Forest Biomass Presentation


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  • The Northwest Forest Plan and East Side Screens were a big step forward but they are not good enough and Bush is systematically undoing them.
  • The often repeated assumption is that the absence of fire leads to fuel build-up, which in turn leads to increased fire severity. The other big assumption is that all fuel reduction causes a reduction in fire hazard. These are simple and easy to explain. However, they convey only half the story. First, closed canopy forests that develop in the absence of fire and in the absence of logging help create a cool moist microclimate, and help suppress the growth of ladder fuels. Odion et al’s study in northern California found that lack of fire actually decreased fire severity instead of increasing it as assumed by the prevailing model. Second, fuel reduction logging often removes the large fuels that pose the least hazard while moving the most hazardous small fuels from the canopy to the ground where they are more available for combustion, plus logging changes the local microclimate, opening the stand and making it hotter, dryer and windier. Find attached some science excerpts that help illuminate the complexity of these science issues.
  • Crystal Raymond’s study after the Biscuit fire showed that some fuel treatment worked, while other fuel treatments were worse than doing nothing at all.
  • Over 30% of all Oregon bird species use dead trees for nesting, foraging, roosting, and communication.
  • Forest Biomass Presentation

    1. 1. Forest Biomass An Opportunity, Yes, but Curb Your Enthusiasm Doug Heiken Oregon Wild (formerly Oregon Natural Resources Council) [email_address]
    2. 2. “Business-as-usual” isn’t working. <ul><li>Water quality is degraded. Thousands of miles of Oregon streams are polluted beyond legal standards due to logging and logging roads. </li></ul><ul><li>Wildlife habitat is degraded. Species are threatened & endangered. </li></ul><ul><li>Recreation, scenery, and quality of life are impaired. The timber industry has shifted costs to non-timber industries. </li></ul><ul><li>Earth’s climate is impaired by CO 2 emissions. Logging releases carbon from soil, slash, sawdust, and disposable wood products. </li></ul>If not done carefully, forest biomass extraction can make all of these worse instead of better. Current law offers few assurances.
    3. 3. Business As Usual
    4. 4. Business As Usual
    5. 5. Our Forests Need Comprehensive Restoration. <ul><li>Protect existing high integrity areas: old forests, large trees, roadless areas, and intact watersheds. </li></ul><ul><li>Reintroduce natural processes like prescribed fire. </li></ul><ul><li>Thin some dense young plantations. </li></ul><ul><li>Remove small fuels in some forests that have missed several fire cycles. </li></ul><ul><li>Remove unneeded roads. Maintain the roads we do need. </li></ul><ul><li>Reduce and prevent weeds. </li></ul><ul><li>Limit grazing and off-road vehicles. </li></ul><ul><li>Prepare ecosystems for climate change. </li></ul>
    6. 6. Forests Need Restoration. Before thinning
    7. 7. Forests Need Restoration. After thinning.
    8. 8. Moving forward or backward? <ul><li>The Northwest Forest Plan was a step forward. </li></ul><ul><li>The East Side Screens were a step forward. </li></ul><ul><li>The Bush administration is systematically undoing the progress; moving backward. </li></ul><ul><li>Trust between forest agencies and the public is strained. </li></ul>
    9. 9. Biomass extraction can make things better or make things worse. <ul><li>The problems with water quality, threatened wildlife, fire hazard, and climate change are still with us. More logging could make them worse. </li></ul><ul><li>Biomass must be used to further restoration, not business-as-usual. </li></ul><ul><li>Our forests are not a piggy bank. They need investment, not more withdrawals. </li></ul>
    10. 10. Science Findings <ul><li>“ Treating more area of young, noncomplex forest reduced fire threat more effectively … than did treating structurally complex old-forest patches.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ [R]equiring landscape treatments to earn a profit negatively impacted both habitat and fire objectives.” </li></ul>
    11. 11. The Dominant View: All fuel is bad. All logging is good. <ul><li>The Linear Model </li></ul>High fire hazard Low fire Hazard Small trees removed Large trees removed A B Point A is good. Point B is better.
