The Peoples’ Wood Wide Web: Interconnections and Some California Innovations

New Tahoe Forest Products Sawmill (courtesy of Bloomberg)

There were many interesting things to explore with the hearing on the Westerman Bill yesterday. As we saw in previous posts, it’s a compendium of many different ideas we can explore in greater depth. What I thought was one theme in Chris French’s testimony was what we might call another Wood Wide Web (broader than the mycological one discussed here a few weeks ago), this one of people, workers and organizations making useful products of wood.

Certainly mycorrhizal fungi help trees. But also people help trees, at least around here, by thinning them and protecting them from fires, planting them and so on. And trees provide us with useful products, often more environmentally friendly than those produced from minerals of various kinds. So, in fact, we as humans have some mutualism going on here with trees. And within that mutualism, we have a complex interrelationship of businesses and workers (from sawmills to CLT to paneling to furniture to horse bedding to sawdust to biochar to bioenergy) that depend on each other. And people who depend on the products they produce, plus employment, plus taxes. So indeed people have their own Wood Wide Web, and while Chris didn’t talk about it in those words, he made the point that this Web is important to forests surviving and thriving into the future, come climate change, wildfires and a variety of other stressors. Or at least that’s how I heard it. We are, indeed, all in this together.

Housing is a crisis in many places in the US.  And the US is allowing large numbers of migrants in (at least 2.5 million according to NPR) (not judging, just observing).  It seems logical that we would need even more housing.  Housing tends to be built using wood for various reasons, including cost.  We have lots of extra wood from fuel treatment and restoration projects, but it tends to be small.  Will new materials like CLT help us build our way out of the housing crisis? Certainly if we look at the Wood Utilization grants of USDA, there is much effort (and funding) going toward Mass Timber, CLT and other efforts. Maybe the future is small, local mills, with local employees scattered through the landscape. Which is kind of what we had, previously, except in the past they focused on larger dimension lumber.

I’m not a fan of top-down industrial policy, but if the wildfire folks can have a Cohesive Strategy, I don’t see why, given the massive amounts of biomass to be otherwise burned, we can’t have a Coherent (and what the heck, let’s throw in Cohesive also) Strategy.

Current Dimensions Used (from AFRC)

I was curious about the size of material being used by current timber industry (including CLT mills). I know there are university and Forest Service experts out there, so hopefully they will add information here or you all can add good contacts.

AFRC generously provided me with their perspective on dimensions:

Log utilization is an ongoing point of contention between the federal agencies and AFRC.  The Forest Service in Region 6 generally classifies minimum specifications for sawtimber as an 8-foot log with a small-end diameter of 5-6 inches for most conifer species.  The only exception is ponderosa pine where they use a 16-foot log.  AFRC has been advocating that the Forest Service use a 16-foot log for all conifer species for several years since most all of our members assert that 8-foot logs with 5-6 inch diameters do not get processed as saw material, but rather end up as pulp or chip material.  Most of our members whose mills are designed to utilize small logs are capable of sawing or peeling down to 5-6 inches, but some minor variations exist.  However, when delivered as an 8-foot piece, the economics of doing so becomes marginal—hence our advocacy to change that length.

The CLT facilities that I’m familiar with (Freres in Lyons and DR Johnson in Riddle) do not actually process raw logs—instead they secure veneer that has previously been peeled or boards that have previously been cut at other mills and then manufacture them into larger products by gluing them together.  Generally speaking though, the products that are delivered to CLT facilities can be cut/peeled from small, medium, or large logs.

From loggers to end users – all of whom are currently involved in a complex exchange of material and value. Fiddling with a part may cause a series of consequences throughout the web. And 16 foot logs with 5-6 inch diameters are pretty small.  With, no doubt, transportation costs being a big thing. Again, the web. Again, the need for a Double C (cohesive and coherent) strategy.

Academic Horsepower and Successful Industry-Chicken or Egg?

If your state has a prominent forest industry, generally (but not always) universities hire experts to help them, and conceivably the rest of us who use wood or want to get rid of biomass.  But if your state doesn’t, then they probably don’t have experts.  Which could be a problem if you want to support new industries, in that there are no/few experts to help entrepreneurs.

As I was writing the above on transportation costs,  I received an announcement of a webinar by Drs. McConnell and Tanger who seem to be forest economics/wood utilization/operations experts.

Wood-using sawmills prioritize availability of raw materials, their accessibility, and associated transportation costs as the main drivers of new mill constructions and financial viability of existing mill operations. One of the major hurdles faced by the forest sector is hauling costs. Hauling costs have commonly been cited as comprising 35 to 45% of the delivered cost of round wood. Join us to learn how road network repairs could benefit both the forest sector and the broader Mississippi economy.

California’s Wildfire and Forest Resilience Task Force Market Development Program

I don’t know how many economics and utilization professors California has (I know there’s some in Extension) but they have a market development program that’s interesting.  They have five pilot programs:

to establish reliable access to forest biomass through a variety of feedstock aggregation mechanisms and organizational innovations. The pilots will develop plans to improve feedstock supply chain logistics within each target region through the deployment of a special district with the authority and resources to aggregate biomass and facilitate long-term feedstock contracts. Each pilot will assess market conditions, evaluate infrastructure needs, and work to enhance economic opportunities for biomass businesses in their project regions. The pilots are distributed across 17 counties in the Central Sierra, Lake Tahoe Basin, Northeast California, North Coast and Marin County.

Their rationale is:

Diverting forest residues for productive use can help increase the pace and scale of forest restoration efforts in California, reducing vulnerability to wildfire, supporting rural economic development, and promoting carbon storage. The Wildfire and Forest Resilience Action Plan identifies the development of, and access to, markets for these residues as a key barrier to conducting necessary treatment activities across priority landscapes in the state. The development of such a market for residues has been hampered by the lack of any centralized broker capable of entering into long-term feedstock supply contracts.

