What's happening in the forest sector?

Forest education through video and mobile content

recent report by Cisco estimates that within four years, 69 percent of all consumer internet traffic will be video content. Cisco also estimates that mobile data traffic will grow 300 percent faster than fixed IP, or “wired” traffic in the next five years.

These percentages keep increasing each year. OFRI heard similar but slightly lower numbers a couple of years ago, and we made the move to begin developing more video content and more mobile content. Here’s a look at what we’ve been up to.

Five new Forest Fact Breaks
OFRI’s popular series just added five new animations. For those unfamiliar with the series, these are 90-second movies intended to introduce forestry topics to a middle school audience in a way that is both informative and entertaining. New disks have been created and are being distributed to classrooms around the state. The five new Fact Breaks are:

Smartphone Tree Guide
As part of an interpretive project at The Oregon Garden, new tree identification signage has been developed with embedded QR codes that link to a unique website with more info. These QR codes can be reproduced and used anywhere, including your own forestland or interpretive signage.

Mobile list of 10 great hikes near Portland
OFRI has developed a visitor’s brochure about the amazing forests of Oregon. Inside is a QR link to 10 family-friendly hikes within a short drive of Portland.

Mobile app of Forest Facts and Figures
Have you seen the app yet? It’s free, it’s easy to use, and it includes everything from the popular printed pocket guide to video clips, interactive maps and county-specific economic data. Availalbe in iTunes and GooglePlay.

Video Special Report on Biomass
New to the OFRI video library is our report on biomass in Oregon’s forests. Powered by Oregon is the latest in OFRI’s series of video special reports.

Getting down to basics with woody biomass

One of the conundrums of restoring federal forest health and fire resiliency is what to do with the immense amount of woody biomass growing in our east-side forests. Present estimates project that as many as 6.4 million bone-dry tons of small-diameter trees too small to saw into lumber could be available annually for the next 20 years. That’s annually.

Nearly 6 million BDTs of biomass are already available annually from mill residuals – chips, shavings and sawdust left over from wood and plywood manufacturing. That market is well-established and little is wasted. Another 500,000 BDTs comes from logging slash recovered and used for energy production. About twice that much is left in the woods to be burned or to decay.

OFRI’s new special report and accompanying video, Powered by Oregon, take a hard look at how biomass is being used in the state for heat, electricity and fuel. Biomass utilization has come a long way, but as the figures above show, there’s still room for improvement.

One problem with biomass is the cost of removal and transport. But consider the consequences of not removing it: uncharacteristically intense wildfire is terribly damaging to ecosystems and the built environment, and fire suppression is equally expensive.

Gov. Kitzhaber spoke to the Board of Forestry in January and said this: “What is a better investment of public dollars? To spend billions of dollars fighting fires after they’ve started, or spending some resources reducing fuel loads and making those forests healthier in the first place?”

As the special report concludes, sometimes the costs and benefits of biomass utilization are more nuanced than we know. Perhaps it costs more to remove it, but what if we add in other benefits: healthier forests, Oregon jobs, cleaner air, reduced reliance on fossil fuel and greater energy independence? Can we put a price on those benefits?

These are the considerations our leaders and policymakers must weigh as they chart a course for Oregon’s energy future. Biomass is definitely on the map. And at the end of the day, how great would it be to say we are truly “Powered by Oregon.”

Paul Barnum
Executive Director

Woody Biomass: Powered by Oregon

I joined the Oregon Forest Resources Institute in 2007, a few months after it completed a major study, Biomass Energy and Biofuels from Oregon’s Forests. This month, OFRI completed a new, up-to-date special report and video related to biomass usage around our state.

So what has changed in the past six years? Has the use of biomass – more specifically, woody biomass – entered a new era where it will solve the nation’s energy needs? Is it a bonanza – a new-wave energy for the future?

As our new special report notes: “Something old is new again.” As a fuel, there’s nothing new about biomass. Ask a caveman or a cavewoman, if only you could. It was a relatively simple, easy and reliable process for them to use wood for warmth and cooking. And so it was until the middle of the 19th century, when coal and other fossil fuels began to overtake the world’s wood-fueled economy.