    12. 12. Reality: Logging can make things worse. <ul><li>The Non-linear Model </li></ul>High fire hazard Low fire Hazard Small trees removed Large trees removed A B Point A is good. Point B is worse.
    13. 13. Commercial logging increases fire hazard. <ul><li>Logging creates slash that is rarely treated completely. Removing more and larger trees, creates more slash. </li></ul><ul><li>Larger trees with thick bark and high crowns are relatively fire resistant, yet the profit motive demands those be removed. </li></ul><ul><li>Removing canopy trees dries out the remaining fuels. </li></ul><ul><li>Removing canopy trees makes the stand hotter and windier. </li></ul><ul><li>Removing canopy trees stimulate the growth of future ladder fuels. </li></ul><ul><li>Roads increase the risk of fire ignition. </li></ul>
    14. 14. Dead Wood Has High Ecological Value. <ul><li>Trees have two lives, both very long and both very important: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>First, while living and growing, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Second, while dead and decaying. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Dead wood helps store water in the soil. </li></ul><ul><li>Dead wood helps trap and filter sediment. </li></ul><ul><li>Dead wood provides habitat for scores of wildlife, some keystone species. </li></ul><ul><li>Dead wood stores carbon, sometime long-term. </li></ul>
    15. 15. Public concerns… <ul><li>SB 838 & HB 2210 (2007) both define biomass as “woody debris from harvesting or thinning conducted to improve forest or rangeland ecological health and to reduce uncharacteristic stand replacing wildfire risk.” </li></ul><ul><li>Portland Water Bureau — </li></ul><ul><li>“ the thinning and patch-cut openings proposed for Section 13 will increase, rather than decrease, the fuel hazard and fire risk in these stands and place the Bull Run at greater risk of a catastrophic fire.” Oct 26, 2007 Letter to BLM re: Gordon Creek Timber Sale. </li></ul>
    16. 16. Curb Your Enthusiasm <ul><li>Economies-of-scale conflict with sustainability. Centralization is better for the market, but smaller is better for the forest. </li></ul><ul><li>Fuel reduction must be strategic, near communities. Not every acre. </li></ul><ul><li>Long-term supply of small trees is not sustainable. The first entry may be economically attractive, but the next entry should be with fire, not machines. </li></ul><ul><li>Electricity is a relatively low value use of wood. </li></ul><ul><li>Biomass efforts must be coupled with other economic activities (e.g. logging) which may be counter to restoration objectives. </li></ul><ul><li>Competing renewable energy sources (e.g. wind) are cheaper than forest biomass. </li></ul><ul><li>Increasing transportation costs do not bode well for a remote and dispersed raw material supply. </li></ul><ul><li>Power infrastructure limitations: Grid connection is difficult. Wheeling power from where it’s generated to population centers is difficult, due to grid bottlenecks. </li></ul><ul><li>Cellulosic Ethanol is still a pipe dream. The “magic bullet” enzymes may never be found. Genetic engineering may be required to make weaker fibers, but is it wise? </li></ul><ul><li>Chip trucks generally can’t be used on logging roads. </li></ul><ul><li>After logging, a second entry for biomass extraction may have unacceptable cumulative impacts on soil, water, wildlife, & weeds. </li></ul><ul><li>We need humility. Due to climate change we may have limited control over both fire and fuels. </li></ul>
    17. 17. Commercial logging biomass? Maybe yes, if you can get it out without damaging trees, soil, and water.
    18. 18. Commercial logging biomass <ul><li>NO </li></ul>
    19. 19. Non-Commercial Biomass But no roads here. Small trees near communities, sure. Small stump
    20. 20. Conclusion <ul><li>Oregon Wild supports conservative biomass utilization when it is a by-product of valid forest restoration efforts. </li></ul><ul><li>Biomass utilization must facilitate rather than impede the reintroduction of fire as a natural process in our forests. </li></ul><ul><li>Some locations are not appropriate for biomass extraction, and some types of treatments are not appropriate. Yet profit still motivates those inappropriate projects. </li></ul><ul><li>We will work to see that biomass extraction and subsidies are directed toward the subset of ecologically appropriate ends. </li></ul>
    21. 21. Biomass Sacrifice Zone
    22. 22. For more information visit: