Forest Research and Outreach Blog
Re-posted from UC Berkeley Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management.
This image from a Nelder Plot at Blodgett Forest Research Station in the Sierra Nevada mountains is part of a study designed to find out how trees respond to different levels of competition for resources (light, water, and nutrients). The wagon-wheel pattern provides a space-efficient way to experimentally increase tree density as one gets closer to the center of the “spokes.”
The trees in the image are giant sequoia, a species that is particularly sensitive to competition. After only a few years, one can see from the image that trees near the center of the spokes are smaller than trees near the edges where tree density is low.
The study has implications for how foresters manage tree density, depending on various objectives such as wildlife habitat, timber, or carbon sequestration.
Last week I visited Trinity River Lumber (TRL), a sawmill, in Weaverville, California. The sawmill was almost totally destroyed by a fire in September 2009 and completed rebuilding in January this year. The mill is the largest private employer in Trinity County with approximately 115 full time jobs. The community was relieved that TRL’s owner chose to rebuild the mill after the fire. The new mill is impressive in its versatility to saw a range of products and in its use of technology to maximize production. Both the pony (small log) and main headrig saws make use of 3D scanners to optimize lumber yield from each log. They are currently increasing production to approximately 120,000,000 board feet of lumber per year. The main products are green (undried) douglas fir and white fir dimension lumber.
TRL is classed as a SBA (Small Business Administration) sawmill by the Forest Service. This means that they are eligible to bid on Forest Service SBA set-aside sales (http://www.sba.gov/content/natural-resources-assistance-program). There are only four SBA sawmills left in California: TRL, Shasta Green, Sierra Forest Products and Sound Stud (currently curtailed). TRL do not own timberland and source logs, from public and private lands, within a 200 mile radius. Some logs sourced from the Sierra Nevada are delivered on flat bed trucks with log stakes so that the same truck can then take finished lumber to market.
As part of the UC Woody Biomass Utilization program (http://ucanr.org/sites/WoodyBiomass) I have worked with TRL on a number of projects including deploying new technology at the mill that increases the efficiency of sawing small logs. Most recently I worked with the mill to help them secure a 2011 Forest Service Woody Biomass Utilization (WBU) Grant. The grant of $250,000 was one of three awarded to California applicants (http://ucanr.org/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=5184) and will help pay towards the engineering required for a biomass fired boiler to run dry kilns with the potential to add electrical generation in the future. The project will allow TRL to produce kiln-dried lumber, increase the efficient use of sawmill residues and create a new market for woody biomass in the county.
Since 2008 the UC Woody Biomass Utilization program has helped capture almost $5m dollars for California businesses, non-profits and government though the WBU grant program. This represents a significant investment in helping the forest products industry in California retool for smaller logs and woody biomass from ecological restoration projects.
We have helped many businesses like TRL, non –profits and others with understanding technology, markets and sourcing grants – perhaps you could be next?
Woody Biomass Utilization Website (http://ucanr.org/WoodyBiomass)
Woody Biomass Utilization Blog (http://ucanr.org/blogs/WoodyBiomass/index.cfm)
Woody Biomass on Twitter (http://twitter.com/WoodyBiomass)
Wildfire Summit pulls together Tahoe basin residents and agencies on the fourth anniversary of the 2007 Angora fire to improve implementation of defensible space
The Lake Tahoe Wildfire Summit was held in Tahoe City on June 24th, 2011, four years after the Angora fire which started on June 24th, 2007 in South Lake Tahoe. The summit drew together over 100 basin residents, agency staff and policy makers to focus on ways to reduce wildfire risks to Tahoe homes and communities. Presentations centered on wildfire issues in the Tahoe Basin and how to reduce risk to homes and communities by creating defensible space, improving building materials and design, and implementing forest fuels reduction projects. Participants also went on field trips to the nearby Washoe fire, to a forest fuels reduction project implemented at Granlibakken resort (the hosting venue), and to a nearby neighborhood to examine the flammability of home construction.
After reaching a highpoint in 2007 due to the Angora fire, the level of concern about wildfire and motivation to do defensible space seems to be tapering off at the lake according to many fire agency staff. Participants cited residents’ and homeowners’ attitudes as the foremost barrier, saying that people don’t care about fire hazards, don’t think of natural vegetation as needing maintenance, or would rather recreate than do yard work. This attitude may be deeply ingrained at Lake Tahoe, a community where leisure and recreation in the “natural” outdoor environment is deeply valued.
Lack of understanding about the issue and denial that a wildfire could happen again were also cited with some reporting time they had been told by locals that Tahoe had an “asbestos” forest and wouldn’t burn. Other concerns are that vegetation removal for defensible space will look unsightly or reduce privacy. Also, there is a perception that defensible space actions are illegal or clash with water quality best management practice requirements required by local and regional government to preserve Lake Tahoe’s famed clarity.
Ownership patterns, including second home ownership and a high percentage of rental properties, reduce the opportunity and ability for some to complete defensible space. Costs are a factor for some residents, especially during the current recession (though there are currently rebate programs in place that can pay up to half of the cost of defensible space treatments). Disposing of materials can also be difficult.