So what has changed since 2006 when OFRI last wrote about biomass?

More than ever, sawmill owners have embraced the latest technology to use biomass in clean-burning boilers. Those boilers – using a locally sourced fuel – produce steam heat that dries lumber and reduces their bill for natural gas, a fossil fuel. Sized correctly for the available biomass resource, those boilers are also selling modest amounts of locally produced electricity to our utilities. That also reduces the need for fossil fuels.

And since 2006, especially on Oregon’s east side, local collaborative groups have begun finding ways to restore sickly, overly dense forests – thereby producing small diameter saw logs and biomass from tree tops and other spindly trees not suitable for milling. Some of it goes to boilers, but some of it also goes to produce pellets and biomass bricks that are heating schools, airports and other public buildings. Until recently, these buildings were wholly dependent on fossil fuels. And before the high-tech furnaces were installed, those fossil fuels needed to be trucked to rural areas at great expense.

Perhaps most tantalizing for the future of biomass is the potential for producing liquid fuels for powering cars, trucks and airplanes. It’s no longer a pie-in-the-sky concept. The sugars from breaking down woody biomass can be used to produce these fuels instead of using corn, which of course is food. Today it’s no longer a question of whether we can do this profitably; it’s a question of how profitably it can be accomplished relative to the cost of fossil fuels. Not a small problem, but one whose solution remains within reach.

So woody biomass today is no bonanza or cure-all, but its sustainable use has advanced considerably in six years. The stories of biomass projects all have a common thread: how they have offset the use of fossil fuels to accomplish things we all need – heat for industrial processes, electric generation from a renewable resource, and production of liquid fuels that can help transport people and the products and services we depend on here in our state.

But for me, what has changed the most since 2006 is how biomass utilization may help us again create healthier forests and a measure of economic recovery in rural Oregon.

Dave Kvamme
Director of communications

Forest Certification Demonstrates Sustainability

Forest landowners want to manage their lands to sustainably produce environmental, social and economic benefits. Forest certification is a market-based approach to recognizing sustainable forest management by labeling forests and the wood products from those forests as being certified. Having forestland certified under the American Tree Farm System (ATFS), the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) or the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) lets people know that landowners are proudly managing their forests sustainably, and are in it for the long haul.

In the mid-1990s the Forest Stewardship Council was created by the World Wildlife Fund and other conservation groups as a way to certify that wood products were sustainably managed to meet conservation goals. The American Forest and Paper Association followed with the development of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, to demonstrate sustainability while meeting industrial wood-production goals. The American Tree Farm System, which has been around since 1941, also developed a certification system to demonstrate sustainability while meeting a diverse set of family forestland goals.

Today these private, independent programs apply third-party standards to wood and manufactured products from the forest. This level of transparency gives consumers, architects, engineers and builders credible evidence that the products were produced through responsible forestry practices. Certified products earn the right to display an “eco-label” seal of approval.

In total, nearly 4.7 million acres of private Oregon forestlands are certified by one of the three systems. FSC certifies about 567,000 acres; the ATFS certifies about 887,000 acres; and the SFI certifies about 3,229,000 acres.

More information on forest certification in Oregon is available at KnowYourForest.org.

In addition to managing the tree farm certification system in Oregon, the Oregon Tree Farm System also recognizes outstanding forest management by annually awarding county Outstanding Tree Farmers as well as the Oregon Tree Farmer of the Year. For 2013, Bill and Joan Arsenault of Douglas County are Oregon’s Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year. A tour of the Arsenaults’ tree farm near Elkton will be held on Saturday, June 15, as part of the Oregon Small Woodlands Annual meeting. The tour is free and open to the public, and includes a barbecue lunch.

More information on the June 15 Tree Farmer of the Year tour is available on the Oregon Small Woodlands Association website.

For the Forest,
Mike Cloughesy
Director of Forestry

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