TIMBER INDUSTRY EXPLOITS NORTHERN WILDFIRES

truffler1635 at my-deja.com truffler1635 at my-deja.com
Sat Aug 26 09:44:58 EST 2000


In article <Ddzp5.25670$Pi.789408 at nntp3.onemain.com>,
  "Larry Harrell" <fotoware at jps.net> wrote:
> Mike H. <mhagen at olympus.net> wrote in message
> news:39A6A232.F5799A5B at olympus.net...
> > There's another factor which will soon be appearing in utilization specs
> > - low pulp and small log prices due to oversupply.  They cost to cut and
> > haul - so contracts get written which boost sale stumpage by leaving
> > say, any stick of 50, 20 or 10 bf standing or piled on site.  It's a
> > throwback to the 70's, a high grade and a tinderbox.
> >
That kind of *proves* fire is a natural part of timber management,
doesn't it? If you can't sell it and it doesn't make economic sense to
market it, leave it in a pile for the next wildfire to get? But doesn't
that in fact become part of the "forest management" plan? Isn't this what
we're seeing now in many western wildfires?

I certainly believe that much of the 6 million plus acres currently
burning are not all in virgin timber stands. Most of it statitically will
have been logged once, twice, or even three times in the last 150 years.
While fire may have been used successfully on slash and non-commercial
cut left on-site, it has been acumulating for some time.

>
> I think it's already here, Mike. On most of our timber sales, cull logs need
> to be removed and there is really no value there. Some chip producers are
> only paying for the transportation of the logs to the chipping site. Also,
> yes, bids on federal timber sales are adjusted accordingly to account for
> the extra costs involved. This is where the American public has to decide
> whether to "sweeten the pot" by including some larger trees (up to 30" in
> diameter). These kind of trees can be thinned out from groups of larger
> trees and can make the difference in offering a commercial timber sale which
> makes money AND gets the essential thinning of underbrush and thickets done,
> as opposed to a service contract where we all pay the logger to thin out the
> unmerchantable trees and reduce the brush that puts the forest at risk. Both
> of these types of projects will cost the taxpayers because of the prep and
> admin costs.
>
> I do perceive the (timber) pendulum swinging back towards the middle but, I
> hope the fires won't swing it all the way back to over-cutting again.
>
I agree, Larry. The only bright spot is that the fires are taking out a
lot of the accumulated slash and smaller diameter stuff even as we speak.
Does that mean automatically those stands will be healthier in the
future? Maybe.

Or it could mean a major outbreak of bark and ambrosia beetles in the
next future.

Oh, and a little political point here, if I may. Ralph Nader was in town
yesterday, and is the only candidate for greater biomass electrical
production. Meaning, I suppose, that chips made of almost any material
anywhere would become wood pellet fodder to feed those electrical
generators. The rapid economic growth rate of the US in the last 20 years
has made current electrical generation obsolete, plus requiring
pollutions controls. Dick Cheney is on record as wanting more natural gas
and oil-powered electrical generation: no surprise there after a $200
million golden parachute deal with his former bosses. Gore apparently has
a closely related outlook.

Gore is currently leading in the polls I have seen (5 today in The
Oregonian), a complete turn-around from last weeks polls. But Nader still
may have considerable sway in the final political election, which could
force either candidate to adopt some interesting new "green" platforms. I
hope one of them is biomass-powered electrical generation, logically from
chips. Because the chips are compressed in pellet-production, most of the
"bad" components are already squeezed out. Still to figure out are how to
displose of the squeezings, what to do with all the ash, and storage of
sufficient pellets to backup current electrical needs.

Already in the PNW, many aluminum companies have shut-down smelter pots
because they can no longer get the guaranteed cheap electrical power
necessary for aluminum production. Generally, that just means layoffs in
the industry until the electricity is available again during the omni-
present rainy season. <G> But with electrical access becoming more of a
problem across the US by the day, it's anyone's guess what the future
holds for electricity prices.

To me the solutions seems obvious: build more biomass electrical
generators and phase out the coal and nuclear plants. With global warming
now a fact (check posting on no ice at the North Pole for the first time
in 50 _million_ years this year), the US can no longer vacillate on
greenhouse gas production from fossil fuels. Wood pellet (or any organic
plant waste) could easily supply that electrical power.

Daniel B. Wheeler
www.oregonwhitetruffles.com


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