Washoe Sawmill Opens

I posted about this last year, The Tahoe Fund, Tahoe Forest Products LLC, and the Washoe Development Corporation worked together to build a new millHere’s a link to a Bloomberg story.  Region 5 has a good story about it opening, with some interviews and a historical perspective. Shout out to writer Andrew Avitt!

“The truth is, the forest, it needs our help,” said Serrell Smokey, Tribal chairman for the Washoe Tribe of Nevada & California, at the Tahoe Forest Products sawmill opening Dec. 18, 2023, “Our people have intervened in these areas since the beginning of time, because otherwise, if we don’t take care of it, it will take care of itself.”


There is a mutually beneficial relationship here – land management agencies need to treat landscapes and the timber industry needs timber. There used to be an old saying of “trees paying their way out of the woods.” That meant the value of the timber would help offset the cost of treating an area. While that’s not the reality on the eastern side of the Sierras, having a mill infrastructure in proximity drastically improves the economics of the type of work that’s needed to restore landscapes in the West.

When timber business makes assessments about when and where to take on a contract, they look at a number of factors — fuel and labor costs, and market prices for timber. But there is one factor that tends to be the most prohibitive — distance.

The further a log has to travel to arrive at the nearest mill increases fuel and labor costs and decreases a business’s profit. Depending on all the variables, the breakeven distance is about 50-80 miles from forest to mill.

Before the opening of Tahoe Forest Products mill in Carson City, the closest mill was in Quincy, California. That’s more than 100 miles from many of the areas that need work on the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.

“Since the mill has opened the conversation has definitely changed,” said Monti, “Now contractors are calling and saying, ‘hey, I heard this new mill went in. I’m really interested in doing work on this side of the mountain.’…  We have not had that option for the last several decades.”

Note the transportation costs, and the shimmering of the beginning of a new working-wood-wide-web. I always wonder why California seems to be different from Oregon in its appreciation of the Web- maybe the Timber Wars are still resonating.


Mass Timber, CLT, GLT, NLT, and Others: What Does it All Mean? Plus NMFSH Auction

If you watched the Forest Service budget hearing, a few of the Senators brought up Mass Timber and CLT (cross-laminated timber).  The National Museum of Forest Service History had an excellent explanation (with photos) in their newsletter. They are also having an auction until April 15, I’ve bid on a couple of places to stay and there’s other good stuff as well. The below and attached newsletter is reprinted with the permission of the National Museum.  I thought this was a great article, so shout-out to the Museum and to Tom Chung! I just excerpted the introduction below, and the article itself is here.

By Tom S. Chung, FAIA, Principal, Leers Weinzapfel Associates

Many of us may have heard of the term “Mass Timber” but are not sure of what it is, although I would say that many, if not all, of us know what a “wood building” is and have been inside one from log cabins to solid heavy timber office buildings to curved wood structured churches. A Mass Timber building is in one sense, simply a wood building that uses large pieces of wood instead of smaller pieces of wood like lumber (2x4s and 2x6s) that we see being used for single family houses and multifamily housing 5 stories tall or less, all over the country for the past sixty plus years.
Mass Timber as the name implies is made of heavier (or larger) pieces of wood and its earliest examples are the solid heavy timber buildings that were built with old growth trees that made possible large cross sections of columns and beams often greater than 1’ x 1’ and more from a single tree trunk just debarked and cut to size.

But Mass Timber today is a highly engineered product that is assembled into even larger building elements with just lumber (2x4s and 2x6s) or even smaller laminations. Unlike
solid heavy timber that relies much on the characteristics of a single tree and a large safety factor since no two trees are the same, mass timber today is much more predictable and precisely engineered to meet the necessary loads with material efficiency. It is also fabricated in a factory in a highly automated way using digital technologies and equipment and assembled on site quickly and quietly, instead of being constructed piece by piece on site with lots of construction time and material waste.

While most civilizations began building with wood, as it was plentiful and easy to shape with simple tools, our modern society and its need to build bigger and taller buildings over the late 19th and 20th centuries in urban centers, coinciding with the results of industrial revolution which began a century earlier resulted in wood being displaced as the main building material by steel and concrete.

Though wood remained throughout the past century as a building material for smaller structures such as single family homes and small multi-family housing, the emergence of mass timber today makes possible the use of wood as a building material previously reserved for steel and concrete, allowing us to build these larger, taller and more complex buildings now in wood, with a renewable building material with less carbon emissions that helps address the building industry’s responsibility towards climate change.

In addition to being a solution to build more responsibly with less carbon footprint, mass timber buildings, unlike light-frame wood construction often expose the wood since it doesn’t need to be covered up by painted white drywall. This allows for the inherent biophilic attributes of wood to be experienced; visually appealing color and grain, the warmth to touch, the fresh pine scented smell with the humidity and moisture regulating properties of mass timber provides a full tactile experience that enrich the daily routines of those who live and work in these buildings.

Among the commercially available products in the mass timber category are Cross-laminated Timber (CLT), Naillaminated Timber (NLT), Dowell-Laminated Timber (DLT), Mass Plywood Panel (MPP), Glue Laminated Timber (GLT) and glulams, Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL), Laminated Strand Lumber (LSL) and Parallel Strand Lumber (PSL). They range in costs, appearance
and applications.

Nail-Laminated Timber or NLT are simply lumber (2xs) nailed together in a one way span between beams to make solid floors and usually require a layer of plywood on top for lateral stability. They are simple to build, do not require expensive factories and are on the less expensive end of mass timber product costs. But since there are nails, they cannot be cut with CNC machines
and are more limiting structurally and architecturally in general. Dowell-laminated Timber or DLT can be seen as an evolution of NLT in that the steel nails were replaced by hardwood dowels so that it could be CNC cut and made in a highly automated factory like other mass timber products. It appears similar to NLT and also spans one-way between beams but also with increased
structural and architectural possibilities at a higher cost.

