Forest Research and Outreach Blog
The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Committee E05 on Fire Standards is meeting this week in Anaheim, California. ASTM is a standards writing organization. Today many task groups met to review and consider changes to standard test methods. For example, the task group that oversees ASTM E-84, Standard Test Method for Surface Burning Characteristics of Building Materials met. This test is used to determine the flame spread rating (Class A, B, or C) for construction materials, and is one of the measures used to describe the performance of deck boards that comply with Chapter 7A of the California Building Code. Chapter 7A is the state code that applies to new construction in California. Today it was announced that a modified version of ASTM E-84, that subjects the test material to the standard flame for 30 minutes instead of 10 minutes, was approved as an ASTM standard. This is the test method used by the Office of the State Fire Marshal to determine if a material can be considered an “ignition resistant material.” This procedure has been used for a number of years, but it just became an official standard.
The ASTM Committee E05 on Fire Standards Research Review Session was held at the end of the day. The title of today’s session was “Quantification of Exterior Fire Exposure Metrics” Task Group Activities and Related Research Programs. The program consisted of four presentations:
-Joe Zicherman (a graduate of UC Berkeley) and President of Fire Cause Analysis, gave a talk titled “The Challenge of Wildfire/Bushfire Events”
-Jon Traw, a building code consultant and Task Group Chair for exterior fire exposures, presented information on a workshop held at the University of California Richmond Field Station in February of this year. This workshop followed the Fire and Materials 2011 conference that was held in San Francisco.
-Dr. Samuel L. Manzello, a researcher at the National Institute for Standards and Technology reported on recent testing on building vulnerabilities that he has been leading in Japan.
-Steve Quarles, UCCE Forest Specialist reported on recent testing at the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety Research Center. Co-authors for this presentation were Anne Cope, the Research Director at the Research Center and Jack Cohen, Researcher at the USDA Forest Service Fire Lab in Missoula Montana.
Tomorrow the subcommittee for exterior fire exposures will meet. Task groups that are developing standards for exterior-use materials are being developed within this subcommittee.
Making estimates of the life cycle benefits of harvested sawlogs are now required as part of every timber harvest plan in California. While forest managers are intimately familiar with what happens in the forest and at the landing, we are dependent on others to synthesize current and historical data to come up with accurate estimates of the ‘carbon footprint’ of sawlogs after they have left our control. Unfortunately, a number of the common calculators used in California to estimate the life cycle benefits from sawlogs depend on historic and poorly documented estimates that significantly undercount the climate benefits of harvested products. This post highlights some noticeable differences between accounting systems and concludes that data-based estimates will clarify the often underestimated benefits of wood products with respect to global carbon storage impacts.
As anyone who has seen new wood buildings going up, there are many technological innovations, such as the I-Joists (shown below), that suggests that ever more building performance is being squeezed out of logs. A key question for any accounting system that is predicting future trends is how technological innovation is addressed in the estimates.
Both the Climate Action Reserve (CAR) Forest Protocol 3.2 (http://www.climateactionreserve.org/how/protocols/adopted/forest/current/) and the Calfire GHG Estimator (http://www.fire.ca.gov/resource_mgt/resource_mgt_forestpractice_pubsmemos_memos.php) refer to a USDA Forest Service document, GTR-NE-343 (Smith 2006) or the DOE 1605b publications with the same data tables as the key source for their estimates. For simplicity, I will compare estimates based on current efficiencies with the California relevant data tables in Smith (2006). The following bar chart compares the estimated climate benefits from an initial delivery of 100 tons of sawlogs to a sawmill in California through all the end uses over a century.
The bioenergy benefits estimates for the 2006 and 2009 USDA Forest Service publications are fairly similar but are ignored by both Climate Action Reserve (CAR) and Calfire. For whatever reason, CAR and Calfire treat bioenergy from wood residues as if they create no useful energy. However, the use of wood residues for energy is considered to be a climate benefit by both the California Energy Commission and in the national accounting that the US EPA provides to the International Program on Climate Change (IPCC) since they replace fossil fuel based sources of energy.
The other differences are how much wood gets wasted in the sawmill (an estimated 15.6% in Smith 2006 versus a measured 1.5% in the 2010 RPA document), the useful life span of the wood products, the efficiency of the collection of wood waste after consumers toss it out, and whether the landfill storage gets counted as carbon storage or not. We do not need to go into great detail here, but more recent data such as Skog (2008), Smith (2009), and US EPA (2011) all provide estimates that wood carbon is stored much longer in both products and landfills than estimated by Smith (2006). The difference between more recent and better documented life cycle analyses and the CAR and Calfire protocols are even greater since CAR and Calfire ignore bioenergy.