Attendees at the Summit brainstormed and prioritized strategies to overcome these barriers to defensible space implementation. Education was cites as the major need to increase implementation. Education should focus on increasing awareness and understanding of the fire issue at Tahoe and highlighting the attractiveness of defensible landscapes. A major goal should be to develop a culture that doing defensible space is just a part of living at Lake Tahoe. Helping residents understand that defensible space is not only legal, it’s required and will eventually be enforced was also key. Following up with actual enforcement actions was identified as critical to this effort.
At the end of the day, all participants said the summit helped to clarify wildfire issues in the Tahoe Basin. 88% said it will help their communities work together to reduce wildfire risk and that they personally had a better idea of how to reduce wildfire hazards in their community.
Partner agencies included the seven local fire agencies in the basin, CalFire, the Nevada Division of Forestry (NDF), the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA), the US Forest Service and both the University of California and University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Funding for the event was provided by the NDF, TRPA, fire resistant construction material manufactures, and local defensible space contractors.
For a full account of the event, please download the Summit Report
For more information on how to implement defensible space at Lake Tahoe, go to: www.livingwithfire.info/tahoe
The Northern California Prescribed Fire Council provides continuing education opportunities for those using fire in forest management and conservation activities. Although prescribed fire councils are common in the U.S., this is the first such council in California. Council participants include public and private resource managers, researchers, firefighters, fire safe councils, tribes and regulatory agencies. The council hopes that by working together, this diverse group can increase individual members’ expertise in using fire for resource management and can improve fire-related education in the state. The council aims for a better public understanding of the value of prescribed burning in the state’s fire adapted landscapes, for increased safety in the use of prescribed fire, and for increased delivery of fire-related knowledge to land managers throughout the state.
Prescribed (Rx) fire is used in a variety of landscapes and contexts in northern California. The versatile nature of prescribed fire is evidenced by its diverse users, which include state and federal land management agencies, timber companies, tribes, non-governmental organizations (including fire safe councils), and private landowners, among others. Prescribed fire is complex in nature and successful implementation requires thorough planning. Major obstacles include:
- Narrow burn window (conditions, such as wind speed, relative humidity, and fuel moisture, do not fall within conditions outlined in the burn plan)
- Air quality regulations and environmental laws
- Lack of trained personnel
- Public opinion
- Lack of funding
- Liability/insurance limitations
The Northern California Prescribed Fire Council works collaboratively to improve techniques, increase training opportunities, and ameliorate permitting and other regulatory hurdles.
Join us at the fall meeting of the Northern California Prescribed Fire Council in November in Humboldt.
Recently three leaders from the Taiwan Forestry Research Institute (TFRI), a division of Tawain’s Council of Agriculture (COA), traveled to Northern California to meet with UCCE foresters to gain information about our outreach program that they might be able to apply in Taiwan. Dr. Yue-Hsing “Star” Huang, Director of TFRI; Dr. Meng-Ling Wu, Department Chief of Forest Protection; Dr. Gene-Sheng Tung, Assistant Researcher in the Department of Forest Protection spent three days at UC Berkeley, UC Berkeley’s Blodgett Forest Research Station, South Lake Tahoe, and in Quincy and Plumas Counties exploring extension projects and learning how UCCE Foresters initiate and maintain relationships with landowners, managers, conservation groups, and policy makers.
TFRI is composed of 6 research centers across Taiwan and employs over 120 scientists and over 200 staff and technicians. Taiwan has rich ecosystems in a tropical climate, with over 55% of their island covered by forests. TFRI is specifically focused in conducting research on new management practices, sustainable forestry, consulting, and operating several example forests and botanical gardens. 99.8% of Taiwan’s timber is currently imported because of the country’s strict management policies, so TFRI is particularly focused on successful management techniques to harvest their own timber and boost their economy.
In addition, with over 50,000 species in Taiwan, TFRI is interested in researching biology and has an impressive database of species, as well as a forest tree seed bank. The scientists and researchers at TFRI are aware of the need to not only focus on research, but also develop an extension program that would allow them to share their research and educate others.
While in Berkeley, the visitors from TFRI had an opportunity to meet with UCCE Forest Pathology Specialist Matteo Garbelotto, and learned about forestry issues from forestry specialists Rick Standiford and Bill Stewart. They also learned about funding and administration of research and extension from the Dean of the College of Natural Resources, Keith Gilless. Standiford and Stewart showed the three TFRI scientists about the Center for Forestry’s Blodgett Forest Research Station in Eldorado County, looking at long-term research databases, the philosophy of research forest administration, as well as specific programs on forest health, fuel reduction, and alternative silvicultural regimes.
Field visits had a special emphasis on the altered fire regime in the Sierra Nevada and how the University of California’s research and extension arms are working together to address this pressing issue.
In South Lake Tahoe, CE Forest Advisor Susie Kocher hosted the Taiwanese foresters. They discussed how forest science and forest policy interact with staff at the Tahoe Conservancy, visited the 2007 Angora fire, and visited forest fuels reduction projects. They seemed to particularly enjoy seeing the ample snow in the high country.
While in Plumas County the visiting foresters examined community fuel reduction projects conducted by the Plumas County Fire Safe Council that have been monitored by Cooperative Extension Advisor Mike De Lasaux. They were also given a tour of the Sierra Pacific Industries mill in Quincy.
We are hopeful that this visit will enhance the collaboration between California forest research and extension programs and Taiwanese forest scientists.