Glulams, similar to NLT as mass timber products have been around for over eighty years. They have been used mostly as beams and columns (linear elements) and can be seen in many old churches and gymnasiums as large curved or arching elements. But they can also laid flat on their sides and with successive pieces become floor assemblies, similar to NLT or DLT.
In this configuration as floor panels, they are called “GLT.”

Seen often in combination with glulam beams and columns are Cross-laminated Timber or CLT panels It is the most well known and most talked about mass timber product today given its versatility. It was first commercially developed in Europe with factories in Austria, Germany and Switzerland about 25 years ago, then to Canada and now gaining traction in the US over the past 5-7 years. CLT arranges lumber laid flat, with each successive layer in a perpendicular direction such that unlike NLT, DLT or GLT the grain of the wood is oriented in perpendicular directions rather than a single direction. This allows for a greater dimensional stability and a two-way span capability and possibility of being point-supported with just a column and without beams. However, most CLT floor panels are still used as primarily one-way systems in conjunction with beams and columns given the simpler engineering involved and greater spans and column spacing that it enables. But the two-way structural capacity of CLT panels also makes it ideal not only as floor or roof (horizontal) panels but also as wall (vertical) panels. Many buildings utilize CLT in this way as load bearing walls and even as building cores for egress stairs, elevators and mechanical, designed to also take on lateral loads such as wind and seismic loads.

As versatile as CLT but very different in appearance is Mass Plywood Panel or MPP. MPP are simply layers of plywood (usually 4’x8’ and ~1” thick) laminated on top of each other to make thick, wide and longer panels of 8’ x 40’ or greater and from 4” to over 1’ thick, similar to CLT, NLT and DLT. Like CLT, MPP can span in two directions, be point supported with just columns and are dimensionally more stable. It can also be used as floors or walls and take on lateral loads. But unlike CLT in which each layer is made of 2x boards which can be seen, it’s made of plywood and one can see the whole or partial pieces of the 4’x8’ plywood in its appearance.

Although CLT precedes MPP, as plywood preceded CLT and as they both can span in two directions as they have the grain of wood oriented in perpendicular directions, CLT is sometimes referred to as “plywood on steroids.” Similarly, as CLT, like DLT and MPP are made in a highly automated factories with multi-million dollar investments in the production equipment-such as presses, CNC machines, glueing, dowelling, sorting and finger jointing machines with butterfly tables and vaccum lifts-all with associated costs. NLT has been referred to as “poor man’s CLT” given its relatively low cost and low production factors.

Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL), Laminated Strand Lumber (LSL) and Parallel Strand Lumber (PSL) are veneer or strand-based products with much higher glue to fiber ratio and mainly used for their additional strength properties as compared to lumber, often as columns or beams in conjunction with light frame wood construction where stronger members are needed. Though they can be exposed to view, they are often hidden behind drywall just like light frame wood construction. Though they are technically in the mass timber category, they are less associated with mass timber as they are not used for large floor or wall panels or columns or beams that support them as described earlier with with CLT, NLT, DLT, MPP, GLT and glulams.

UC Davis Students research former sawmill redevelopment to support forest management

The Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition (RVCC) always has interesting stuff in their newsletter..  We like to highlight student work of interest, so please feel free to submit.

Here’s a link to this site that has a presentation on the project and the final report of the students.

“After a five-month project timeline, we produced a report that includes:

  • Methods and step-by-step guide to use GIS to focus on sites based on social justice and environmental conditions.
  • An evaluation matrix with environmental, policy, and social conditions that we used to evaluate and score the redevelopment potential for 9 former sawmill sites
  • A guide with practical questions and resources for residents and organizations in rural communities that want to pursue public funding to support site clean up.
  • A comprehensive evaluation of how public policies influence site redevelopment.

Find the final report below and reach out to us. We’d love to answer questions and talk about how we can move this work forward.”

Here’s a link to the project presentation and one to the final report.

Map of California showing 208 former sawmill sites (yellow)​​​​​ identified in a database from the U.S. Forest Service and University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. Our team used the database as a starting point for evaluating former sawmill sites. Map by Thomas Miller.

2023 Wood Innovations and Community Wood Grant Program

USDA Press Release

Does anyone know the  Bipartisan Infrastructure Law would be  “President Biden’s” but the IRA isn’t ?


WASHINGTON, Jan. 31, 2023 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service today announced it will offer $41 million through the 2023 Wood Innovations Grant and 2023 Community Wood Grant programs to spark innovation and create new markets for wood products and renewable wood energy.

Made possible in part by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, these grants expand wood products use and strengthen emerging wood energy markets, supporting sustainable forest management – particularly in areas of high wildfire risk.

“With the support of the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, USDA is carrying out the Biden-Harris Administration’s mission to support rural, forest-dependent communities while fighting climate change and protecting our natural resources,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

“These grant programs provide opportunities for communities and businesses to develop innovative uses and markets for wood, a renewable and economical resource,” said Forest Service Chief Randy Moore. “Previous Wood Innovations Grants are making a difference across the country, and we are pleased to continue supporting wood use ingenuity that helps our communities and forests.”

The application deadline for both grant programs is Thursday, March 23, 2023 at 5 p.m. local time. Applications may be submitted via email to the Forest Service Regional Wood Innovations coordinator listed in the application instructions.

Not only are these grants helping support local economies by expanding the potential of wood products and wood energy, they are also helping address critical issues like climate change. By finding new uses and expanding current uses for wood products and energy made from materials removed from unhealthy, overgrown forests, we can restore forests to health, reduce wildfire risk, fight climate change and sustain local economies.

The Wood Innovations Grant Program makes funding available to expand traditional wood use projects, advance wood energy markets, and promote wood use in commercial building construction. This Request for Proposals focuses on the program’s market development goals to reduce hazardous fuels and improve forest health on national forests and other forest lands, reduce the costs of forest management, and promote economically strong and environmentally healthy communities.

