forestry and the metric system

Phil Loseth ploseth at
Thu Jun 25 11:08:39 EST 1998

I see two issues here, one being the marketing of a raw material in
the units of a finished product, and the second being metrification.

On the first issue, does wheat get measured by the loaf, or does
cotton get sold by the shirt?  Trees provide the raw material for a
lot of products besides sawn lumber, sawmill recovery rates vary
greatly etc. To me it makes a lot more sense to compile tree/stand
volume figures as cubic volume (whether m3/ha or ft3/acre) to stated
utilization limits, and let/help the buyer figure out how much of the
end product he can get out of it (whether lumber, pulp, fenceposts

On the second issue, here in Canada we "officially" converted to
metric in the 1970's.  Metrification has caught on more quickly in
some fields than in others, for example the legal survey in
agricultural areas is still the old township system, and farmers will
probably be growing "bushels per acre" for my lifetime at least.  I
buy gas in litres and my speedometer shows kilometres, but I still
figure out my mileage in miles per gallon (thats an Imperial Gallon of
4.54 litres, not a US gallon of 3.78 litres).   

In forestry, our situation is much different than in the US because
about 90% of our forest is on provincially-owned land.  Here in
Saskatchewan, the forest inventory maps have used the metric UTM
system for a couple of decades.  All field measurements are in metric
(e.g. diameters in cm, heights in m etc.), and tree and stand volume
compilations are done in metric (e.g.  merchantable volume of X m3/ha
to a stated minimum top diameter inside bark).  If an end user wants
to know the board-foot equivalent, that can be calculated.  Since our
major trading partner is the US, it just makes economic sense to be
able to perform whatever conversions are required.

Phil Loseth
Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada
"If God had meant humans to use the metric system, he'd have given us
ten fingers!!"

Joseph Zorzin <redoak at> wrote:

>I don't see much (any) movement to use the metric system in American
>forestry. I guess once you get "board-foot" on the brain, ya just can't
>think in terms of "board-meter".
>How about elsewhere?
>I've been thinking of trying something- on some upcomming timber sale,
>I'll produce 2 bidsheets- one the old fashioned way with the board foot
>measure, and another using board-meter, just for laughs- and see how the
>timber buyers react to that.
>And ... let's see, where else do we need to go modern with metric?
>Hectares instead of acres?
>What about the way wood is processed, of which I know next to nothing.
>Instead of a 2x4, what will it become? Will America ever give up this
>ancient way of measuring? Or since America now runs the world, maybe
>everyone else will give up metric?

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