April 8, 2021 HFHC News Round Up

Investing in reforestation and forest roads (HFHC)
Rebuilding America’s infrastructure has been a bipartisan priority for years. Now it is Joe Biden’s turn. The president has unveiled a $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan that will fuel plenty of debate in the months ahead.  We hope both Republicans and Democrats can agree on the need to invest in two key priorities for our forests: reforestation and forest roads.

Wildfires Cost Californians $10 Billion in 2020 — This Year Could Be Worse (GBR)
Since 1960, America’s five worst wildfire seasons in terms of acres burned have all happened in the last 15 years. Worst of all was 2020, when wildfires incinerated 10.27 million acres across the country. About 40% of those acres were in California, according to the Congressional Research Service. Scorched forests, destroyed homes and increasingly high body counts are now an annual ritual in the Golden State. As climate change continues to make wildfire season longer, deadlier and more destructive, it also makes the yearly catastrophe much more expensive.

PG&E Charged With Crimes in 2019 California Wildfire (The New York Times)
Pacific Gas & Electric, the troubled utility that has started some of California’s most destructive wildfires, faces new criminal charges for its role in igniting a 2019 wildfire that burned 120 square miles in Sonoma County north of San Francisco. The county’s district attorney on Tuesday charged PG&E, which emerged from bankruptcy protection last year, with five felonies and 28 misdemeanors, including recklessly causing a fire with great bodily injury, in connection with the Kincade Fire. The blaze damaged or destroyed more than 400 buildings and seriously injured six firefighters.

Lung Association Urges Californians to Create a Clean Room in Advance of Wildfire Season (Sierra Wave)
Taking proactive precautions to protect yourself and your loved ones during a wildfire is imperative, especially if you live in an environment where the wildfire risk is high. But wildfire smoke not only affects the air outside, it can also easily travel into our indoor living spaces, increasing the risk for smoke inhalation and difficulty breathing.

Wildfire in Theodore Roosevelt National Park triples in size, less than half contained (The Hill)
A wildfire at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota is 45 percent contained, authorities said Tuesday. Beth Hill, Acting Outreach and Education Manager at the North Dakota Forest Service, said the blaze has consumed nearly 5,000 acres and that campgrounds and homes are still at risk. Officials closed multiple campsites on the park’s grounds, including the CCC Campground, Summit Campground, and the Summit Overlook, The Associated Press reported. 

Funding Bill for Wildfire Prevention Nearing Finish Line (KPQ)
The Washington State Senate will vote soon on a comprehensive funding bill for wildfire prevention. Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz says it’s a significant bill designed to provide critical funding for wildfire response. “The air resources, the firefighters, getting more equipment and personnel in our communities at our local fire districts who are first on the line. More funding for forest health so that we can actually restore the health of 1.2 million acres of forest in Central and Eastern Washington alone.” The bill has already passed out of the House unanimously and is currently in the Senate Rules Committee which is the final step before the floor.

Local nonprofit biochar project gains support in Legislature (Methow Valley News)
A local project that would test conversion of logging slash and organic waste to biochar has garnered additional support from Washington’s elected officials, with funding included in the proposed Senate and House budgets and an endorsement from the commissioner of public lands. C6 Forest to Farm, a local nonprofit that plans a one-year pilot project using a portable biochar unit, celebrated the backing as the organization worked on their application for an air-quality permit from the state Department of Ecology.

Video: A plan to improve wildfire prevention in Colorado dies (9News)
A bipartisan bill aiming to prevent wildfires died in committee this week. Not because it didn't have support, but because of an issue with liability if it passes.