Eligible project examples include:

  • Architectural and engineering designs, cost analyses, and permitting to secure financing for commercial wood construction or wood energy projects development.
  • Establishing or increasing wood products manufacturing to support forest restoration.
  • Showcasing environmental and economic benefits of wood as a sustainable commercial building material to encourage growth in the industry.
  • Establishing statewide wood use teams or wood energy teams.
  • Developing wood energy projects that use residues from wood products or woody biomass.
  • Developing commercial woody biomass and wood product industrial parks.
  • Overcoming market barriers to stimulate wood energy expansion.
  • Purchasing wood processing equipment to create markets supporting forest management.

The Community Wood Grant Program funds shovel-ready projects to install thermally led community wood energy systems or build innovative wood product facilities to support healthy forests and stimulate local economies by expanding renewable wood energy and innovative wood products manufacturing capacity.

Eligible project examples include:

  • Community wood heating, cooling, or electricity systems that replace fossil fuels.
  • Purchase and installation of manufacturing equipment at a mass timber production facility.
  • Expanding sawmills with innovative technologies, cost cutting measures and higher value production lines.
  • Equipment purchase and installation at new facilities producing forest products biofuels.

To apply for either grant, applicants must be registered with the System for Award Management (SAM). Applications should show a clear benefit to underserved or historically marginalized people, communities, and the forests they value. For-profit entities, state and local governments, Indian Tribes, school districts, non-profit organizations, higher education institutions, public utilities, and fire and conservation districts are eligible to apply.

More information is available at the Forest Service Wood Innovations website or at

2023 Wood Innovations Funding Opportunity:

2023 Community Wood Energy and Wood Innovation Program:

Since 2015, the Community Wood Grant and Wood Innovation Grant programs have provided more than $93 million to 381 recipients to support wood products and wood energy projects.

Who Knew? Wood Is Still Main Heating Fuel For Some: A Roundup of Miscellaneous Articles on Wood Stove Use

Many of you have been following the great gas stove controversy (who actually decides which of the many health/environment/climate enhancing ideas to generate campaigns about?). Perhaps wood stoves are on the list. Perhaps they’re next.

It’s 0 F this morning where I live, so I’ve been thinking about our woodstove. It’s cheaper than propane and gets rid of waste wood, and that’s all I really need to know for now. But..

I ran across this article by some folks with the Census Bureau, published in 2018, with data from the 2016 census.. see the table above.

As I looked around, it wasn’t always clear who uses wood heat and who uses it as a primary source. Seems like many more folks would use it as a backup. But I’m not sure that there is literature on this.

Here’s what the American Lung Association has to say about that as of Jan. 3, 2023:

As the weather gets colder, thoughts of curling up with a mug of hot cocoa in front of a roaring fire become more appealing. Though indoor wood-burning stoves and heaters may have a quaint and traditional feel, they also produce harmful toxins that could damage your lungs and affect the air quality.

So, before you throw another log on the fire, it is important to understand how wood-burning devices work and how to protect your family’s lungs:

Health Effects Caused by Wood Smoke

The smoke from wood-burning devices, such as stoves and heaters, contains fine particle pollution, and hazardous air pollutants such as carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides benzene and formaldehyde. Particle pollution is especially dangerous because these tiny particles can get deep into the organs, harming not just the lungs, but also blood vessels, the heart and brain. Wood smoke can cause coughing, wheezing and asthma attacks, and lead to serious health issues, such as heart attacks, stroke and premature death. Wood smoke also adds carbon dioxide and methane to the air, both of which significantly contribute to climate change.

Protecting Those at High Risk

Wood smoke is not good for any set of lungs, but it can be particularly harmful to those with vulnerable lungs, such as children and older adults. Additionally, those with lung diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer are also more affected by wood smoke. Breathing the smoke can easily cause coughing and asthma attacks.

Outdoor Pollution Created by Wood Smoke

Wood stoves often run 24 hours a day, pumping wood smoke and toxins into the outdoor air. If wood-burning stoves or heaters are affecting your neighborhood’s air, take steps to protect your family: encourage children, older adults and those living with lung disease to remain indoors; use the recirculate function on air conditioners; and keep windows and vents closed.

Finding Wood Alternatives

To reduce indoor and outdoor pollution from wood-burning devices, switch to cleaner devices such as natural gas stoves and heaters, and make sure they are fully vented to the outdoors. If you are unable to switch, use pellets and dry hardwood for a cleaner and more efficient burn. You can also buy a cleaner wood-burning device. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency adopted new standards for cleaner and more energy efficient wood-burning devices in 2015. Many devices currently meet the 2020 standards and have hangtags showing this certification.

This winter, make changes to your wood heater and stove so you and your lungs can enjoy a cozy evening.

So burning wood “contributes significantly to climate change” and natural gas is preferable- because it doesn’t have smoke, indoor or outdoor. For whatever reason, I don’t think people who use wood from fuel treatments (otherwise burned in the atmosphere in piles) are included in the Lung Association’s thinking on this.

Otherwise, I can see where they are coming from. Some of us live in urban areas where there is too much wood smoke. But…many of us do not. I think it’s good to be aware of the dangers, especially to people with breathing problems, but, on the other hand many people can’t afford to keep switching out heat sources,either more current wood stoves or other heaters. Further, having wood as a backup allows us to have heating diversity in case of price rises in either propane or electric rates. It seems important at the home level to not be locked in to one source of energy, especially as our sources are transitioning. Especially in parts of the country where heating is a matter of life and death.

Meanwhile, this report from the Guardian talks about what you can do to reduce the impacts (the Guardian is located Great Britain).

The government is phasing out the sale of wet wood, which produces more smoke, but the people in the study used only dry, seasoned wood. Wood and coal burning in homes is estimated to cause almost 40% of outdoor tiny particle pollution, but the new research is among the first to analyse indoor pollution in real-life settings. Almost 16% of people in the south-east of England use wood fuel, and 18% in Northern Ireland, according to 2016 government data, and about 175,000 wood burners are sold annually.