After all the numbers are in, it appears that the best practices for utilizing sawlogs in California can retain over 90% of the initial carbon storage benefits. Unfortunately, project level accounting systems that choose to use poorly documented historic estimates and ignore bioenergy (even though bioenergy meets the Renewable Portfolio Standard –RPS - in California) come up with much lower numbers that are out of sync with more recent work in North America and Europe. For example, accounting systems that only include the carbon in wood products assumes a carbon storage efficiency of only 25%. As I mentioned earlier, any consideration of technological innovation will further improve the amount of initial wood carbon that stays in storage or is used as bioenergy.
As California moves towards our stated goals to become more energy-efficient, reduce fossil fuel related emissions, and shift away from energy-intensive building materials, we will need to ‘double check’ our math when it comes to thinking about sawlogs once they leave the landing.
Skog, Kenneth E. 2008 Sequestration of carbon in harvested wood products for the United States. Forest Products Journal 58 (6):56-72.
Smith, James E., Linda S. Heath, Kenneth E. Skog, and Richard A. Birdsey. 2006. Methods for calculating forest ecosystem and harvested carbon with standard estimates for forest types of the United States GTR-NE-343. USDA Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station: Newtown Square, PA.
Smith, W. Brad, tech. coord; Miles, Patrick D., data coord.; Perry Charles H., map coord,; Pugh, Scott A. Data CD coord. GTR-WO-78. 2009. Forest Resources of the United States, 2007. Washington, DC: USDA Forest Service, Washington Office.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2011. Inventory of U. S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990 – 2008. http://epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/usinventoryreport.html
http://www.woodmarkets.com), the final statistics for 2010 showed that log imports by China increased 22% by in total volume and 49% by value from 2009. This increased demand, coupled with log tarrifs in Russia, have had the effect of increasing the demand for logs from the US, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. This trend appears to be continuing and both the Ports of Oakland and Humboldt Bay are active in log exports to China.
Total timber harvest California increased by 44 percent in 2010 compared to 2009 (http://www.boe.ca.gov/proptaxes/timbertax.htm), but was still the second lowest harvest level since the Board of Equilization kept records (see Figure 1). There are encouraging signs for upturns in Douglas-fir, pine and hem/fir prices driven by the export market. Figure 2 shows the harvest value schedules for these three species for the Northern Sierra Nevada as an example, for the past 5 years. Stumpage prices in the Northern Sierra Nevada, chosen for an illustrative example, have doubled in the past year.
Landowners are encouraged to look closely at export markets as they develop plans to sell products from their timberlands, as it may be a way to develop cash flow for products which have had suppressed prices for several years.
Figure 1. Statewide trends in public and private timber harvest in California – 1978 – 2010.
Figure 2. 5-year trends in stumpage price for the Northern Sierra Nevada.
I attended the “Wildfire 2” (AKA Building on Science to Implement Landscape Level Treatments for Fire Resilience) conference in McClellan last week. The conference, organized by UC Cooperative Extension and the Forest Service, was a follow-up to the Pre- and Post-Wildfire Forest Management Conference held in February 2010. Wildfire 2 built on the foundations of knowledge presented at the first conference and aimed to look at some of the broader social sustainability impacts of collaboratively based forest management.
A highlight of the second day was a panel discussion involving some of the key partners in the Dinkey Creek Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP) project on Sierra National Forest. In 2007, part of the Dinkey Creek area was slated to be a timber sale (that never happened). The broad collaborative process regarding what a redesigned project might look like took place during 2009 and they won the CFLRP process in 2010.
Larry Duysen of Sierra Forest Products (SFP) gave a description of his family’s business in Terra Bella. SFP was established in 1968, among 8 sawmills, that drew sawlogs from Sierra and Sequoia National Forests. In 1988 the first litigation on a Sequoia National Forest timber sale signaled the beginning of the end for most of the sawmills in the southern Sierra Nevada. The sawmills were trapped between the Forest Service and the environmental organizations. SFP is now the only remaining sawmill and has lost 120 of its original 250 employees.
Craig Thomas of Sierra Forest Legacy, one of the organizations behind some of the litigation, described how he concluded that after 15 years of argument and fighting that no one was benefiting from the constant court battles. He reached out to senior managers in the Forest Service and they agreed to work together to bring the science community in to develop principles for forest ecosystem management based on sound science. This led to the publication of GTR-220: An ecosystem management strategy for Sierran mixed-conifer forests. More importantly, he started a constructive dialogue with the Duysen family to try to understand their business needs and to identify areas of agreement with respect to forest management.
As the collaborative process was broadened to include a greater number of groups and individuals, Gina Bartlett, of Sacramento State University Center for Collaborative Policy, was brought in to facilitate. It was challenging but progress was made as trust developed. At the start of the process very few of the people involved would consider working cooperatively with each other (16%) or trusted each other (9%). At the end of the process trust was complete and all were working cooperatively to submit the CFLRP application. Effective facilitation was essential to meditate and to ensure that all views were fully represented in the process.