Napa County officials plan to spend $42.5 million over five years to reduce the risk of wildfires (WineBusiness)
On Tuesday, the Napa County Board of Supervisors unanimously endorsed a proposal to reduce fuel – and fire risks in a county where deadly wildfires have destroyed houses, wineries and other properties. The Napa Communities Firewise Foundation, a volunteer organization whose members include firefighters, vintners and other business leaders, commissioned the 18-month study that used remote sensing technology called Lidar to predict fire behavior given the county’s fuel conditions. The document, known as the Napa County Community Wildfire Protection Plan, has led to the development of a 5-year vegetation management plan, including the construction and maintenance of fuel breaks. It is a tool the county can use to apply for state and federal funding.

Canyons Project launched in 2019 continues in Manti-LaSal Forest clearing of dead wood (Sanpete Messenger)
Projects to clear dead, fallen and excessively dense timber from the  Manti-LaSal National Forest are continuing at full steam, according to a U.S. Forest Service ranger based in Sanpete County. Johnny Collin, district ranger for the Sanpete District of the Manti-LaSal National Forest, told the Sanpete County Commission at a meeting March 16 that his office is continuing—and hopes to expand—a program to clear dead timber from large stretches of the forest. The logs will be used for commercial purposes. “We appreciate what you guys do, and we appreciate you opening up to timber….,” Commission Chairman Scott Bartholomew told Collin. “It’s a good deal for the economy around here, and for the forest, and I hope it works.”

Wildfires Are Devastating….Rain After a Wildfire Can Be Catastrophic (Estes Park News)
The 2020 wildfire season was incredibly devastating to the Colorado landscape, homes, infrastructure, and the economy. Whether your home or business was undamaged, partially damaged, or destroyed by fire, spring rains and snow runoff on a wildfire burn scar can produce flash flooding both downslope and downstream, particularly in areas that are not traditionally prone to flooding causing further catastrophic damages.

County commits to wildfire planning (Herald Democrat)
Planning began last November to update the Lake County Community Wildfire Protection Plan with a community meeting sponsored by Lake County Open Space Initiative. The meeting, which was intended to gauge the community’s understanding of forest health and wildfire mitigation, came just months after Colorado recorded two of its largest wildfires to date. At the meeting, several local leaders, including Commissioner Sarah Mudge and Leadville District Ranger Patrick Mercer, presented on wildfire mitigation tactics and planning in Lake County. The event was followed by two smaller meetings in January and March that honed in on November’s discussion.

Bitterroot Forest asks for public help in stopping illegal logging (Ravalli Republic)
The Bitterroot National Forest is asking for the public’s help in identifying people responsible for cutting down numerous green trees and signs at a popular recreational site. There have been nine large green ponderosa pine trees cut down and taken away since January between the main Bass Creek and Larry Creek trailheads in the Bass Creek Recreational Area, said Stevensville District Ranger Steve Brown. Someone has also cut down and removed a couple of signs, including the exit-only sign at the Larry Creek horse trailer parking lot.

Major Fish Passage Barrier to Be Addressed on the Chehalis River (The Chronicle)
A major fish passage barrier in the West Fork Chehalis River will be addressed starting next summer, when the Lewis Conservation District and timber company Weyerhaeuser team up to reconnect the river’s original path, which was altered in the 1960s to accommodate a forest road. Since then, the river’s path has included the West Fork Falls, an impassable rocky waterfall that prevents salmon and steelhead from migrating upstream. The project will include relocating the road, reconnecting the old channel and adding two bridges. Wood structures will also be added to the channel to enhance habitat for fish and other aquatic species.

UCI’s Tirtha Banerjee probes the physics behind catastrophic blazes (YubaNet)
In southern New Jersey, deep in an isolated, desolate forest known as the Pine Barrens, a small group of men trudge through the woods, behind them a charred trail of smoldering underbrush. This is not the work of criminal arsonists but a controlled burn conducted by members of the U.S. Forest Service. Scattered throughout the area are small sensors tracking atmospheric pressure, wind speed, air temperature and other factors and sending this data 3,000 miles across the country to a computer on the desk of Tirtha Banerjee, UCI assistant professor of civil & environmental engineering.

