Archive for the ‘Forestry’ Category

This forestry film might be worth checking out

Monday, June 21st, 2010

I haven’t seen The Green Chain, but if I notice it on a TV listing I’ll probably make a point of watching it, just to see if I agree whether it presents the different viewpoints on the forest industry in a fair way.

(It currently has an average rating of 4.1 out of 10 at – that may be because it’s really that bad, or it may be because trying to be balanced just succeeds in making everyone mad)

Liquored up on subsidies

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

The U.S. subsidy is a tax rebate of 50 cents a gallon for converting from fossil fuel to a mixture of fossil fuel and biofuel. It was approved by the U.S. Senate in 2005 to increase the use of biofuel in highway vehicles. But in 2008, kraft pulp mills who have traditionally used black liquor – a by-product rich in carbon – for producing heat and energy, realized they could qualify for it if they added some diesel fuel to it. The resulting fuel meets the tax guidelines but burns more fossil fuel rather than less, turning the intent the legislation upside down.

… (full Vancouver Sun article here)

Luckily the outcry against this perverse “black liquor” subsidy isn’t limited to Canada – see this Wall Street Journal article.  I just hope that common sense prevails before the few remaining unshuttered Canadian pulp mills are forced to shut down.

Toilet paper guilt

Saturday, March 7th, 2009

When I was a kid back on our bush farm I knew what it was like to wipe my backside with pages from the Eatons catalogue, and compared to that experience I think most toilet paper is  pretty luxurious.  In other words I don’t require quilted TP that’s been soaked in skin lotion.  Recycled content is fine, and I don’t mind if it hasn’t been bleached to a brilliant white.

However when I read about the latest Greenpeace campaign against soft toilet paper I thought it went overboard in demonizing the Canadian forest industry.

I think that this response by Patrick Moore (former Greenpeace director) provides a good rebuttal.  A couple of  excerpts:

…Paper is made from the sawdust and chips left over from sawmilling, and from logs that are not suitable for making lumber. In environmental terms this is the beneficial use of what would otherwise be a waste product. Indeed, the parts of the log that are not suitable for paper, such as the bark and fine sawdust, are burned to make energy to run the sawmill and to dry the lumber.

In the end, 100 per cent of the tree is used. What is wrong with that?

Greenpeace and the NRDC claim that cutting trees to make paper is causing deforestation and huge emissions of greenhouse gas. This is simply false. Nearly all deforestation is caused by clearing forests for agriculture or for human settlement. Forestry causes reforestation, the opposite of deforestation. To verify this all one need do is read State of the World’s Forests by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN.

The International Panel on Climate Change and the Kyoto Climate Treaty specifically recognize that forest management plays a positive role in absorbing CO2 and preventing its release in the first place. It is stunning that Allen Hershkowitz, senior scientist for the NRDC, seems to be unaware of this.

Full article here.

Mack Williams – woodlot role model

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

For the one or two of my readers who might have an interest in private woodlot management, I refer you to the Mack Williams Woodlot Story.

It’s inspiring to read about how Mack transformed a degraded Ontario farm into a thriving mixed forest.   As he states,

… As I age I relax on the property much more than ever before, with a folding chair at various points on the trails. I may read, or just enjoy what Mother Nature has been doing. It is exciting to see, within my adult lifetime, a transition from an open, windswept eroding sandy landscape, to plantations up to 59 years old, some with dense sugar maple understory. I have seen quality logs from trees planted by myself and by family members. I see it becoming a sheltered place of peace and refuge from a hectic world. I am aware of gradual changes happening in the soil. I marvel at the contribution I am sure it is making to quality of air and ground water. I dream that it may become a place for teaching health, biological and artistic subjects. I can see the potential growth that lies ahead, including both the maple syrup and timber potential of the hardwood parcels. I can also see much work I could have done, had I had more time and energy, to make the stands even better. I can see other courses of action I could have taken, with equally exciting results. 
I marvel that Canada is a nation of trees and forests, an ecological, economic, social and spiritual treasure. I wish more Canadians could share this awareness and appreciation. I wish more landowners could have similar dreams and the energy and skills to make them happen. I wish that society might recognize how much it benefits from such a forest, perhaps much more than the individual owners, and how it might benefit greatly from offering realistic support to those engaged in private land forestry …  (ref)

Inspiring stuff for a someone who is just a year into being a private woodlot owner (part-owner).  Mack is a role model worth emulating.

However it’s discouraging to consider that he bought the land in 1946 when he was 22 years old.  I recently had my 52nd birthday, so when I reach Mack’s age (84, 85?), any trees that I plant this year will still be juveniles.  However his story ends with this encouragement …

… And I would hope that landowners everywhere will understand that it is never too early or too late to start.  (ref)

I suppose that if I plant fast-growing hybrid poplar I could still be around to reap the benefits.  However I’m more likely to choose slower-growing native species, and hope that my children and grandchildren will appreciate the results.

