- 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: Kim Ingram
With over 7,600 wildfire incidents and 2.2 million acres of forestland burned in California as of early September, it is understandable how some private forest landowners might feel both paralyzed and spurred into forest management activity at the same time. Yet even in these times of extreme weather and fire behavior, it is important to consider managing your forest, both before and after wildfire effects your forestland.
We know that California forest are fire-adapted systems. However, issues such as decades of fire suppression, the conversion of shrub habitats to conifer thickets, and the reduction and loss of both mountain meadows and more open forested habitats, have led to a huge build up in forest fuels and more severe fire behavior. Increased stress from drought and increased competition for water also leaves trees more vulnerable to insect and disease. Susie Kocher, Forestry and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension Advisor for the Central Sierra, and a registered professional forester, discusses why it is important for private forest landowners to develop a management plan and how a plan can lead to activities that could mitigate some of the negative impacts facing forests today.
Susie Kocher, Forestry and Natural Resources Advisor and registered professional forester
Q: What is a forest management plan?
A: A management plan outlines the goals and objectives a landowner has for their forestland. It describes the current condition of the forest, makes note of past management activities, identifies important natural and man-made features, and summarizes the landowner's vision for the future of their forestland. A plan can demonstrate your commitment to forest management for financial or tax purposes. A plan can be a guide to your heirs in continuing management activities you deem as important. Also, a plan helps you learn more about your forest.
A plan can be as simple as a list written by the landowner or as complex as a completed California Cooperative Forest Management Plan (CCFMP) that has been finalized and signed off on by a registered professional forester. It all depends on the goals and objectives of the landowner.
Q: Why should a private forest landowner have a plan?
A: Owning forestland comes with both benefits and responsibilities. Though landowners may enjoy their land immensely right now, they also need to protect the health of their forest for the future, including the water that runs through it, and the animal and plant habitats that are there. Landowners who live on the land, must also consider protecting their families and homes from wildfire and other natural disturbances. It is much harder to accomplish all of this without knowing what is on the landscape, what has been done to manage it before, and what still needs to be done to achieve these goals. A management plan gathers all of this information in one place and helps to chart next steps.
Forest landowners who work with a registered professional forester and have a completed CCFMP, can apply for cost-share programs (California Forest Improvement Program through Cal Fire or Environmental Quality Incentives Program through the Natural Resources Conservation Service). This funding can be applied to many of the activities landowners might be considering such as fuels reductions, habitat improvement, culvert and road improvements, or reforestation.
Q: What are the first steps a forest landowner can take to develop a management plan?
A: There are several first steps. First, a landowner should examine what they want for their forestland. Do the fuels need to be reduced? Are there post-fire activities like removing dead trees that need to be done? Write down and prioritize your objectives. Don't forget to consult with others if you own the property jointly. Knowing this before you contact a forester or other resource professional can help move the process along more quickly.
Next, contact your local Resource Conservation District (RCD) or Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office. Staff at both RCD and NRCS offices can help you connect with forest professionals, draft a management plan, or apply for cost-share money.
You may also consider attending a Forest Stewardship workshop though the University of California Cooperative Extension. The goals of these workshops are to help private forest landowners draft a CCFMP, connect with local RPFs, and to learn basic forest ecology and forest stewardship skills and information.
Forest Stewardship Workshop participant discussing his plan with Mary Mayeda, Forest Program Manager, Mendocino County RCD
Q: Are there costs for developing a management plan?
A: Yes, though this depends on how detailed a plan you want and need. A landowner who is not looking for cost-share money, or who simply wants to clearly communicate their desires for their property to others, can get by with a plan they develop using their own time and resources. If a landowner is working with an RPF to develop a plan, they will be paying an hourly rate or an overall fee to the RPF. EQIP and CFIP cost-share funds can be used to reimburse landowners for these plan development costs. Check with the local NRCS or Cal Fire office for the specific costs.
There is much work to be done in California to restore the health of our forests. Whether you are a forest landowner who has had wildfire on your property or not, addressing the effects of wildfire, or preparing for the eventuality of it, is going to take time, planning and resources. Having a forest management plan is a critical piece in this work. Don't wait.
For more information on Forest Stewardship, please see Forest Stewardship Series 2 A Forest Stewardship Framework, UC ANR Publication 8232.
- Author: UC Berkeley Public Affairs
Reposted from UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources news
A Berkeley researcher in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management travelled to Washington, D.C., to testify on Tuesday before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy and the Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change.
The hearing, titled “Out of Control: the Impact of Wildfires on Our Power Sector and the Environment,” included testimony from industry officials and specialists on a range of issues including wildfire, forest management, air quality, changing climate, and the power sector.
Brandon Collins, a forest scientist in the Stephens Lab and the Berkeley Forests group, discussed how forests historically had frequent fire of low- to moderate-severity but that a century of logging and fire suppression severely altered the landscape. He noted that the condition of contemporary forests—which now regularly experience large-scale tree mortality from such events as insect outbreaks and drought—need diverse management approaches to prevent more severe wildfires.
