. Environmentalist, local officials, loggers and foresters agreed that a combination of prescribed burns and small-wood logging operations restoring the forest and returning low-intensity wildfires to their natural role. In the process, 4FRI hopes to reduce catastrophic wildfires, protecting watershed and saving forested communities. The project include much of the Kaibab, Coconino, Tonto and Apache-Sitgreaves national forests. However, the effort has floundered in the past seven years for lack of infrastructure and a market for the wood slash that constitutes half of the material to be removed — the biomass.

Novo Power President Brad Worsley says he’s feeling optimistic the 28 megawatt biomass-burning power plant in Snowflake may stay in business, now that the Forest Services has released the Rim Country request for proposals (RFP) on some 800,000 acres in dire need of thinning.

“I’m happy with the RFP, mainly because they continue to prioritize the biomass – that was really big,” said Worsley.

The wood products industry spawned by the decade-long White Mountains Stewardship Project accounts for hundreds of jobs in an area beset by unemployment and low growth rates. The shutdown of coal-fired power plants combined with the earlier shutdown of mills has thinned the job supply further.

But if things go just right – the Forest Service’s new flexibility and emphasis on getting rid of the could prove an economic boon to the White Mountains.

And that’s in addition to keeping the whole place from burning down.

Source: New restoration approach could save forest industry – White Mountain Independent, 2019-09-24

‘Chip and Ship’ Project Aims to Speed up Forest Restoration in Northern Arizona

By Ryan Heinsius
Jeff Halbrook, a research associate with ERI, takes me on a tour of what’s fondly known as the chip-and-ship pilot project at Camp Navajo near Bellemont.

“It’s all little stuff, down to like a three-inch knop or so,” he says.

A huge mechanical claw scoops up several ponderosa pine logs and feeds them into an industrial chipper. Thousands of wood chunks are blasted into a large shipping container.

“It goes anywhere from one to four to three, up to seven small ones can just kind throw in that little jaws there,” he says.

The logs were recently cut from the Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff. A crew of six has been working for days to pack the containers as tightly as possible with the shredded chips.

“So, they’re finished with that one and then they’ll back around here and start filling this first container, and then it’s kind of like a little dance out there,” Halbrook says.

“It goes anywhere from one to four to three, up to seven small ones can just kind throw in that little jaws there,” he says.

The logs were recently cut from the Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff. A crew of six has been working for days to pack the containers as tightly as possible with the shredded chips.

“So, they’re finished with that one and then they’ll back around here and start filling this first container, and then it’s kind of like a little dance out there,” Halbrook says.

“As these markets develop and these techniques are refined, we’re able to do more acres, and we’re way behind the eight ball on our ability to manage acres,” says Rich Van Demark, a forester with the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management.

“As soon as we can build to that capacity with all the pieces that it takes, that’ll get us to that level of management that we need to match up to our forest needs … But at least it’s going in the right direction,” he says.

4FRI managers eventually want to treat 50,000 acres a year, which would produce a million-and-a-half tons of biomass annually. The chip-and-ship program could export a third of that by sending hundreds of shipping containers to Asia for at least the next decade.

Source: ‘Chip and Ship’ Project Aims to Speed up Forest Restoration in Northern Arizona – KANU Arizona Public Radio, 2019-08-26

U.S. Forest Service announces massive RFP to clear out Arizona forests

By Victoria Harker
The United States Forest Service took the first step to issue one of the largest RFPs in the history of the agency to attract industry to Arizona to clear out Arizona forests to reduce damage when wildfires erupt.

In the contract is a call for much-needed biomass industries to remove and burn the massive amount of debris here, said Jeremy Kruger, chief executive of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI) for the Forest Service.

“We have a biomass bottleneck,” Kruger said. “Viable biomass utilization is currently the biggest obstacle to accelerating the pace of mechanical forest restoration treatments.”

With the longest contiguous pine forest in the world, northern Arizona is a prime location for reforestation industries as well as facilities that can burn woody forest debris – biomass – and transform it into energy for the electric grid.

Currently, there is only one biomass facility in the state, NovoBio in Snowflake.

Attracting industry has been the biggest challenge. A policy approved by the Arizona Corporation Commission last year also is designed as a shout out to attract biomass plants to the state.

Forest Service to spend $550 million over 20 years

Kruger said the first step of the RFP, a presolicitation notice, was issued July 10 to alert qualified vendors.

The Forest Service plans to spend $550 million over the next 20 years on reforestation. Business and industry will play a key role in this effort by harvesting, processing, and selling wood products.

The RFP calls for awarding contracts to companies to mechanically thin 605,000 to 818,000 acres of forests in Northern Arizona. The RFP will be available to both small and large businesses and seeks proposals that are “sustainable, innovative, feasible, and cost-effective to increase the pace of the scale of forest restoration.”

Source: U.S. Forest Service announces massive RFP to clear out Arizona forests – AZ Big Media,2019-07-31

‘Majestic’ Douglas fir stood for 420 years. Then Oregon State University foresters cut it down

By Rob Davis
The university clearcut a 16-acre grove of old-growth trees, drawing scrutiny at exactly the wrong time.

The seedling that sprouted in 1599 in Oregon State University’s McDonald-Dunn research forest was cut down by the public college, along with other trees more than 250 years old. The decision netted $425,000 for the university’s College of Forestry. School officials say the revenue will fund teaching, research and outreach, but it happened at a time when the university’s forestry school has accelerated other timber cuts and dipped into its reserves to fund $19 million in cost overruns on a major construction project.