“Our findings are a cause for concern,” said Rohit Chakraborty, of the University of Sheffield, who led the study. “It is recommended that people living with those particularly susceptible to air pollution, such as children, the elderly or vulnerable, avoid using wood-burning stoves. If people want to use them, we recommend minimising the time the stove is open during lighting or refuelling.”

Wood burners cause less indoor pollution than open fires. “But every time you open the door, you reduce the stove to an open fire and particulate matter floods into the home,” he said. The peaks take an hour or two to dissipate. “But by the time it comes down, someone opens the door again to refuel and you get spike after spike,” Chakraborty said. Some burners have filters, but these only reduce the pollution being vented outside.

Meanwhile as of November of last year (according to this pro-woodstove UK site)

The use of wood-burning stoves is growing in popularity in the UK, especially so with the advent of highly efficient Ecodesign stoves and, more recently, with the growing instability of gas and electricity prices, people have found the idea of self-sufficiency very appealing.

That article rounds up what countries in Europe are doing. Like I said, these folks sell woodstoves. Still it’s interesting what they say about countries in Europe, for example…

The Netherlands – Like with other countries, there is a rush to buy firewood in preparation for the winter. The rush for wood in The Netherlands usually starts in September, but due to the war in Ukraine, people started this rush in July, according to one wood supplier. The Netherlands aims to ban fossil fuels for new heating insulations from 2026. This could mean an increase in Ecodesign stove sales – renowned for their green credentials. We already supply a number of our stoves to The Netherlands.

Poland – Due to the spiralling price increases in gas and electricity, there is a shift towards burning wood in Poland. This is the same for several other nearby countries. However, Poland is far less affluent than many of the aforementioned Scandinavian countries, and so a key driver for using wood to stay warm is financial.

Any other ideas for minimizing impacts without buying new stoves or switching heating sources?

How Surprising is That Really?: “To Fight Wildfire, California Gets a Surprising Solution: a New Sawmill”

A new sawmill under construction near Lake Tahoe is offering hope to state officials and some environmental advocates. Its first job will be to process wood from trees killed in the massive Caldor Fire in 2021, before moving onto smaller trees. Photographer: Patrick Mouzawak/Bloomberg

A Bloomberg article today talks about a new sawmill under construction near Lake Tahoe. Some of us may have a “back to the future” vibe about this. Others may wonder about whether communities without the substantial resources and economic/political clout.. think casinos, resorts, Billionaire’s Row, ski areas and so on, might also be assisted by having a sawmill in the community. Lake Tahoe is the place with its own CE, after all.

Under our legislation, active forest management of up to 10,000 acres at Tahoe now qualifies for a categorical exclusion from NEPA. Forest Service Region 5 Manager Randy Moore told me that this takes their environmental assessment from more than 800 pages to less than 40 pages, and Tahoe Basin Supervisor Jeff Marsolais reports that their first project under this new authority took just four months to permit.

Perhaps other philanthropic organizations could support traditional underserved rural communities? The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities is doing that in John Day, Oregon, but perhaps the larger philanthropic foundations?

Check out the Tahoe Fund’s website it looks like they have an enormous variety of projects, trails, sugar pine restoration, scholarships for forestry education (could forestry be cool again?), including a grant to a biomass plant:

The Tahoe Fund has made Forest Health our top priority, with a focus on increasing the pace and scale of forest restoration in the Tahoe Basin. A major issue our public land managers face is the lack of places to offload woody biomass. There is currently nowhere feasible to take the excess biomass, resulting in hundreds of thousands of burn piles sitting in the Basin.

The Tahoe Fund has been working with Sierra Valley Enterprises, the new owners of a biomass facility in Loyalton that was shut down in January of 2020, to help get it back up and running. To help facilitate the financing required to re-open this facility, the Tahoe Fund hired TSS Consultants to develop a Resource Study of available forest biomass and log supply within the economic transport distance of the Loyalton site.

Anyway, here are some excerpts from the story. I think you can read Bloomberg News for free if you register.

The Tahoe Fund helped convene the sawmill project leaders, which include Shinn and Kevin Leary, the CEO of a Reno-based private investment firm, Hallador Investment Advisors. In 2021, it commissioned a study that examined how much supply would be available for a sawmill operation in the region. It cited recent funding and planning by the state of California and the US Forest Service to increase fuel reduction treatments such as thinning as well as prescribed fire. That support should help keep the supply of logs for the sawmill flowing, with the oversight of environmental regulators, said Berry of the Tahoe Fund.

“Everyone has a role to play here,” she said.

The Carson City mill will be built on land owned by the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California. Wendy Loomis, the executive director of the tribe’s business arm, said the project will aim to hire tribal members for jobs that will be available in the sawmill.

“When we look for projects, our first priority is to support the Tribe’s vision and mission statement to help Mother Earth,” Loomis said. “Number two is to create workforce development. So this accomplishes both of those things.”


Several environmental groups and restoration experts offered cautious support for the types of thinning projects that the new sawmill is supposed to help. A spokesperson for the Nature Conservancy, the largest environmental nonprofit in the US, said that while it did not specifically endorse the Carson City project, “we can envision a future where a small-diameter sawmill, properly sited and sized, could help scale forest restoration efforts.” The Sierra Nevada Alliance, an environmental nonprofit based in the Tahoe area, similarly advocates for healthy forest restoration.

relates to To Fight Wildfire, California Gets a Surprising Solution: a New Sawmill
The plans for the Tahoe Forest Products sawmill in Carson City.
Photographer: Patrick Mouzawak/Bloomberg

Last year’s Caldor fire provided some evidence that thinning and prescribed fire — which was developed and practiced by Indigenous people for millennia — are beneficial for forests. In areas that had been treated, flames dropped down enough to leave patches of forest still green and alive, officials said at the time.

