- Author: Kim Ingram
For private forest landowners, the decisions of if or when to harvest trees can be confusing. Understanding costs and revenues is important, even if a landowner only wants to reinvest everything back into the land. Bill Stewart, Cooperative Extension Specialist in forestry at the University of California Berkeley, says landowners should consider harvesting trees as just one piece of their forest management plan. Landowners should ask themselves: Why do I own forest land? What goods or service might I want to sell? How willing am I to invest money now for future benefits? Most trees will grow, some will die, but which products will go up or down in value?
Q: Can forest landowners harvest trees to help address their management goals?
A: Yes. Remember that trees are always reproducing. In forests today, there are often too many trees per acre (300 – 500) which is too high for the water resources available. This results in smaller, less healthy trees. If you thin to ~60 trees per acre, then those remaining trees will grow bigger, faster, and be more resilient. Thinning out excess trees may also help fund other work you'd like done such as masticating brush or other practices for fire hazard reduction.
Q: Why is the price of timber so variable?
A: The price of wood is very volatile and varies depending on several factors such as:
- The species of trees you are harvesting – Historically in California, redwood has greater value than fir or pine. However, species prices can vary by region.
- Home construction - The more houses being built, the greater the demand for lumber which means higher prices for timber.
- The number of sawmills in your area – if you live in an area with numerous wood processing facilities, that will increase the competition and mills may bid higher for your timber. However, if a mill owns their own forested acres, they will often use their own timber and not buy from outside sources. The Asian export market out of the Port of Oakland can be very competitive for forest landowners near the port, though demand has been going down in recent years.
- Timber size - The competition to bid on, and the price for, smaller diameter trees for products such as paper or pulp is not as high as for larger diameter trees used in home construction. Trees measuring 20” diameter at breast height (dbh) or higher will often fetch a good price. For trees measuring between 10” and 12” dbh, they could still be valuable as saw logs, depending on the market. Trees measuring under 10” dbh, have a much smaller market, mostly as wood chips, and are often not as valuable.
You might also consider working with neighbors to increase the potential number of trees for harvest, which in turn, could help in increasing the overall bids for your projects. It is not necessary for neighbors to be on contiguous properties, but is helpful if they are on the same road systems and have the same species of trees.
Q: Can you sell diseased or dying trees? What about trees that have been blown down?
A: Yes, so long as the wood quality is still there. However, dead, dying and/or diseased trees, in many cases, have already decomposed and so do not have the monetary value that green trees do. Because blown down trees are dead, you have to determine if it is worth hauling them out or leaving them. Do you have enough to fill up a log truck? If so, it may pay for itself. If you only have a few down, then consider leaving them as the cost would be too high to remove them. If the blow down or burn has been widespread, there is often a glut of this material and mills will often prioritize processing logs off their own lands rather than buying additional logs, making the market weak.
Q: Who do we need to hire to fall the trees and haul them to a mill?
A: You typically have several forestry professionals working on your management projects. Start with a Registered Professional Forester (RPF) that you hire. The average rate for an RPF is ~$75 - $145/per hour and will vary by location. Some RPFs work for mills or forestry companies. You want an RPF that works only for you, and who will work to serve your legal, economic and aesthetic interests. The RPF will help plan the management activities based on your management goals and objectives. The RPF will then recommend a Licensed Timber Operator(LTO) to fall the trees. A truck driver/ log hauler will need to be hired to take the trees to the mill.
Q: Can I sell timber as woody biomass?
A: Possibly, though only if it doesn't have to be hauled long distances to a biomass facility. Since it is low value it is harder to make it ‘pay its way' out of the woods. Biomass electricity is currently a small player in California electricity markets. However, biomass could eventually replace much of the coal and natural gas we use from out of state sources. Currently, there are limited biomass facilities in California and there are no current plans to build additional, state-of-the–art industrial scale bioenergy plants.
Q: I have yet to see the results of logging look lovely. Can this be minimized?
A: Yes. Logged areas can look ugly for a few years. Soil disturbances often look better after a year or so depending on the amount of rain or snow the next winter and how fast vegetation grows. However, you will still have broken branches and stumps to look at. If you are harvesting within the view-shed of your home or business, you may want to consider spending more money on cleanup practices to improve the overall look of the logged area.