On the front lines: Elite N.J. Forest Fire Service charged with protecting life and land (Jersey's Best)
Luckily, New Jersey also is home to one of the oldest, most respected forest fire services in the country. The New Jersey Forest Fire Service (NJFFS) has been battling blazes in the Garden State since 1906. That is a fact that helps Downe Township Fire Chief George Robertson sleep at night. “These forest fires can get out of control pretty quick,’’ said Robertson, whose township faced a wildfire last year that burned 1,500 acres. “Without these guys, these fires would take off and the damage would be much worse. They really are second to none.’’ 

Rep. Pingree: Reduce, reuse and revitalize rural communities (BDN Maine)
Forest products are a heritage industry in Maine. Since becoming home to our nation’s very first sawmill in 1623, our woodlands have been an integral part of our identity. We all know how important our woods are to the generations of Mainers who live, work and breathe here. Maine is the most forested state in the country, and as a result, our economy has relied heavily on the logging and forest products industry. Reduced demand for wood products in recent years has devastated the industry. More than 32,000 paper makers and loggers worked in Maine at the industry’s peak in 1967, and today fewer than 7,000 remain. Unfortunately, we know all too well the heartbreak of losing the local paper mill, as well as the jobs and sense of community that go with it. As our nation confronts the climate crisis, we must reconcile protecting our planet with revitalizing and rebuilding our logging communities. Fortunately, recent innovations in wood products and sustainable forest management practices offer a pathway to do both.

Alumnus shares forestry experience (MSU)
Fresh from graduation, alumnus Nick Bohannon found himself taking on a job in the government with the U.S. Forest Service. Bohannon graduated in May 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in conservation and wildlife biology law. He applied for this job in October 2019. Bohannon is a part of the U.S. Forest Service Region 9 Timber Strike Team. He is stationed at the Shawnee National Forest near Murphysboro, Illinois, and a part of what he does is going through the forests looking for trees that would be good for timber. “It’s interesting what we do,” Bohannon said. “We do timber sales for a lot of the Eastern region of the Forest Service, which encompasses from about Minnesota to Missouri, and all the way east up to Maine.” Forests have timber extraction goals they have to meet, and it’s a part of Bohannon’s job to determine what trees are best to become timber. 

Uneven lumber market as customers seek alternative items (CFI)
It was an uneven lumber market for the week ending March 26 as print prices came in “all over the place”; some up, some down, and many flat. After waffling for a couple of weeks, the good forward indicator — as mentioned in Madison’s previous few updates — of Canadian Softwood Plywood 9.5 mm Toronto, popped up +$24, or +2%, to end that week at C$1,276 msf, from $1,252 the previous week. The other good forward indicator, Oriented Strand Board 7/16 inches Ontario, soared +$50, or +3.4%, to C$1,475 msf, from $1,425.

Timber Prices & Inventories Plummet in the Lake States (Forest2Market)
Delivered wood fiber prices in the Lake States are at their lowest point since Forest2Market began collecting transactional pricing data from the region over eight years ago. As we reported last year in the wake of the devastating economic impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, wood fiber consumption dropped off significantly in every wood basket across North America. But as the economy picked up steam in 3Q and 4Q2020, some regions experienced structural changes in fiber demand that continue to impact their respective wood supply chains. 

Brooks Mendell: Why are Timber Prices Low? (Forisk)
The physical facts of nature help us, at times, reconcile contradictions in the marketplace. Consider the disparity between sky-scraping softwood lumber prices and the pedestrian prices received by forestland owners in the U.S. South for their logs. I hear from folks in forestry who are convinced that the failure of timber prices to rise during this frenzied lumber market is evidence that “something is going on”, that Canadian firms “infiltrated” the South, that the lumber industry is “over consolidated.” While multiple reasons may help explain the dynamics of timber prices by local market, the bottom line remains that, in the U.S. South, we are swimming in wood.

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