Not everyone is in favor of the Carson City plan. Some residents have registered concerns with elected officials about noise impacts related to the mill. And there are some scientists and activists who oppose all forms of logging, arguing that forest thinning is a smokescreen for the economic interests of timber companies. A lawsuit impacting a restoration-focused logging plan in Yosemite National Park reflects that ongoing tension.

Battles, the Berkeley scientist, said those voices are in the scientific minority. And the Carson City sawmill isn’t the only project of its kind. Further north, in Quincy, California, another sawmill is being built to tackle the acres of dead trees killed by last year’s Dixie fire.

“We need to do more forest management, whatever it is,” he said. “But we need the capacity for it, and one way to get that is to sell the wood and make sawmills that can handle it.”

For groups that “oppose all forms of logging, arguing that forest thinning is a smokescreen for the economic interests of timber companies”.  But what about all the timber industry-free places like Lake Tahoe or many other places that have the (identical bolded above) problem? Thinned trees in piles?

I’d really like to have that discussion with someone who represents that point of view, perhaps a TSW reader? Otherwise it sounds like a “bad industry, we can’t work with them” thing. And I think this “bad industry” attitude can actually work against environmental goals, be it decarbonization, keeping green forests on the landscape, helping fire suppression folks do their job, and so on.  There are plenty of ENGOs without that attitude, so I wonder what underlies it.  In fact, I was kind of surprised by the relatively lukewarm TNC quote.

In this case, it would have been helpful if the reporter had pushed back.  Should they (public and private) not thin? What else should they do with the piles?

‘Fuel for the next fire.’ Why California can’t unload the trees that worsen its wildfires: Sacramento Bee

IMHO, this is a really really good story.  Unfortunately, it’s for subscribers of the Sacramento Bee only.  Fortunately, they have a 99 cent day rate (yay, wish everyone had that). There are also excellent videos and photos.  I think it’s particularly interesting to contrast the kind of conversations in California with those of Oregon.

State and federal officials, as well as forestry experts, say California doesn’t have nearly enough lumber mills to process the trees — dead or alive — that need to come out of the state’s 33 million acres of forestland to reduce the risk of megafires. California suffers from a similar shortage of biomass plants, which make electricity out of trees and brush hauled out of the woods.

So the timber stays in the forests.

“It’s fuel for the next fire,” said Tim Robards, a staff chief at Cal Fire who oversees forest health and wood products issues.

Robards said the problem has worsened in the past two years, during which 6.7 million acres burned. The surge of dead and dying trees is clogging the state’s meager fleet of mills and biomass plants, he said.

The problem is intensifying at the very moment state and federal agencies are trying to reduce the density of California’s forests. The U.S. Forest Service, which manages 20 million acres of California land, says the shortage of mills and plants makes it hard to even plan the fuels-reduction projects it wants to undertake.

“We lack sufficient infrastructure to make as much progress as everyone would like us to do,” said Larry Swan, a wood utilization and biomass specialist with the Forest Service.

There’s no obvious quick fix for “this deficit of capacity,” as Robards called it. The facilities have been in decline for decades — lumber mills have been disappearing since the early 1990s, largely because of environmental restrictions, and the biomass industry has been battered by competition from cheaper energy sources.

“We had this robust infrastructure,” said Mike De Lasaux, a retired forester with UC Cooperative Extension. “Now we see these humongous piles of treetops and small trees that have no place to go.”

There’s a detailed discussion of biomass and the difficulties of getting biomass plants established.

It’s a tragedy,” said Brett Storey, the recently retired biomass manager for Placer County. “All of that material would be utilized instead of going up in smoke every summer.”
Storey spent years trying to get a biomass plant built near Lake Tahoe. A proposed site near Kings Beach faltered when residents and local officials objected to an industrial facility opening in the Tahoe basin. County officials then chose a spot near Truckee, but that fell apart four years ago when they couldn’t make a deal with the area’s electric company, Liberty Utilities, to buy the plant’s energy.
Now the county is trying again. After the Caldor Fire nearly burned down South Lake Tahoe this summer, county officials are taking a fresh look at the biomass project.
“There’s just a great sense of urgency,” said Kerri Timmer, the county’s regional forest health coordinator.
The state has tried to revive the industry, with some success. An auction-based program called BioRAM, which requires utilities to purchase biomass power, has enabled some plants to garner higher prices for their electricity than they can negotiate on their own. The program has saved at least one plant that was about to shut down, Burney Forest Power in Shasta County.
But not everyone’s eligible.
In the Sierra County town of Loyalton, the American Renewable Power biomass plant was consuming 100,000 tons of wood annually until it closed last year. One reason was price: Because of issues around its connection to the power grid, the Loyalton plant wasn’t eligible for the BioRAM program and couldn’t negotiate a decent rate for its energy.
Jeff Holland, who runs a logging company near Placerville, purchased the Loyalton site for $825,000 and is trying to resume operations. But startup costs are higher than expected, and he isn’t sure when it will reopen. He thinks the state must do more to support biomass.
“Logical thinking people who are tired of breathing smoke and tired of losing our national treasures believe biomass should be in the picture,” Holland said

Biomass plants are so limited in number, it often doesn’t pay to haul the wood out of forests that have been thinned. Instead, it gets stacked up and burned in the open, polluting the air. “For a lot of that biomass that’s being produced, particularly in the forested areas, there isn’t a market for it,” said Steve Eubanks, a retired Forest Service official who’s trying to build a biomass plant near Grass Valley. “They’re either leaving it on the ground or piling it or burning it.”
Often, the piles sit a long while. The regional air district has to issue a burn permit. The weather has to cooperate — if it’s too windy, the fire could blow out of control, as when the Caples Fire burned part of the Eldorado National Forest in 2019.
“It’s a struggle to burn our piles, and, yes, we have a backlog,” said Swan of the Forest Service.