Q: What permitting is needed to harvest trees?
A: If a forest landowner decides to harvest and sell timber, either a Timber Harvest Plan, Non-industrial Timber Management Plan, or an exemption must be submitted and approved through Cal Fire. Forest landowners should work with their RPF to ensure they are in compliance of all harvest and environmental rules and regulations. Additionally, exemptions for removal of fire or insect damaged trees that lose value the longer they are left in the forest are much quicker and easier to complete than a full timber harvest plan and can be prepared by RPFs who would also manage the harvest.
For more information on timber harvest considerations, please see Forest Stewardship Series 21: Economic Considerations in Forest Stewardship, Publication 8251.
- Author: Jaquelyn Lugg
Reposted from the UCANR Green Blog
To effectively reduce these adverse effects of harvest, foresters first need to know the precise causes of sediment increases. Historically, researchers investigating the effects of timber harvest on the land have considered two primary drivers: hydrologic changes following timber harvest or fuel reduction that drive sediment transport, and increased sediment supply from ground disturbances and/or mass movements that result from those harvest or fuel reduction activities.
While these causes are tightly linked, little is understood about the relative role each plays in transporting sediment from the watersheds. In other words, which is dominant in increasing sediment delivery and transport: increased streamflow due to greater water availability that can sweep up and transport sediment, or a greater supply of sediment entering the waterway in the first place?
A new analytical approach developed by Safeeq Khan, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in water and watershed sciences at UC Merced, and collaborators now provides valuable insights into this issue, and ways to target effective mitigation strategies.
Published in the Journal of Hydrology last fall, the team's study analyzed long-term (1952-2017) streamflow and sediment data from two adjacent paired watersheds in the H. J. Andrews Experimental Forest in the western Cascades Range of Oregon. One of the watersheds was harvested and replanted in the 1960s, while the second was not disturbed and used as a control.
“The data is from Oregon, but highly relevant for our work in the Sierra Nevada,” said Khan, lead author of the study. “We have tried to quantify the effect of hydrologic changes and increased sediment supply from logging activities on total sediment yield.”
To isolate the relative contributions of streamflow changes and increased sediment supply on sediment transport, Khan and colleagues developed a statistical reconstruction technique to account for the hydrologic changes following harvest.
“This approach allows us to analyze and estimate background sediment production in the treated watershed during the post-treatment period as if the harvest had not occurred, which is remarkable,” said Khan.
The new approach demonstrated that sharp increases in sediment following harvests can be confidently attributed to ground disturbances associated with timber harvest or thinning operations to reduce fuel. Changes in sediment supply overwhelmingly dominate streamflow in terms of contributions to increased sediment in the watershed. Streamflow increases alone led to modest increases in sediment, less than 10%, with the watershed transporting about twice as much total sediment than it would have had the area been left unharvested. This effect diminishes more or less exponentially over time, especially with respect to suspended sediment, as bare areas revegetate, which reduces hillslope sediment supply, and as streamflow returns to pre-treatment levels.
“Once we know the background sediment production, we can easily attribute how much of the increase is due to what mechanisms” said Gordon Grant, a hydrologist with the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station and co-author on the study.
“Determining that increased sediment in watersheds after harvests is primarily driven by ground disturbance is crucial in targeting mitigation efforts,” explained Khan. “Now, we know that strategies that limit ground disruption – like suspending logs while transporting instead of dragging them, avoiding heavy machinery when and where possible, and mastication and mulching – are likely to be highly effective in reducing sediment yields.”
These changes are most pronounced in the first few years following harvest, but the treated watershed did not return to pre-harvest levels of sediment for two decades, underscoring the long-term effects of harvest on a forest's hydrologic and geomorphic systems.
While clearcutting is no longer practiced on U.S. federal land, it is still the primary timber harvest method used across the globe. Additionally, many other types of forest disturbances such as wildfires, mass tree die-offs, and salvage logging create hydrogeomorphic conditions not too different from clearcutting.
