What is the role of the timber industry in Colorado? The current mill is on life support. Should we attempt to get back more industry in these tough times, or simply move on to other uses such as biomass? Or just let the material sit in big piles throughout the landscape?
See this story from ABC news.
Beetles that burrow under the bark of trees have killed about 21.5 million acres in the interior West, or more than 33,000 square miles, Tidwell said at a bark beetle summit hosted by Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter.
The Forest Service estimates about 98,000 trees are falling each day, but government funding can’t keep up with how many trees must be cut to protect watersheds, people and infrastructure.
“We have a true crisis on our hands,” Ritter said….
The troubled Intermountain Resources mill in Montrose, which is in receivership, might process some of the felled trees, but costs of hauling trees cut in the north-central Colorado mountains to southwest Colorado are high.
That has left some logs to sit unused as contractors haul them to nearby private land rather than a faraway mill, said Patrick Donovan of Cordes and Co., the mill’s receiver.
The mill also has had problems making timber contracts with the Forest Service work out as struggles in the housing industry have affected timber prices, he said.
“We’re begging for logs. We’re willing to pay for logs, but we can’t get logs,” Donovan said.
Ritter said the silver lining to the beetle epidemic is looking for economic opportunity that can come from dealing with infested trees.
His summit aimed to set the foundation for how governments, the private sector and nongovernment groups can tackle the hundreds of miles of corridors where dead trees need to be removed, with limited funds.
“Mother Nature bats last. We’re just trying to keep the ball game going into extra innings,” said Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo.
There’s another piece on the Summit by Bob Berwyn here.
Dixon and others once again addressed the fundamental economic issue associated with treating vast areas of beetle-killed forests, describing how existing market conditions make it a challenge to find value for the timber — especially now, several years into the insect epidemic, as many of the trees are quickly losing their value as timber that could be milled into lumber.
Still, Dixon said the traditional timber market will continue to be part of the solution.
“I think it’s true, we need an integrated market … we can’t lose our traditional market. We have to maintain what we have and be part of the dialogue to encourage new emerging markets … propellants, bioenergy, and biomass,” he said.
The Forest Service is working on statewide stewardship agreement with Colorado that could allow the state to serve as a “general contractor,” to help get around haul costs and address the challenges smaller operators face when it comes to getting bonded for the forest work.
I wonder if we’re seeing the beginning of the “post timber war” era, where people decide what they want to have on a landscape and, if there are byproducts of that use, we all get behind using the material, while building resilient, sustainable local communities. Some of us are the offspring of Depression-era parents who grew up with that old adage “waste not, want not.” Which echoes in the sustainability movement of today. As the Colorado Forest Service cap I have says “local people, local wood.” Or to expand it, local people, local food, local energy, local wood. Sounds like the refrain of a folk song, or perhaps a rap?