I recommend a read of the whole piece. What seems to be missing for me is that our energy policies don’t reflect the risk reduction benefits of biomass removal. Biomass can only win by being cheaper than wind and solar. But nuclear folks will tell us that intermittent energy sources need backup. Then wind and solar folks will point to batteries or pumped hyro or homes as batteries, all unproven technologies at scale, plus issues around mining and trade in minerals needed for batteries. The old decarbonizing technology horserace. But today we could be running forest biomass plants with the technology we have And do risk reduction for wildfires, and contribute to air quality (instead of burning in piles). Perhaps the difficulty is ultimately policy siloing. And California’s working to tackle it.

California wildfire fallout: Timber industry confronted by too many dead trees, warns of damaged forests- San Francisco Chronicle

Sawdust pours out of the Collins Pine lumber mill in Chester.
Max Whittaker/Special to The Chronicle

This is a really interesting article. I like the fact that the reporter spoke to a researcher at Oregon State University, and then circled back to the California FS employees working directly with the problem.


At ground level, three family-held timber companies say the increasingly ferocious wildfires are transforming their businesses.

California’s first million-acre wildfire, the August Complex in 2020, burned through about 40,000 acres of Crane Mills holdings in the Mendocino National Forest. About 42% of those burned acres experienced total losses among young and old trees alike, meaning they will have to be wholly reforested or risk being overtaken by shrubs, Chief Financial Officer Drew Crane said.

The 2020 CZU Lightning Complex fires burned about two-thirds of Big Creek Lumber’s 8,000 acres of mixed redwood forests in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Company President Janet McCrary Webb — whose family members lost 16 homes — said though redwood trees have thick bark built to withstand wildfires, she remains unsure how many will succumb to fire damage and die.

The Dixie Fire burned through about half of Collins Pine’s 95,300 acres around Lake Almanor in Plumas and Tehama counties. The company has found signs the fire was beneficial to some areas, but “about 30,000 acres is gone, black,” said Niel Fischer, Collins Pine western resources manager. More than 64,000 old-growth trees, the kind expected to survive wildfires, are probably dead, he said.

“I don’t want to use the word catastrophic, but it was catastrophic in terms of what it means to the business and what we have to do to recover,” Fischer said. “It shook us as foresters to our core.”

Wildfires are expected disturbances for California’s timber industry and are natural and restorative to these ecosystems. But the severity of fires in 2020 and 2021 is expected to result in significant destruction.

And they have to move fast to harvest the charred trees. Dead and dying trees can be milled for lumber, but it has to be done within about two years before they rot or become infested with insects.

Crane Mills, based in Corning on the western side of Tehama County, is running its mill at full tilt. But the company lost a key buyer of Ponderosa pine in March — there is simply too much wood.

“There aren’t enough loggers, there aren’t enough trucks, there aren’t enough foresters,” Crane said. “A lot of it will go to waste.”

Fischer said it’s not like losing one year’s tomato crop — rather Collins Pine has 10 or 15 years worth of resources “dead on the stump.”

“Dead trees do have value in the forest as long as you don’t have too many,” Fischer said. “We are careful to conserve trees that have died so they’re naturally incorporated into soil and become habitat … but there has to be balance.”

George Gentry, senior vice president of the California Forestry Association, said salvage logging operations can offer an economic boost in the immediate aftermath of a wildfire, but not enough to compensate for the long-term impact he expects will dampen timber harvests “for decades to come.” Gentry estimated 1.6 billion board feet burned this year — more than the 1.5 billion board feet produced each year across the state.

“They’ll do some initial salvage, they’ll do some initial rehabilitation, then they’ll have to pull back,” Gentry said. “If they reduce mill employment, if they reduce purchases, if they reduce anything they’d buy locally, that impact is really significant in rural economies.”

McCrary Webb with Big Creek Lumber said the volume of dead, dying and drying trees throughout Northern California forests should be a concern for all — and she hopes to see more solutions, like an increase in demand for wood biomass energy production.

“That’s one of the issues we see that really the whole state has to grapple with: How can you effectively deal with all this wood?” McCrary Webb said. “A lot of this wood, there’s no place to take it. Some were taking it to landfills. There’s no place for it to go.”

Collins Pine has been a pioneer in uneven-age harvesting, a way to manage commercial forests so they have a diversity of tree species and ages, as in natural ecosystems, Fischer said.

He said that while some portions of the land will rebound, they expect a lot of it will have to be wholly replanted. That “zeroes out the clock” for a forest meant to have both old and young trees, he said. Decades later, portions with same-age trees would be harvested at once — essentially clear-cut, a major shift away from their efforts to steward timber to more closely resemble natural forest ecosystems.

Crane said the August Complex fires were a “seminal event” for his family’s company, forcing it to rewrite its 100-year business plan. It too is facing a shift from uneven age reforestation practices to tree plantations, he said.

“You’re planting an even-aged forest — and I’m not sure how fire-resilient that is,” Crane said.

In 2020 alone, about 1 million acres changed from living forest to dead forest because of wildfires, said Joe Sherlock, regional silviculturist for the U.S. Forest Service in California. The Forest Service manages 8 million acres in California, roughly one-quarter of the state’s forestland.

Salvage timber sales are critical to funding reforestation and preventing dangerous fuel loads from building up and providing tinder for the next fire, Sherlock said. But the sheer scale of severe, tree-killing fires is adding pressure to an already overburdened system. There simply aren’t enough mills to process the trees or buyers to take the lumber.

“I worry about that a tremendous amount,” Sherlock said. “It will be expensive to gather that material up and create a hospitable environment for seedlings. I don’t know whose checkbook we can use.”

Brad Seaberg, who manages timber sales in California for the Forest Service, said this year’s fires are “testing the market” for whether the agency can find enough purchasers for the amount of lumber available on federal land. And a significant number of smaller-scale landowners affected by wildfires have also entered the timber market, he said.