"Our findings provide insights that can help land managers and foresters better target land management and restoration in the future,” said Khan. “We're hopeful that these results will lead to strategies that minimize the long-term impacts and legacies of intense land-use disturbances.”
The full study, titled “Disentangling effects of forest harvest on long-term hydrologic and sediment dynamics, western Cascades, Oregon" is available online in the Journal of Hydrology at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022169419309941?via%3Dihub.
- Author: UCCE Napa County
- Author: Pam Kan-Rice
"Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky,” wrote Kahlil Gibran. But trees falling into power lines have sparked catastrophic fires and falling trees have injured nature lovers.
To prevent power outages, PG&E looks for trees near power lines that need to be trimmed or removed. To prevent power outages and other mishaps caused by failing trees, Matteo Garbelotto, UC Cooperative Extension forest pathology specialist at UC Berkeley, has incorporated science into a mobile application that can be used to determine whether a tree presents a hazard and should be removed.
“PG&E was doing tree surveys with pencil and paper,” said Garbelotto, who saw the manual process as fraught with opportunities for error. A paper record needs to be sent to a central collection site where it is transcribed. In the transcription process, mistakes can be made. And there's no way of verifying if a person actually examined the tree to fill out the form.
“Why don't you do a digital survey?” he asked a PG&E tree surveyer. “Using a tablet or phone, the data could be shipped directly, in real time, to the San Francisco office. Using a phone or GPS device, you will know the precise location of the tree and know the worker did the job. If there's a fire, you have proof.”
PG&E Corporation Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the utility, gave Garbelotto a $70,000 grant to develop the app he envisioned for determining which trees are hazards. The tree disease expert created a list of questions that help evaluate tree health.
For example, in addition to asking if the tree leaning toward a power line, surveyers are asked, Are there obvious signs of internal decay? Is there a large wound on the tree?
“If a tree has a wound of 5 inches or more, there is a good chance there is significant decay behind the wound,” Garbelotto said. “If there is a mushroom or conk growing on the tree, that portion of the tree is dead and the branch or whole tree may fall down.”
The app, which Garbelotto has dubbed “Evalutree,” can be used for more than powerline safety.
UC Berkeley Ph.D. student Michael Johnson has been using the app to evaluate different species of trees.
“We have just started our third field season using the app on a project for the Department of Defense that quantifies the health and economic value of the oak woodlands on the 100,000-acre Vandenberg Air Force Base,” said Johnson. “We started with coast live oak the first summer, added tanoak the second summer, and have expanded to bishop pine this summer.”
The mobile app has simplified data collection for Johnson, who is in the Forest Pathology and Mycology Lab at UC Berkeley.
“I used pencil and paper studying postfire aspen regeneration on Forest Service land in Northern Arizona in 2012-2013, where I also did my master's work on ponderosa pine decay in 2013-2015,” Johnson said.
He described his undergraduate work collecting data with pencil and paper carried in a tatum, a 8.5-inch by 12-inch metal case with a clipboard, compared with working with the Evalutree phone app.
“Each day would start with making sure that we had all of our data sheets packed in our bulky field tatums,” Johnson said, “making sure our GPS points were preloaded in a separate, expensive GPS device, making sure that our camera had batteries and that we had dry erase markers for our small white board so that we could indicate which plot each photograph belonged to.
“After the fieldwork was complete, we would spend weeks doing data entry, trying to make out the scrawled numbers and notes – smeared with charcoal and raindrops – and sorting and compiling the data, photos and GPS points. It was time-consuming and painstaking, to say the least.”
For his graduate research, Johnson was able to enter data directly into a spreadsheet on a field computer. “At the end of the field work, I would just have to compile the data from the computer, photos from the camera, and GPS points from the Garmin to make a report,” he said.
“Evalutree has changed all of that. Instead of field tatums and multiple bulky devices, I walk out into the field with a lab cell phone. The app has preloaded survey questions, the ability to connect photographs to specific plots, and drops GPS points at each plot and tree that I survey.”
