- (Public Value) UCANR: Protecting California's natural resources
- 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: 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: 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.
- Author: Jocelyn Anderson
A Collaboration of Science and Business Could Rid Lake Tahoe of a Major Polluter
Lake Tahoe is known for its beautiful blue waters and remarkable transparency. But its clarity is threatened by climate change and urbanization — and billions of tiny invasive shrimp.
Researchers at the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center are dedicated to investigating the many factors facing the lake today, collaborating on solutions and educating the public.
According to the most recent Tahoe: State of the Lake report, published yearly to present data in the context of the long-term record, efforts to restore clarity have been directed at mitigating the impacts of land-use practices and urbanization. But researchers have recently identified Mysis shrimp as a previously unconsidered major cause of clarity decline in Lake Tahoe.
“I am now totally convinced that the Mysis are the major cause of the problem, and controlling their numbers is the solution,” said Geoffrey Schladow, director of UC Davis TERC and a professor in the College of Engineering.
Now TERC, in collaboration with students from the UC Davis Graduate School of Management, is seeking a way to reverse the damage the shrimp have caused. Could a program to remove Mysis rapidly improve the clarity of Lake Tahoe? And could this be done efficiently and be financially beneficial?
Billions of invasive Mysis shrimp, introduced in the 1960s as a food source for native trout, live in Lake Tahoe, where they have almost eaten to extinction the native zooplankton that historically helped keep the lake blue and clear.
In 2011, TERC researchers found that when Mysis shrimp mysteriously disappeared from Emerald Bay, native zooplankton rebounded almost immediately. Within two years, clarity had increased by almost 40 feet. The reverse effect occurred when the Mysis returned.
“It always bothered me that solutions to aquatic problems were purely land-based, when it was well-known that the entire aquatic ecosystem had been altered by invasive species,” said Brant Allen, TERC biologist.
TERC researchers have spent many late nights trawling for shrimp as part of a two-year pilot project — now nearly finished — to find an effective means of removing enough Mysis shrimp to make a difference in the lake's clarity.
So far, results have yielded baseline data to establish when and how to harvest the Mysis, the level of efficiency needed, and the hands-on experience of what it would entail, said Schladow. The center also is refining its methods for achieving harvesting efficiency and seeking capital investment.
Using a commercial trawler, TERC researchers now know how to reduce the Mysis numbers to the point where the beneficial zooplankton could return. But the solution creates another problem: It's costly and then they need to find something to do with the gathered shrimp.
Enter students at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management.
Could they help find a marketable use for the tiny shrimp and also generate revenue from their removal?
For their capstone project, second-year MBA students are linked with client sponsors to solve real-world issues over a 10-week academic quarter. The Integrated Management Project gives students practical, hands-on experience working in partnership with diverse organizations. Previous clients include IBM, the Sacramento Kings, PG&E and the city of Sacramento.
Collaborating with TERC as the client this fall, a team of six M.B.A. students sought to investigate the market potential for the shrimp with an eye toward generating awareness of invasive species and revenue to help fund their removal.
To begin, the student team investigated the problem, spoke with experts and weighed potential options.
Mysis shrimp are rich in omega-3 fatty acids for their size. Additional collaboration between TERC and UC Davis food scientist Juliana de la Moura Bell helped better understand the composition of the shrimp.
The team looked at the market for the shrimp, which included fish food, human supplements and pet food.
In the end, they landed on the premium dog treat market. In the U.S. alone, pet treats account for almost $7 billion in sales per year.
“Because so many people own dogs and love talking about their dogs, we thought that's where we could generate the most awareness,” said Yuan Cheng, a second-year M.B.A. student, who now leads the project. “We could eventually branch out into other things, but we tried to focus on one initial go-to-market product.”
The students conducted a survey of dog owners to better understand the market potential. They asked about what dog owners look for in treats and willingness to pay a premium for products with an environmental benefit.
From the survey, they found two primary segments of people who would be most interested in such a product: purpose-driven millennials and older folks with more disposable income. The caveat? The dog must really like it.
“You still need to make a really great product,” said Cheng. “Assuming you have parity on all the other levels, then yes, people will pay a small premium for it.”
TERC approved the idea.
And though the academic quarter ended, plans are underway to create a self-sustained nonprofit, in which revenues ultimately cover the cost of removing the shrimp from the lake.
“It's a powerful image of using science to both cure a problem (ironically caused by poor science 50 years ago) and to capitalize on the solution,” said Schladow.
Cheng is now building a team that will drive next steps on testing, food safety and product development. Schladow will also be closely involved.
Fund raising is set to start in July. A possible Kickstarter campaign would communicate the value of the project to potential backers.
If all goes according to plan, the team would start with a pilot project in Emerald Bay in June 2021. Then, TERC researchers could monitor improvement and direct any efforts to scale up the project to the entire lake.
Of course, success would mean that shrimp are removed from the lake.
“It's a business designed to put ourselves out of business,” said Cheng, noting the goal is to reduce the Mysis population density down to 27 individuals per square meter as full removal is impossible. Eventually, he added, they could move their operations to other lakes where the Mysis are a problem.
Not every Integrated Management Project gains enough momentum to move on to implementation. And team members said the experience is invaluable to their development of analytical and leadership skills.
“The collaborative aspect was amazing,” said Cheng. “The amount of expertise available to us was so helpful and validated how awesome it is at UC Davis to have all these resources in one spot.”
And not every project has the potential to make a real difference in a 2-million-year-old lake. But Schladow said removing the Mysis shrimp from Lake Tahoe could mean increasing the clarity to levels not seen in decades, and in the process it could potentially “climate proof” the clarity of the lake.
“The impact on Tahoe is huge, as clarity here is what symbolizes the lake,” said Schladow. “I believe that many of the other issues at Tahoe have a connection to the loss of clarity. These would include the spread of invasive plants and fish. If they show improvement at the same time, then it is likely that the entire native food web will start to restore itself.”