The timber business is one of the oldest industries in the country, particularly in the West, but it never stands still. Just last week, the media profiled four wood products firms that are using innovation to not just survive, but thrive.
There is one thing our local, state and federal governments can agree on: our nation's federal forests are in poor health. We are facing a record wildfire season this year and federal forests across the West are diseased by pine beetles, spruce budworms and root rot.
Timber and environmental leaders agree that meaningful federal timber reform in Washington, D.C., is closer than it's ever been. But the path to real reform has taken several twists and turns in recent weeks, and seems set to take many more throughout the year.
With the passage of a new Farm Bill this week, Congress ended a legal battle over logging roads that started all the way back in 2006.
Who knew that nanocrystals could be so important to the paper industry?
Cellulose nanocrystals, a microscopic material produced by processing wood pulp, are at the forefront of what the U.S. National Science Foundation says could become a $600 billion industry by 2020.
Wild Olympics is back.
The proposal to make 126,000 acres of Olympic National Forest off-limits to logging and also name 19 rivers and seven tributaries as wild and scenic is up for consideration again in Congress. This new version, sponsored by new U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer and veteran U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, was introduced on Friday and is pretty much the same proposal that didn't go anywhere after being introduced in 2012.
The Aberdeen Daily World this month made it official: Harbor Paper is not going to reopen. The mill's closure is another sign that the model for federal forest management is broken.
Wildifires are tremendously destructive, with the largest fires burning miles and miles of forestland and sometimes property. For private forest owners, one of their priorities in the wake of the fires is to salvage whatever timber they can. Seattle's Plum Creek Timber Co. is in the process now of salvaging what it can among thousands of acres of the company's forestland that burned in last summer's Lolo Creek Complex of fires in Montana.
Northwest timber counties got some good news over the holidays when federal leaders announced that new federal timber subsidies won't be subject to the budget cuts known as sequestration. But the counties' financial situation is still dire.
U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden is an ace up in the sleeve for timber issues in the Northwest. The Oregon Democrat took over as chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in January 2013, and since then, he's championed timber reform.
One unavoidable truth in the timber business is that our country's small forest landowners are getting older. According to the U.S. Forest Service, 20 percent of U.S. family forestland is owned by people 75 years and older. Another 30 percent of family forests are owned by people between 55 and 65.
The bark beetle epidemic that has spread across the West in the last 17 years is unmistakable. Forty-six million acres of forests in the U.S. have been affected. In British Columbia, 576,000 acre feet of trees have been killed, which is the same amount of timber that's harvested over a normal 10-year period in B.C.
Forest collaboratives - coalitions of timber and environmental interests, along with local, state and federal leaders - are all the rage right now. We've written about them here in the Northwest many times, and while the projects have been far from perfect, they have undoubtedly been successful in at least getting all the parties at the same table. Just getting timber and environmental interests to sit down together is an accomplishment in itself.
After more than a year of anticipation, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., this week unveiled his plan to increase the federal timber harvest. His plan comes out two months after the U.S. House approved a sweeping timber reform bill, sponsored by Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., called the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act.
The timber industry in Washington is a real newsmaker. The Longview Daily News reported earlier this month about Weyerhaeuser embarking on a local hiring boom, with timber leaders optimistic about the future.
The plight of our country's timber towns has been well documented here and elsewhere. But it's a story that needs to keep being told because the livelihoods and futures of entire swaths of the American West are at stake.
This year has been a good year for deals to preserve working forests in Washington. From Mount St. Helens to the Seattle area, several deals have been struck with landowners to ensure that forests will continue to be managed and protected from development.
And now the good fortune continues.
The U.S. Green Building Council and its LEED building standard have been enjoying a de facto monopoly in the lucrative green building industry, but that is quickly changing. For years, the USGBC has been getting pressure around its use of the Forest Stewardship Council over the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, a decision that has ruled out much of the U.S. timber supply from any LEED projects.
Washington Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark has long been a supporter of active forest management, including the use of biomass. (He even wrote an op-ed in the Seattle Times about it.) Recent news coverage shows how the state is moving forward on forest thinning and biomass in Eastern and Central Washington.
We've all seen the taglines: "Please don't print this email" or "Save trees: Print only when necessary." But most people who stick these lines at the end of their messages have no idea about how forestry is accomplished, how paper is produced or about the real threats to the world's forests.