“The scope of what’s going on is overwhelming,” Seaberg said.

But not everyone sees salvage logging as a boon to forest health or the best defense against the next fire.

Ernie Niemi, an Oregon forest economist who has studied timber practices for decades, said salvage logging on Forest Service land comes with steep costs, both financial and environmental. Niemi said dead trees hold greater benefit in the environment as crucial storage for climate-warming carbon dioxide and habitat for woodpeckers, insects and other species.

“Those dead and dying trees out on the landscape are not suddenly worthless from an ecological perspective,” Niemi said. “That big trunk still holds an awful lot of carbon.”

Sherlock said that is true for areas with a smattering of dead trees amid a rebounding forest. But he said large areas of mostly dead forests are less likely to naturally reseed and risk conversion from forest to shrubland. Harvesting dead or dying trees is necessary work, he said.

“You can imagine what it would be like to ignore all of those standing (dead) trees,” Sherlock said. “As the years go by, more and more of those trees will snap off or tip over, all on the ground. Can you imagine a forest with tons of tons of dry wood ready to burn in the next fire?”

An earlier version of this story misstated the volume of timber burned this year and produced annually on average in California. It is in billions of board feet.

New CLT Mill in Durango for Trees From Fuel Mitigation Projects

Cross-laminated timber can speed up building projects by as much as 40%, Timber Age Systems Inc. co-founder Andrew Hawk said. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)
Jerry McBride

It’s interesting to see how workers and companies who provide forest products are considered to be bad in some places, but considered environmentally helpful where people are doing fuel treatments. Is it memory of the timber wars, or current practices, or ?? There’s also the local production/use angle, as I’ve written before.. if it’s good for food, why not wood?

Check out this story about a new mill in Durango was interesting.. especially where they got the grant to build a facility.   I wonder whether Arizona has such a program (to help out with 4FRI)?. You’d think if these folks could make a go of it in Durango..

Timber Age Systems Inc., a Durango company that specializes in making cross-laminated timber for sustainable building projects, plans to expand its manufacturing capacity and develop a new facility after receiving a grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Recycling Resources Economic Opportunity Program.

The approximately $440,000 grant will cover the creation of a new 2,500- to 3,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in La Plata County that will triple Timber Age’s capacity, said co-founder Andrew Hawk. It will also help the company add more employees and grow its use of locally harvested ponderosa pines.


Timber Age Systems aims to create usable wood products from fire mitigation efforts across the Southwest. The company sources all of the wood it uses from fire mitigation projects, turning to public and private lands for the ponderosa pines it needs.

Doing so diverts trees that would usually be wasted while creating economic opportunity and a product local builders can use. It’s all a part of Timber Age Systems’ efforts to use sustainable building to create healthy forests.

“If ponderosa pine is going to be removed from the forest from a forest health and fire mitigation standpoint, we as a community need to figure out what to do with it. And we need some sort of market for it,” Hawk said. “So it was as much about figuring out how to utilize the wood and divert it from landfill or burning as it was figuring out how to put it in buildings”

Science Friday: Turning Wood Into Plastic

Our discussion about the Bootleg Fire reminded me of the mountain pine beetle outbreak in the 80’s and the desire to use some of that material. The idea then was a waferboard plant in Chiloquin, Oregon.  But the FS couldn’t guarantee supply and it was a large investment and no one stepped up.  Forty years later, people in various parts of the West still don’t have markets for what I call FRR (forest restoration residuals).  4FRI has a guaranteed supply, and still has trouble finding purchasers.  Finding products that will use this material and businesses that will pencil out has been a bit of a Holy Grail.

Here’s another possible use for fuel treatment and forest residuals..

To create the slurry mixture, the researchers used a wood powder — a processing residue usually discarded as waste in lumber mills — and deconstructed the loose, porous structure of the powder with a biodegradable and recyclable deep eutectic solvent (DES). The resulting mixture, which features nanoscale entanglement and hydrogen bonding between the regenerated lignin and cellulose micro/nanofibrils, has a high solid content and high viscosity, which can be casted and rolled without breaking.

Yao then led a comprehensive life cycle assessment to test the environmental impacts of the bioplastic against commons plastics. Sheets of the bioplastic were buried in soil, fracturing after two weeks and completely degrading after three months; additionally, researchers say the bioplastic can be broken back down into the slurry by mechanical stirring, which also allows for the DES to be recovered and reused.

“That, to me, is what really makes this plastic good: It can all be recycled or biodegraded,” says Yao. “We’ve minimized all of the materials and the waste going into nature.”

The bioplastic has numerous applications, says Liangbing Hu, a professor at the Center for Materials Innovation at the University of Maryland and co-author of the paper. It can be molded into a film that can be used in plastic bags and packaging — one of the major uses of plastic and causes of waste production. Hu also says that because the bioplastic can be molded into different shapes, it has potential for use in automobile manufacturing, as well.

One area the research team continues to investigate is the potential impact on forests if the manufacturing of this bioplastic is scaled up. While the process currently uses wood byproducts in manufacturing, the researchers say they are keenly aware that large-scale production could require usage of massive amounts of wood, which could have far-reaching implications on forests, land management, ecosystems and climate change, to name a few.

Yao says the research team has already begun working with a forest ecologist to create forest simulation models, linking the growth cycle of forests with the manufacturing process. She also sees an opportunity to collaborate with people who work in forest-related fields at YSE — an uncommon convenience.

Perhaps this could be simplified by establishing a third-party certification system for residuals; then you wouldn’t have to speculate as to “far-reaching implications.”

As to automobile manufacturing, there’s a 2016 paper on wood in car manufacturing. And history wise , during WWII there’s wood gas for cars. In 1924, Upson and Eriksen of the FS Forest Products Laboratory wrote an article in SAE Transactions on wood for automobile bodies.