“Our great challenge is to manage forests such that they can tolerate fire, even under more extreme weather conditions, and still retain their fundamental character,” wrote Collins in his testimony.
Collins pointed to increases in tree density, greater amounts of dead biomass, the loss of larger trees, and increasingly homogenized vegetation patterns as factors that contribute to the greater intensity of wildfires. He said that—against a backdrop of complex land management, ownership, and societal constraints—forest managers must employ a diversified approach to forest restoration, even as climate change exacerbates many problems.
“Our current rate of forest restoration is falling woefully short of what is needed in these forests,” commented Collins. “It is time to prioritize forest health and resilience, even over other resource concerns, in order to ensure their continued provisioning of services we depend on.”
- Author: Jeannette Warnert
Reposted from the UCANR Green Blog
To help California forest property owners adapt to the changing climate, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) has produced a 13-page peer-reviewed paper that outlines actions owners can take to sustain their forests' value even when temperatures rise.
“Managers of forest land have always had to adapt to changing conditions – such as markets, urban encroachment, droughts and floods,” said Susie Kocher, UC Cooperative Extension forestry and natural resources advisor. “We wrote this paper to help forest managers better understand the evolving science of climate change and how they can help their forests adapt to the climate of the future.”
Forests are shaped by the climates in which they grow. The current rapid pace of climate change has not happened for thousands of years, according to climate scientists. Nevertheless, the authors assure forest landowners that there are land management decisions they can make to ensure the resiliency of their resources, and perhaps even improve them.
“Some trees may grow faster under the warmer conditions we experience with climate change,” Kocher said, “especially those at highest elevation where there is adequate precipitation.”
The paper details the solid scientific evidence that indicates the rise in global average temperatures over the past 100 years. The temperatures, it says, “will likely continue to rise in the future, with impacts on natural and human systems.”
The document provides specific recommendations for care of three common types of forest in California: mixed conifer, oak woodland and coastal redwood forests.
Mixed conifer forests – typically composed of white fir, sugar pine, ponderosa pine, incense cedar and California black oak – are susceptible to moisture stress caused by warmer temperatures and reduced snow and rain. The drier conditions make the trees more vulnerable to fire and insect attack.
The drought of 2010-2016 has already had a substantial impact on mixed conifer forests in the Sierra Nevada. Aerial detection surveys show that more than 102 million trees have died since 2010; more than 62 million died in 2016 alone.
The UC ANR climate change adaptation paper suggests reducing competition for water by thinning trees and managing for species and structural diversity. The authors suggest property owners consider the source of seedlings when planting new trees.
“Select seedlings adapted to a slightly lower elevation or latitude than your property,” Kocher said. “These would be more likely to thrive under the 3- to 5-degree warmer temperatures we expect in 50 years or so.”
Oak woodlands are widely distributed and diverse in California, which gives them moderate to high capacity to adapt to climate change. Mature oaks are more resilient than young trees and seedlings.
One potential impact of climate change on oak woodlands is increasing precipitation variability and increasing spring rains. The moisture change could increase the spread and prevalence of Sudden Oak Death (SOD), a disease caused by a bacterium that was introduced into California from outside the U.S. SOD is primarily a concern in areas with tanoaks in Central to Northern California coastal areas.
“To reduce the spread of sudden oak death, land owners should prevent the movement of infected leaves, wood and soil,” according to the paper.
The primary concern for coastal redwood forests is the decline in fog. Fog frequency in coastal redwoods is 33 percent lower now compared to the early 20th Century. Less fog and rain plus warmer temperatures would leave coastal areas where redwoods typically thrive drier. But that doesn't mean redwoods will disappear. Areas with deep soil and areas close to streams and rivers may provide refuge for redwood forests.
The new publication, Adapting Forests to Climate Change, can be downloaded free from the UC ANR Catalog. It is the 25th in the Forest Stewardship series, developed to help forest landowners in California learn how to manage their land. It was written by Adrienne Marshall, a doctoral student at the University of Idaho; Susie Kocher, UC Cooperative Extension forestry and natural resources advisor; Amber Kerr, postdoctoral scholar with the UC John Muir Institute of the Environment; and Peter Stine, U.S. Forest Service.
- Author: Jeannette Warnert
Reposted from the UCANR Green blog
After conducting extensive forest research and taking into consideration all aspects of forest health – including fire and wildlife behavior, water quality and quantity – a group of distinguished scientists have concluded that enough is now known about proposed U.S. Forest Service landscape management treatments for them to be implemented in Sierra Nevada forests.
“There is currently a great need for forest restoration and fire hazard reduction treatments to be implemented at large spatial scales in the Sierra Nevada,” the scientists wrote. “The next one to three decades are a critical period: after this time it may be very difficult to influence the character of Sierra Nevada forests, especially old forest characteristics.”
