In The News
Construction is scheduled to begin in November on the new sawmill in Winlock, Wash. The new, randomlength dimension mill will have an annual capacity of 220 million board feet, and is expected to be operational in the first quarter of 2007.
Bush’s Roadless Forest Plan Overturned
On September 20, federal judge Elizabeth Laporte, of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, reinstated a road-construction ban on 58.5 million acres of national forest land as permanently roadless.
Laporte ruled that the Bush administration failed to undertake necessary environmental studies before making changes to the roadless rule. However, logging will likely continue at two Oregon sites where the timber is being removed by helicopter — Mike’s Gulch and Blackberry in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National
An appeal is possible, and the Bush administration attorneys are reviewing Laporte’s ruling. In the meantime, the Forest Resource Association reported that Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey has proposed that the Clinton-era rule be administered by means of the existing state-petition process, provided that the process includes certain protocol requirements called for by Judge Laporte.
One word can hold a lot of clout. Take for example the word “wilderness.” It has acquired its share of baggage when it comes to the controversy over Montana’s roadless federal lands. In response, the U.S. Forest Service has decided to lighten the loaded word. The agency substituted the less sensitive “wildland” for the problematic “wilderness” in some parts of its forest management plan draft update.
$500,000 in Damages
Vandals caused damage to heavy equipment owned by Medford-based, Hilltop Logging Inc. They poured dirt and debris in fuel tanks, cut hoses, hydraulic lines and belts, and ripped out computer components in log loaders and delimbers. The total could come to $500,000.
There were no witnesses, but the letters ELF, were written in dust on several of the damaged machines.
The FBI has stepped in and is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those who caused the damage.
Tallest Living Tree
The 370-foot Stratosphere Giant was thought to be the largest, living tree. But three other tall trees were discovered that have knocked the Giant out of top position. The Hyperion stands 378.1 feet and the Helios comes in second at 376.3 feet. Third place goes to Icarus at 371.2 feet. All three, like the Giant, are coastal redwoods. The three trees were discovered this summer in the Redwood National Park near Eureka, by a group of California researchers.
George Koch, a biology professor at Northern Arizona University, and an expert in plant ecophysiology said, “With so much of the old-growth redwood gone — more than 90 percent — you wouldn’t necessarily expect a discovery like this.”
Richard Strachan, who graduated from Oregon State University in 1978 with a forest management degree, recently donated $3.6 million to the OSU College of Forestry. Those funds will be used to endow a faculty position that will support forest management research, and a new OSU undergraduate degree that blends forestry, new technology, business, and entrepreneurship.
This Bachelor of Science degree is unique to Oregon, but also timely. “Domestically, the forest industry is actively consolidating,” says Steve Tesch, head of the Department of Forest Engineering. “The Strachan Chair will develop innovative systems that help maximize the economic value from forest operations.”
The dean of the College of Forestry, Hal Salwasser, sees this as a huge vote of confidence for the college and feels it will infuse the new degree program with energy.
New Wood-Plastic Composites
Wood science researchers in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University have developed new woodplastic composites that are stronger and less expensive than any similar products now available.
“Composite products made from wood and plastic are highly desirable for their low maintenance and ability to resist rot,” said Kaichang Li, an associate professor in the OSU Department of Wood Science and Engineering. “But their use has been limited because of high cost and low strength, a result of inadequate adhesion between the wood fibers and plastic.”
Because wood and plastic are like oil and water, they don’t mix well. The new woodplastic composites use superior compatibilizers developed in Li’s laboratory. And tthe new wood-plastic composites can use very inexpensive plastics such as those found in old carpet fibers — about 4.4 billion pounds of which are now wasted every year, going into landfills where they are extremely slow to biodegrade and pose a significant waste disposal problem.
They could also open the door for improved utilization of low-grade woody biomass from needed thinning of Oregon forests, which is increasingly being done to improve forest health and prevent catastrophic wildfire. A better “value added” use for that wood fiber could be important, experts say. “This new material is far superior to anything currently available in the wood-plastic composite market,” Li said. “It should become an important new product and an industry with the potential for rapid growth.”
High Cost of Fires
The price tag of this year’s fires has been high, both in terms of human life and in dollars.
On October 26, four U.S. Forest Service firefighters were fatally injured on the Esparanza fire near Cabazon, Calf. Raymond Oyler was detained November 1, in connection with two of the fires. Officials say he is a “person of interest” with regard to the October 26 blaze that destroyed 54 homes and destroyed over 16,000 hectares (should this number be in acres?) in Riverside County, Calif. Additionally, police said in a press conference they believe Oyler also started the fire which killed the firefighters in Esperanza. He may be charged with five counts of murder along with 11 counts of arson.
As of October, USFS firefighting efforts for 2006 have cost more than $1.5B, at least $100M over budget, said Mark Rey, the Agriculture Department undersecretary for natural resources and the environment. To pay for the fires, money was transferred from other programs that had surpluses, including a reforestation program.
There have been, according to the National Fire News, 1,206 large fires contained this year. Since January 1, there have been 86,545 fires that have burned 9,442,610 acres. That is significantly higher than 2005, when 56,589 fires burned 8,256.081 acres.
For more information, log on to http://www.nifc.gov/fireinfo/nfn.html
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