WASHINGTON, Sept. 29, 2011 – The findings of a new U.S. Forest Service study indicate that wood should factor as a primary building material in green building, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today.
The authors of Science Supporting the Economic and Environmental Benefits of Using Wood and Wood Products in Green Building Construction reviewed the scientific literature and found that using wood in building products yields fewer greenhouse gases than using other common materials.
“This study confirms what many environmental scientists have been saying for years,” said Vilsack. “Wood should be a major component of American building and energy design. The use of wood provides substantial environmental benefits, provides incentives for private landowners to maintain forest land, and provides a critical source of jobs in rural America.”
The Forest Service report also points out that greater use of life cycle analysis in building codes and standards would improve the scientific underpinning of building codes and standards and thereby benefit the environment. A combination of scientific advancement in the areas of life cycle analysis and the development of new technologies for improved and extended wood utilization are needed to continue to advance wood as a green construction material. Sustainability of forest products can be verified using any credible third-party rating system, such as Sustainable Forestry Initiative, Forest Stewardship Council or American Tree Farm System certification.
“The argument that somehow non-wood construction materials are ultimately better for carbon emissions than wood products is not supported by our research,” said David Cleaves, the U.S. Forest Service Climate Change Advisor. “Trees removed in an environmentally responsible way allow forests to continue to sequester carbon through new forest growth. Wood products continue to benefit the environment by storing carbon long after the building has been constructed.”
The use of forest products in the United States currently supports more than one million direct jobs, particularly in rural areas, and contributes more than $100 billion to the country’s gross domestic product.
“In the Rockies alone, we have hundreds of thousands of dead trees killed by bark beetles that could find their way into the building supply chain for all types of buildings,” said Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “Taking a harder look at wood as a green building source could reduce the damages posed by future fires, maintain overall forest health and provide much-needed jobs in local communities.”
The U.S. Forest Service report identifies several areas where peer-reviewed science can contribute to sustainable green building design and decisions. These recommendations address the following needs for use of wood as a green building material:
• Information on environmental impacts across the lifecycle of wood and alternative construction materials needs to be updated and revised;
• Green buildings codes and standards should include adequate provisions to recognize the benefit of a lifecycle environmental analysis to guide selection of building materials; and
• A lack of educational, technology transfer, and demonstration projects hinder the acceptance of wood as a green building material.
Research recently initiated by the wood products industry in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory will enable greater use and valuation of smaller diameter trees and insect and disease-killed trees. Research on new products and technologies has been initiated including improved cross-lamination techniques and the increased use of nanotechnology.
These developments are especially important amidst a changing climate because forest managers will need to increasingly thin densely forested areas in the coming years to reduce the impacts from longer and more severe wildfire seasons. Continued research of wood-based products and technologies will contribute to more environmentally responsible building materials and increased energy efficiency.
The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. Recreational activities on our lands contribute $14.5 billion annually to the U.S. economy. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.
To view the full Green Building report please click here.
I thought this was an interesting story about wildlife not behaving exactly the way scientists predicted nor we thought. There is a pattern this week which I’ll follow up on with a few more posts. Humility, for all of us, when talking about what we know about biology, is always a good thing. Here’s the link in the Denver Post.
BOULDER — AF69, a 90-pound female cougar, makes a healthy living on human habitat — stalking, eating and hiding deer around houses — usually when people aren’t looking.
But one day, while she was dragging a dead doe past a front door west of Boulder, homeowner Ian Morris caught AF69 on his camera — first as he peered through his screen door, then over two days as she cached her kill under grass clippings and periodically gorged.
“I wondered what she could see,” Morris said. “Could she see me? Would that be a good thing? We’re told that we should avoid any contact, which will make the animal more confident in approaching humans.”
He notified the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife, and wildlife researcher Mat Alldredge came and darted the cougar. Now AF69 is being tracked, along with 61 others, as part of a study that finds cougars may be living much closer to people than previously believed.
State researchers say AF69′s adaptive lifestyle, including regular night forays into the western edge of Boulder, reflects an emerging pattern for many of Colorado’s estimated 3,500 cougars. GPS tracking shows cougars at hundreds of locations near Front Range neighborhoods.
For example, during one week last month, AF69 was located at three spots near Broadway in Boulder between dusk and 2 a.m.
Tracking data also detail AF69′s move that week from foothills north of Boulder Canyon to a neighborhood where she killed a young buck, which she cached under a conifer tree near a house, covering it with landscaping mulch and pine needles.
“The interesting thing is that she’s living in these neighborhoods but she is rarely seen,” Alldredge said. “By and large, this cat is making a living in the urban-exurban environment. She’s killing deer. She’s doing the best she can in this area where she was born and raised. Part of the city is her home range.”
Here’s a story in the Denver Post Business section today, including the link with a video, on using blue-stained wood in home construction.
Colorado imports 95 percent of its lumber, which doesn’t make sense in a state with so many dead trees available to harvest, Cadman said.
New Town, which expects to build about 80 homes this year, will spend about $2,000 per home on the Colorado wood, which is comparable in cost to imported lumber.
Given the smaller size of Colorado’s lodgepole pines, the homebuilder will limit its use to vertical supports.
“We hope the example will encourage and facilitate others to use this wood,” said Bruce Ward, founder of recreation advocacy group Choose Outdoors in Pine.
Beetle-killed trees leave the state at risk of massive forest fires that pollute the air and water supply. Dead trees are falling in greater numbers on roads, tents and power lines, limiting recreational opportunities.
Ward is among those working to find economic uses for the dead trees, including converting them into pellets that can be burned.
The beetles infect wood with a fungus that leaves behind blue streaks, giving it some appeal for use in trim, decorative panels and furniture. Custom and log homes have been built with the material.
But New Town is trying to open up a much larger market — framing production homes. A key hurdle to clear will be convincing city buyers that “blue-stained pine” is safe to use and structurally sound.
“At first it was a little bit scary, and I thought, OK, something is going to happen with my place. Is it going to affect the structure or the strength of the wood?” said Nea Martinez, who has bought a townhome in Stapleton made with the wood.
Martinez said she did her homework and came away reassured.
“They’re turning something unfortunate into a positive,” she said.
Positives include creating jobs in rural Colorado and helping the state revive its lumber industry.
Back in pre-web time, Terry Seyden used to have an email list to which he would forward all kinds of interesting Forest Service news. Then he retired, and we were bereft. Now he’s back with his new website that provides the same kind of information, http://www.seyden.net.
If he posts something you would like to discuss here, just send me a link (email@example.com)
Matthew Koehler raised this interesting point in our previous discussion, which was a bit off the main topic, but I think worthy of its own discussion. He said:
Also, please note that many of the “Land management activities in this decision” will not be accomplished at any point in the near future due to a lack of funding. Of course, all the logging will be completed, but most of the true restoration work (decommissioning of roads, culverts, etc) will only be completed as funding becomes available, which in our experience here in the N. Rockies might take a decade, if the work ever is completed at all. The public and the media would be wise to recognize the difference between simply signing a Decision Notice vs. actual completion of the work. Unfortunately, despite repeated requests to look into this matter, the media (and the Forest Service) continues to give the public the impression that all this work gets completed within a reasonable amount of time. That’s totally not true. In fact, I bet if someone did a comprehensive look at all the Stewardship Projects in USFS Region 1 over the last decade they’d be shocked at the amount of promised, yet unfinished, restoration work.
Knowing FS people, I know that their intention is to do the all the work in the project.
So I’ll start a series of questions of everyone.
1) Do you have an observation in your area, that the “other work” doesn’t get done?
2) If so, please ask the FS why not, and report their answer.
3) If you don’t agree with their answer or have other insights to share, please do.
It’s that magical time of the year.. check it out here.
I think this may be in the running for the single most arcane topic ever discussed on this blog (maybe discussed anywhere!). Nevertheless, I cross posted the piece below here on the High Country News Range blog here and actually got an interesting and thoughtful comment from another roadless geek. If NSO’s in roadless tickle your fancy, check it out.
Thanks to Terry Seyden for this contribution
Lawsuit over Seeley timber sale reveals split among environmental groups
By ROB CHANEY of the Missoulian | Posted: Tuesday, September 20, 2011 6:15 am | (3) Comments
A lawsuit challenging a timber sale north of Seeley Lake shows either the U.S. Forest Service can’t follow the law or some environmental groups can’t agree to work together.
The Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Friends of the Wild Swan, Montana Ecosystem Defense Council and Native Ecosystems Council all sued the Forest Service over the Colt Summit Forest Restoration and Fuels Reduction Project on Friday.
The project would thin trees and remove roads on more than 4,000 acres between Lake Alva and Summit Lake along Montana Highway 83.
The lawsuit has angered members of several groups who support a collaborative effort to achieve both commercial logging and habitat restoration in the Seeley-Swan area. The Colt Summit was one of the tests of the Montana Forest Restoration Committee’s ability to move forward without legal challenges.
“I tend to be on the side of the coin where, if you bring a lot of people who don’t think a lot alike and take time to learn about the projects, we collectively can come up with better ideas,” said Anne Dahl of the Swan Ecosystem Center, one of the project’s supporters. “I think the Friends of the Wild Swan and others are more leery of collaboration. There’s sort of a fundamental philosophy where we’re different.”
“There’s no provision in there that says if 80 percent of the people sign off on it, they don’t have to follow the law,” responded Michael Garrity of Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “They have to show it’s benefiting wildlife.”
The project affects 4,330 acres in an area known to be a major wildlife corridor. About 740 acres would be logged and thinned, including 137 acres of old-growth forest. Another 1,216 acres would have the understory cleared and burned. In some areas, 19 acres would be clearcut to improve visitors’ views of the Swan Mountain Range and 69 acres would get “shelterwood patch cuts” that mimic forest openings.
The Forest Service would decommission 4.1 miles of road, turning a stretch of the Colt Summit Road into a snowmobile trail. Another 5.1 miles would be reconstructed and linked into the snowmobile network. After the five-year project is over, 28.4 miles of temporary and winter-haul roads would be decommissioned.
For weed control, crews would spray herbicide on 34 miles of roads in the area, as well as all logging and other work areas.
The area is also prime habitat for grizzly bear, lynx and bull trout. Dahl said in her tours of the project, she believed the changes would benefit threatened and endangered species.
But the lawsuit alleges the Forest Service failed to take those animals’ needs into account when it planned the project.
Sara Jane Johnson was a Forest Service wildlife biologist before she became director of the Native Ecosystem Council. In a statement, she argued that removing beetle-killed trees hurt habitat more than helped it, because it took away nesting areas and cover used by everything from woodpeckers to lynx and grizzly.
The lawsuit also argues the Forest Service was supposed to perform a full environmental impact statement and evaluate how it fares under the National Forest Management Act and National Environmental Policy Act.
“Why do we win 85 percent of our lawsuits?” Garrity asked rhetorically. “We sued the Forest Service more than any other environmental group in the country and we won more than any other group. We raise the same issue every time they log on grizzly bear habitat because they have the same problem.”
University of Montana College of Forestry and Conservation Dean Jim Burchfield was part of the Lolo Restoration Committee and reviewed the Colt Summit project for inclusion in the Southwest Crown of the Continent Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Project proposal. That was one of 10 forest stewardship projects nationwide to receive funding from Congress last year.
“In my view, the Colt Summit project is about seeing how people with very different views of management priorities can come up with a project,” Burchfield said. “To fight the timber wars over every single timber sale is really counterproductive to the interests of most Montanans. There was an effort to be very careful in the development of that sale. They were looking at the most controversial areas and making sure all the laws and regulations were adhered to.”