The forestry school’s interim dean, Anthony Davis, has since acknowledged his mistake in approving the 16-acre cut known as the No Vacancy harvest. He has temporarily halted all logging of trees older than 160 years on the university’s 15,000 acres of research forests.

“Harvesting this stand did not align with the college’s values,” Davis wrote in a July 12 letter to the school community, first reported by the Corvallis Gazette-Times. “Moving forward, we have learned from this matter.”

The felling of the old growth trees raises questions about Oregon State’s land stewardship at precisely the wrong time. Top state leaders are weighing whether to hand over management of the 82,500-acre Elliott State Forest to the university’s college of forestry, a transfer that would quintuple Oregon State’s forest holdings.

Records reviewed by The Oregonian/OregonLive cast doubt on the university’s justification for cutting what it knew were trees as old as 260 years. Records also show the university recently allowed a separate clearcut seven times bigger than permitted under its own management plans.

Taken together, the cuts threaten the credibility of a school that has deep ties to the timber industry but says it can be trusted to do more than maximize timber production in the Elliott.

Source: ‘Majestic’ Douglas fir stood for 420 years. Then Oregon State University foresters cut it down – The Oregonian, 2019-07-26

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

How Longleaf Pines Helped Build the U.S.

By Matthew Wills
The dense, resin-saturated, rot-resistant timber of the longleaf pine helped build up U.S. cities. But most of the native stands have already been logged.

If you’ve ever been to Brooklyn Bridge Park, you may have seen the sturdy, wooden-beamed benches facing the harbor. The wood for the benches was salvaged from the old National Cold Storage Warehouse complex, which was demolished for the construction of the park. It timber comes from the longleaf pine, Pinus palustris, some of which was cut in the decades before 1900. The trees themselves might have been up to five centuries old when they were felled.

The Brooklyn Bridge itself had caissons—essentially enormous, upside down boxes—made of longleaf pine. The foundations of the bridge’s two towers were excavated by men working inside these caissons on the bottom of the East River. Once the excavation was done—at terrible human cost, due to caisson’s disease, AKA decompression sickness—the caissons were filled in to form the frames of the foundations of the bridge.

Even dead, the dense, resin-saturated, rot-resistant timber of longleaf pine survives a very long time. Many cities in the U.S. have nineteenth-century buildings that were built with the “good bones” of longleaf pine. They’re harvested to this day, but not in the volume they once were. There’s a simple reason for that: There just aren’t that many of them anymore.

Geographers Garrett C. Smith, Mark W. Patterson, and Harold R. Trendell track the demise of the longleaf ecosystem. When Europeans arrived in the southeast, the pines covered the coast plain from what is now the Virginia/North Carolina border into Florida and along the Gulf Coast. Estimates of the total size of this pine savannah range from 60 to 147 million acres. There are far fewer of the trees now, and only a tiny proportion of the remnant is old growth. An example: in 1607, there was an estimated one million acres of longleaf pine in Virginia alone; in 2005, there were some 200 individual trees.

Source: How Longleaf Pines Helped Build the U.S. – JSTOR Daily, 2019-05-16

To increase forest carbon capture, harvest trees less and less often – but still harvest

“When we shift to forestry practices that less frequently harvest smaller amounts of wood from each acre, this leads to 14 to 33 percent more carbon be stored over the next 100 years. This happens because trees would be allowed to grow older and larger and store more carbon than typically happens under current practices,”

Source: To increase forest carbon capture, harvest trees less and less often – but still harvest – Granite Geek, 2018-05-29

Ancient timber resource disappearing in New Zealand

Lawmakers have called for a ban on the “mining” of an ancient New Zealand timber resource after a government report Monday showed that half of it might have already disappeared.

The report showed that an estimated 30 percent to 50 percent of swamp kauri logs – massive logs of New Zealand’s native kauri hardwood that have been preserved in peat land for thousands of years – have been removed from the ground.

It was one of three reports on swamp kauri, which is found in the far northern Northland region, published by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) on Monday.

The reports provided information on the scientific and cultural values of swamp kauri and its distribution and remaining volume.

“This is the first time an attempt has been made to assess the swamp kauri resource,” MPI director general of regulation and assurance Bryan Wilson said in a statement.

The reports also said that swamp kauri held significant value for New Zealanders, due to its age, appearance, and its cultural properties.

“They also highlight swamp kauri’s scientific value in helping to understand the natural history of New Zealand, and its contribution to understanding the effects of climate change,” said Wilson.

Source: Ancient timber resource disappearing in New Zealand – Xinhua, 2017-03-13

New study identifies biomass harvesting techniques that have few long-term impacts

A set of newly published studies evaluated nearly forty years of data on the impacts of biomass utilization on soil, tree, and plant recovery and found minimal impact using certain forest harvesting techniques.

The experiments, initiated in 1974, were conducted by scientists from the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station on the Coram Experimental Forest, located in Northwestern Montana. In order to evaluate the ecological consequences of large-scale biomass harvesting, scientists implemented three different tree removal techniques on the landscape – group selection (remove small groups of trees), clearcut (remove all timber), and shelterwood (retain some trees for shade and structure) – all using cable logging. On all three sites the soil was left relatively undisturbed from the harvesting and varying amounts of downed wood were left to promote soil organic matter and wildlife habitat. For some sites, prescribed fire was applied to reduce fuels and fire danger. Scientists then tracked these sites over 38 years to provide a contemporary look at the long-term impacts of biomass utilization on forest productivity (e.g., tree growth).

Source: New study identifies biomass harvesting techniques that have few long-term impacts | Rocky Mountain Research Station