Working in the U.S. Defense Department's sprawling, undeveloped landscapes, Johnson said, “We are often in the field all day without internet or phone connectivity. The app is prepared to meet this challenge and relies on our phone's internal storage and pre-existing GPS functionality to order and store our data with precision accuracy. At the end of the day – when we have returned to civilization and technology – we simply upload all of our surveys for the day and I immediately have my data and reports in multiple formats, including pdf, xls and kml files, at my fingertips.
“Within minutes, I can update my maps to show the exact location of all of the day's surveys, start crunching data in Excel, or print out a report with the photographs from each plot for my boss,” Johnson said.
Garbelotto, the UC Cooperative Extension specialist, would like to make the technology available to cities and companies that manage trees.
“The app can be used by any agency or government that owns or manages a significant number of trees and needs to run surveys on a regular basis to ensure these trees are not at risk of failing, causing property damage or, worse, casualties or injuries to people,” Garbelotto said.
“The surveys can be easily customized for different projects,” he said. “It can be used for campgrounds or parks to calculate the likelihood of a tree failing and likelihood of causing damage. You could have an answer within minutes of submitting the survey.”
- Author: Jeannette Warnert
Reposted from the UCANR Green Blog
Healthy California wildlands were managed with periodic wild and cultural fires for millennia. As the state's population and development grew, officials suppressed most fires out of concern for people, homes and businesses.
Though well-meaning, the strategy left land overgrown with vegetation capable of fueling even more dangerous high-intensity wildfires. The past few years have seen an exponential increase in catastrophic wildfires in California.
As a result, there is growing interest in using prescribed fire to bring nature back into balance. Despite the current interest, communities have limited capacity, shared knowledge and experience to bring it back. To close those information gaps, UC Cooperative Extension in Mariposa County hosted a five-session webinar series because the in-person workshop was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The switch to a virtual series enticed more than 500 people from across the U.S. and more than 12 countries register for the series, and 200 people regularly attended each session. In comparison, 34 people were registered for the in-person workshop.
The webinar series provided guidance on fire ecology, prescribed burn permitting and planning, plus cost-share and the concept of launching a prescribed burn association with neighbors, local agencies and the community in five 90-minute sessions. Recordings are now available free on the UCCE Mariposa County YouTube channel.
The training is designed for California landowners and land managers, but contains information that can be applied broadly in areas where landowners and managers are faced with unmanaged vegetation growth that poses a fire risk.
“Whether you live in a mixed conifer forest, oak woodland, chaparral or grassland habitat, returning prescribed fire to California is part of well-managed landscapes,” said Fadzayi Mashiri, UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources advisor and the webinar series coordinator.
The webinar series struck another first for the small foothill county. The recorded series was approved for continuing education units by the national Society for Range Management. Following are links to individual sessions:
Session 1 – Fire ecology
Fire ecology and behavior and benefits of prescribed fire, Susie Kocher, UCCE forestry advisor in Lake Tahoe
Prescribed fire for invasive plants and weed control, Fadzayi Mashiri, UCCE natural resources advisor in Mariposa and Merced counties
Session 2 – Permitting
CAL FIRE permitting and prescribed burning, Brian Mattos, CAL FIRE unit forester for resource management
Air quality permitting and the health impacts of fire – David Conway, environmental health director, Mariposa County Health Department
Session 3 – Prescribed fire planning
Wildland-urban interface dynamics and community planning – Steve Engfer, senior planner, Mariposa County Planning Department
Developing a burn plan – Rob York, UCCE forestry specialist
Session 4 – Resources for burning
Prescribed burn associations – Lenya Quinn-Davidson, UCCE fire ecology advisor
EQUIP funds for prescribed fire through the National Resources Conservation Service – Robyn Smith, Natural Resources Conservation Service district conservationist
Session 5 – Cultural burning
Benefits of cultural burn, Honorable Ron Goode, North Fork Mono Tribe
Social History of Fire in Southern Sierra – Jared Dahl Aldern, Sierra-Sequoia Burn Association.
The workshops were funded in part by California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative that puts cap-and-trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy and improving public health and the environment. Sponsors include the North Fork Mono Tribe, CAL FIRE and the Southern Sierra Prescribed Fire Council.