“On this timber sale, we haven’t had a worse timber sale meeting,” he said. “They didn’t listen to anything we said. They just told us, ‘We’re fully funded on this and we’re pushing forward.’ “
“There were other ones up there, and we didn’t oppose them,” Garrity continued. “One other sale was more in the urban interface, and we want them to do thinning near homes, not in critical lynx habitat. Over on the Flathead (National Forest), there’s a timber sale that adjoins this one. The boundaries touch, but they didn’t analyze for cumulative impacts. That’s one of the things they’re required to do.”
My question is with regard to this quote from Michael Garrity “There’s no provision in there that says if 80 percent of the people sign off on it, they don’t have to follow the law,” responded Michael Garrity of Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “They have to show it’s benefiting wildlife.” Does every action have to “show it’s benefiting wildlife?” is that a legal requirement?
I think ratings were a good experiment. I like experiments, I’m a scientist. However, the idea that people who did not feel comfortable speaking would rate the posts, did not really pan out, and it clutters the look of the blog in my view (and I think reinforces the black and whiteness of opinion, which is exactly what this blog is NOT about). So they are out. If you have a strong attachment to them, let me know and I will reconsider. Terraveritas@gmail.com.
P.S. Elections are coming and I expect a cascade of vituperative and hateful discourse. I just hope it’s not also creepily misogynist (IMHO) as last time. It won’t be contaminating this blog- so alert to commenters. ‘Nuff said.
Thanks to Matthew Koehler for sending this piece on one of our favorite topics, beetles and fire by Kulakowski and Jarvis. This is a great article to discuss, to talk about why different people might think this is or isn’t relevant to current policy issues (and which ones and why). Also bbs and fire is one of our favorite things to discuss on this blog.
Here’s the abstract with my comments in italics.
“Outbreaks of bark beetles and drought both lead to concerns about increased fire risk, but the relative importance of these two factors is the subject of much debate.
I would argue, not really in practice, only in academia. In reality, drought beetles and age of trees are hopelessly intertwined. And not to be pedantic but it’s not about risk of fires, it’s about “different fire behavior (due to dry trees) with more possible negative impacts to people and soil.”
We examined how mountain pine beetle (MPB) outbreaks and drought have contributed to the fire regime of lodgepole pine forests in northwestern Colorado and adjacent areas of southern Wyoming over the past century. We used dendroecological methods to reconstruct the pre-fire history of MPB outbreaks in twenty lodgepole pine stands that had burned between 1939 and 2006 and in 20 nearby lodgepole pine stands that were otherwise similar but that had not burned. Our data represent c. 80% of all large fires that had occurred in lodgepole pine forests in this study area over the past century. We also compared Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI)
and actual evapotranspiration (AET) values between fire years and non-fire years.
To me, you gotta pick a lane here. Either we are saying that current and future climate conditions are “unprecedented” and are affecting things (which I believe, whether caused by GHG’s or other factors), OR information from 1939 to 2006 can be used to make claims about what is true in nature today.
Burned stands were no more likely to have been affected by outbreak prior to fires than were nearby unburned stands. However, PDSI and AET values were both lower during fire years than during non-fire years. This work indicates that climate has been more important than outbreaks to the fire regime of lodgepole pine forests in this
region over the past century.
I will leave to the climate scientists if a particular drought is really “climate”- I always find that confusing. I don’t think anyone would be surprised to know that more fires occur under drought conditions, if that’s what this is saying.
Indeed, we found no detectable increase in the occurrence of high-severity fires following MPB outbreaks. Dry conditions, rather than changes in fuels associated with outbreaks,appear to be most limiting to the occurrence of severe fires in these forests.
But like I said, it’s not really about “occurrence in the past”. We can go out on the ground and see dried forests due to pine beetles or other reasons, and see that they have different fire behavior, and we can see impacts of high intensity fires with or without bark beetles. I just don’t get the link between this study and any policy issue today, and maybe the authors are not claiming that.