Carbon bomb?

Saturday, October 18th, 2008

As reported in various news media earlier this year, Greenpeace recently put out a report calling Canada’s boreal forests a “carbon bomb”. Interestingly, this article seems to assume that the instant a tree is harvested, all its carbon is instantly vaporized into the atmosphere.  There is no mention of the long-term carbon sequestration in wood frame houses and other wood products.  There is also no serious analysis of the natural role of fire in the boreal forest.

For some balance, click here for a science-based article on boreal forests and the carbon balance.

The sound of falling trees in the absence of humans

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

Interesting research findings in Transactions of the Important Tree Scientists 120(2): 201-209 …

Large woody debris plays an important role in stream habitat for fish, macroinvertebrates and thinking spots for “half-pint” from Little House on the Prairie and Pooh (Milne 1948). Little data exists monitoring the actual accumulation of debris, including whole trees, on the forest floor (Robison and Beschta 1990). For centuries, humanity has pondered the question “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound” (Cockburn 1988).


The results of this original research project provide strong empirical evidence supporting the hypothesis that if a tree does fall in the forest,  it does indeed make a sound, whether anyone is there to hear it or not.

Full article here.

Elk hunt finished, off to Slave Lake

Sunday, September 7th, 2008

Our elk hunt was semi-successful.  If the rut has started, we didn’t have much evidence, since about the only bugling we heard was the attempts of other hunters.  However Glenn saved us from being skunked by shooting a big fat cow elk that came to his Hootchie Mama call. Unfortunately I didn’t have a camera along, until Glenn and Mike picked up one of those cheap disposable cameras for me when they did the meat run.

Unfortunately I came back from the hunt having picked up a dilly of a cold.  It’s deep in my chest, and really not much fun at al.  I’ve been seriously thinking of not going to Slave Lake for the WESBOGY meeting, but if I’m not feeling worse by tomorrow, I think it will be a go.

So once again, things will be quiet around here for awhile.  I realize most of my readers (including the spammer bots) may not be interested in forest growth & yield technicalities, so I’ll probably spare you of insights gained this week.

The Fire Preventin’ Bear

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

I have had a fondness for the song “Smokey The Bear” ever since the surreal experience of hearing three of my forestry professors (Peter Murphy, Jack Heidt and Paul Woodard) sing it at an informal talent show event at the University of Alberta back in the early 1980s.

I realize that Smokey Bear doesn’t have a middle name, but to me he will always be The Bear.

I’m a YouTube star!

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

Well, not exactly a star. The Canadian Institute of Forestry (CIF) has produced some short videos about forestry. I’m briefly visible about 20 seconds into this 1-minute clip, and around 27 seconds into this one.

Praying for a cold snap … in Alberta

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

No I don’t particularly enjoy walking to work when the temperatures are in the minus 40 Celcius range, as expected tonight. This morning was cold enough, and it was only -32C.

However part of me is relieved that a cold period seems to have settled into the western Canadian provinces. That may sound like a really masochistic thing to say, but I have a reason.

As explained in this news article, a couple of years ago hungry hordes of mountain pine beetle(MPB) crossed the Rockies from B.C. into Alberta, and have been happily munching through huge areas of lodgepole pine forest in an epidemic of biblical proportions.

Forest management agencies have been trying to deal with its spread, and forest entomologists have been studying the question of how it will fare in its new habitat. A burning question is whether the MPB will be able to survive at epidemic levels in Jack pine, an alternative to lodgepole pine, its favoured host. That is a real concern to a lot of foresters in Saskatchewan’s boreal forest, where we have lots of Jack pine but no lodgepole. There seems reason to believe that MPB might do OK in Jack pine, despite the thinner phloem layer where the insect over-winters.

Apparently what it takes to really reduce the MPB from epidemic down to endemic levels is a good old-fashioned cold snap. I’ve heard varying estimates, e.g. two weeks of -35 to -40C weather, five days of -40C weather, etc. I’ve also heard that the cold snap must occur early in the winter before the insects have become winter-hardened.

A problem is that in recent years the prairie provinces have experienced warmer than average winters, whether due to anthropogenic global warming, as many scientists believe, or other causes as suggested by the climate change sceptics. Whatever the reason, if the current cold snap lasts a few more days, it should set back the MPB epidemic, and that would be a good thing.

Of course since the MPB hasn’t yet reached Saskatchewan, it would be nice if the cold snap were restricted to Alberta and B.C. Would that be too much to ask?

UPDATE 2008-01-30: I woke up this morning to the news that a 3-year-old Saskatchewan child died of exposure and searchers are looking for her 1-year-old sister. I hope that no-one misinterprets my concerns about ecosystem health with flippancy about the serious consequences of our cold winters. Keep safe people.