Mose Jones-Yellin is the project coordinator for Sierra National Forest. As a Forest Service employee he values the fact that the collaboration gives legitimacy to land management decisions.
The main elements of success were identified as joint fact finding (including receiving technical assistance from scientists in order to inform decisions and site visits) and developing trust between the partners.
For me the progress made at Dinkey Creek gives cause for optimism for the progression to sensible, consensus based public forest management in California that delivers a wide range of benefits to communities, wildlife and the economy.
The presentations will be posted on the conference website shortly.
To view the original blog post on the Woody Biomass Blog posted on May 2, 2011, please visit: http://ucanr.org/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=4774.
Community-based forestry in California is and has been an effort to manage public, multiple use forests (national forests managed by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management) in an ecologically, economically, and social/politically sustainable manner. This has resulted in the establishment of collaborative groups of diverse stakeholders, local/regional/national communities of interest and communities of place, who stake out common ground for management decisions for public forests, in the hopes of minimizing administrative appeals and lawsuits, of creating ecologically, economically, and socio-politically more stable and sustainable resource dependent communities.
Precursors to community-based forestry efforts and groups have been bioregional councils, watershed groups, and fire safe councils. Bioregional councils were formed in the early 1990s in response to the Northwest Forest Plan (to restore the Northern Spotted Owl); watershed groups have formed to conduct watershed restoration projects; fire safe councils to conduct fuels treatments to reduce wildfire hazard. Often these specific issue (biodiversity, water, fire) community groups expand into more comprehensive, landscape scale community-based forestry groups when it becomes apparent that you cannot effectively or sustainably protect biodiversity, restore a watercourse or reduce fire hazard without taking other factors into consideration than just your specific interest or concern. E.g. fuel treatments may reduce fire hazard, but can also affect plant biodiversity and create soil erosion problems. Some balance must be struck.
The Quincy Library Group (QLG) is perhaps the earliest and best known community-based forestry effort in California. http://www.qlg.org/pub/contents/overview.htm Established in 1993, the QLG began the discussion of community-based forestry, the debate over (local) communities of place which represent a wide range of interests, and (national) communities of interest (Sierra Club, timber interests) which are more narrowly focused. The QLG recognized very early that landscape-scale fuel treatments needed to be implemented at a rapid pace and large-scale to be effective in addressing the increasing fuel hazard.
The 2000 Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-determination Act provided for the establishment of county Resource Advisory Committees (RACs) to recommend federal grant funding for projects which benefit the local national forest. E.g. Many RACs in California recommended grants for fuel reduction treatments in the forest to reduce catastrophic wildfire risk. The RACs are comprised of local community members representing elected officials, industry (forest products, mining), recreation (OHV, hiking), environmental groups, native Americans, and the general, unaffiliated public. Over time, RAC members, and thus the community, have come to better understand and appreciate the Forest Service and National Forests, an important outcome of the RACs. https://fsplaces.fs.fed.us/fsfiles/unit/wo/secure_rural_schools.nsf
The Shasta County RAC has come to see community-based forestry as the legacy of the RAC process, pro-actively encouraging large-scale, community-based projects. In 2010, the Shasta RAC recommended funding of a landscape scale, community-based forest restoration effort called the Burney-Hat Creek Forest Restoration Project, because it promises to restore an important wetland area, produce jobs in the local community (timber, biomass energy), develop OHV and campground areas, and to do so in a collaborative, ecologically and socially/politically sustainable manner. It is a project that the Shasta RAC hopes becomes a template for the Forest Service’s public involvement in planning regular program projects.
The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 established the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP) to select and fund ecological restoration projects for priority forest landscapes. This is a formal codification of community-based forestry goals of community involvement in national forest management, collaborative processes for project development and implementation, projects that benefit local economies with employment and training, and an “all lands” approach to restoration that encompasses public and private forests with due recognition of property rights and responsibilities. http://www.fs.fed.us/restoration/CFLR/index.shtml
In 2010, the Dinkey Landscape Restoration Project on the Sierra National Forest received a CFLRP grant. http://www.fs.fed.us/restoration/CFLR/documents/2010Proposals/Region5/Sierra/Sierra_NF_CFLRP_Proposal.pdf
“Community forests” take community-based forestry one step beyond being merely advisory to the Forest Service/BLM in that the local community develops memoranda of understanding, stewardship contracts or other formal agreements with the public landowner to assume responsibility for the management of the land and resources. Webinar presentations on Community Forests in California can be seen at http://ucanr.org/community_forests
The Forestland Steward newsletter, Winter 2011, is devoted to “New directions in Community-based Forestry.” http://www.ceres.ca.gov/foreststeward/pdf/news-winter11.pdf