Thanks to Craig Rawlings and Forest Business Network for this one..Also thanks to Apache Sitgreaves for easy access to photos on Flickr.
Check out their site here .. the albums are interestin, including a couple on fires and post-fire flooding.
Here’s the link and below are some quotes.
However, Horner said, “It’s a really monumental task to build an infrastructure to cover the acres we need to do. Rather than saying, ‘Let’s get out there and start moving a few acres,’ we’re trying to build the infrastructure so we can do 40,000 acres a year in the next two or three years. We’ll need 300 trucks a day. You don’t snap your fingers and have trucks show up. It’s the chicken and the egg thing. What we’re striving for is to build that infrastructure for us to leap off and hit those acres at a level that if we achieve it, is going to snap a lot of people’s necks.”
But that means not only marshaling 80,000 truck-trips annually on forest roads, but financing a network of mills and biofuel operations to handle the huge quantities of wood from small trees growing in thickets four to 20 times the natural densities.
In the short term, Good Earth will rely heavily on selling saw timber, processed through existing mills. That means selling the wood from trees 14 to 18 inches in diameter will generate the profits needed to remove the massive amount of even smaller trees and brush.
“Ultimately, there needs to be a big processing facility to deal with a low value product. A lot of the basic elements are in place — there are some existing logging companies and a lot of trucking resources, also markets that do exist.”
The revelation that most of the initial contracts will depend on finding existing mills and the profits from the larger trees touches on one of the most controversial elements of the Forest Service’s effort to implement the 4FRI approach, originally developed by a coalition of loggers, environmentalists, forest researchers and local officials. That stakeholder group broke decades of deadlock and finger-pointing by agreeing to focus on trees smaller than 16 inches in diameter. The group wanted the Forest Service to accept a flat diameter cap, but the Forest Service decided it needed more flexibility — including an ability to take larger trees. While agreeing the 4FRI approach should leave as many large trees as possible, the environmental assessment will consider the impact of taking larger trees both to achieve certain goals like creating more meadows and to help the contractor turn a profit on the contract.
“There hasn’t been any analysis that says were going to cut any old trees,” said Fleishman, having earlier suggested 18 inches would represent the upper size limit of trees cut under the contract. “This is the largest environmental impact statement in the history of the Forest Service, and we should have it out in September” which is nearly a year behind earlier schedules. “The focus is going to be in the middle size tree — and the 15-18 inch diameters are the bulk of that. If we start cutting large, old trees — we’ll be in court so fast” as a result of legal challenges by environmental groups that supported the original concept with a 16-inch diameter cap. “This is a social issue,” he concluded.
Horner said Good Earth ultimately wants to use the millions of tons of biomass from the forest to produce energy — including jet fuel. But it won’t have the technology of the plants to do that for some years. “Their core business is creating energy from waste. But this will take years. The technology is not yet perfected for commercial production levels. So it comes back in the short term to saw lumber — solid wood products like poles and posts, really common things that have established markets. On the biomass side, it means grinding up trees and brush to create products that are really common — mulch, compost” and things like decorative bark for landscaping.
Arizona remains well positioned to feed such wood materials into many regional markets. “We’re optimistic we’re going to break the code. One of the most important things is to add as much value (to the wood products) as close to home as possible. Pine lumber continues to be a very valuable resource, so we’re looking at that as well. How do we make good quality wood out of what would otherwise be low quality.”