The scientists' recommendation is in the final report of a unique, 10-year experiment in collaboration: the Sierra Nevada Adaptive Management Project (SNAMP). A 1,000-page final report on the project was submitted to the U.S. Forest Service at the end of 2015. In it, scientists reached 31 points of consensus about managing California forests to reduce wildfire hazards and protect wildlife and human communities.
“SNAMP was founded on a desire to work collaboratively to protect the forests of the Sierra Nevada,” said John Battles, professor of forest ecology in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley and SNAMP principle investigator. “The challenges are multifaceted with a huge diversity of perspective among the public, among managers, and among scientists. SNAMP tried to bring all these interests and talents together to safeguard a vital resource and a natural wonder."
SNAMP was created to help develop a collaborative management and monitoring plan consistent with the Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment, signed by regional forester Jack Blackwell on Jan. 21, 2004. The amendment called for the use of fuel reduction treatments – such as prescribed burning, mechanical chopping of underbrush, and harvesting certain trees – in strategically placed areas to slow down potential wildfires and improve forest health.
Because of disagreements over forest treatments in the past, which often led to lawsuits that languished in court for years, the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Natural Resources Agency decided to take a new approach in 2005. They asked the University of California to provide unbiased scientific assessments of the impacts of the proposed treatments. UC was also charged with engaging the public concerned about repercussions of the forest treatments on wildlife habitat and water quality.
The scientific efforts and the forest treatments were all conducted in an open and transparent process. To ensure the greatest number of stakeholders were taking part, SNAMP included a public participation team of social scientists and UC Cooperative Extension outreach professionals to conduct and study the collaboration process.
Susan Kocher, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension forestry advisor in the Central Sierra, was a member the project since 2008 and served as the leader of the public participation team during the final two years, succeeding Kimberly Rodrigues, a UC forestry scientist who is now the director of the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center in Mendocino County. Kocher said having outreach and public participation included as a funded part of a science project is unusual.
“We were able to make great strides in getting everybody on the same page,” Kocher said. “That's what our data shows, too.”
A large volume of new scientific information was generated by the science team, and was published in 46 journal articles. The science spread fast and far, according to citation analysis conducted by the public participation team.
“We found that the average time it took for a SNAMP publication to be cited in another journal was about seven months,” Kocher said. “Citations to our articles came from all over the United States and around the globe.”
In addition, SNAMP science-based information was immediately useful to forest managers, according to a 14-page response to the SNAMP final report by the Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife and the California Natural Resources Agency. For example, an excerpt of the response submitted by California Fish and Wildlife noted that “SNAMP proved successful at modifying treatment methodology to meet the ever-changing reality of forest management.”
“The results were able to prove useful for managers past and future regarding how management can be implemented, in the face of wildfires while still retaining important owl nesting/roosting and foraging habitat features in and near owl activity features,” the document said.
SNAMP – funded with $15 million in grants mainly from the U.S. Forest Service, with support from U.S. Fish and Wildlife, California Natural Resources Agency and University of California – ran from 2007 to 2015. The project ended with the submission of the final report that contains details about the study areas, the treatment processes and reports from each of the six science teams. The science teams and their final reports are:
- Fire and forest ecosystem health
- Spatial - The study of forest canopy and understory with remote sensing technology called lidar, which uses reflected light for analysis.
- Wildlife: California spotted owl – A bird that is dependent on high-canopy forests.
- Wildlife: Pacific fisher – A weasel-like nocturnal animal that roams a wide area and nests in the hollows of old-growth trees.
- Water quality and quality
- Public participation
A key chapter in the publication is titled Integrated Management Recommendations. In it, the 31 points of consensus are outlined.
“The integration in this project is also unique,” Kocher said. “Scientists tend to work in their own focus areas, but we can learn a lot from each other's research projects.”
Working together, the scientists looked at all the research outcomes. The first 18 recommendations in the chapter are the direct result of scientific research conducted in SNAMP projects; the remainder of the recommendations are based on other scientific work and research.
Each of the recommendations is linked to a management goal. Some goals may conflict with achieving one or more of the other management goals. This approach to organizing the recommendations was taken to demonstrate that, while many of the management recommendations do not clash, a few may. For example, suggesting treatments across a landscape in a way that minimizes the negative effects on wildlife might reduce the efficiency of treatments aimed at reducing wildfire behavior and impacts.
The next steps are for the U.S. Forest Service to consider and adapt the SNAMP results and recommendations to continue to restore and protect the natural resources at risk in the Sierra.
“My hope is the SNAMP will be seen as a promising first try to apply adaptive management in the Sierra Nevada,” Battles said. “We gained important new insights about the ecology of these forests and we learned how to conduct applied research in an inclusive manner that engages not only scientists from multiple disciplines but also managers and the public."