Skip to comments.Ramping up is hard to do when logging in northern Arizona
Posted on 08/03/2014 3:06:59 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
How do you turn hundreds of thousands of acres of smallish trees into a profitable product?
If youre the Campbell Group, contractors for the Four Forests Restoration Initiative, you do it the old-fashioned way: Convert timber into lumber. Company officials say they will forgo more costly biofuel efforts for now as they prepare to thin 300,000 acres of northern Arizona forests.
But the company faces a challenge even larger than the small trees. The logging industry has all but vanished from this region of the country. To thin that many acres, theyll need drastically more loggers, trucks and mills.
At a forum hosted in Flagstaff by Arizona Forward last week, Campbell Group area head Steve Horner said that the 4FRI contract would not be a big deal to complete if it were located elsewhere.
What were facing here in the region is the loss of those resources, Horner said. Even if we were to put all those resources on our contract, it would only cover about 30 percent of the work that needs to get done.
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Its been one year since Oman-based Good Earth Power was awarded the nations largest U.S. Forest Service stewardship contract in history, following a false start and much controversy surrounding the initial contractors. The company subcontracted the work to the Campbell Group, a logging company active in the Pacific Northwest, Australia and elsewhere.
And so far, the work is progressing very slowly. The contractors have cut only a few thousand acres versus the 40,000 acres initially projected for this year as well as last year.
Horner says that the first order of business for his company is to try to identify and mobilize timber harvesting resources. Horner said the company will need an estimated 300 logging trucks a day to move millions of tons of materials off the forest, and those resources arent going to appear with just a snap of the fingers. One of the things being considered is ramping up education and training at the community college level to help build a skilled labor force to tackle the timber.
Weve been hired to hire loggers, hire trucks, move the wood to the distributors (that) Good Earth Power is setting up and telling us where to move the wood, Horner said.
He later added, In the end, its not going to be too revolutionary.
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If all the forest lands in the Campbell Groups contract are approved, theyll have some 300,000 acres to thin. The environmental impact statement on that is due out in September and will be the largest of its kind in Forest Service history.
But 4FRIs long-term goal is to treat a much larger chunk of wildfire-prone forest stretching from the Grand Canyon to New Mexico before it burns. Of the total 2.4 million-acre target treatment area, the Forest Service hopes to restore about 1 million acres within the next 20 years. And within that area, theres an average of 400 to 1,000 trees in every acre, according to Dick Fleishman, who heads the 4FRI project for the U.S. Forest Service.
The historical norm on the 4FRI project land, which is slightly bigger than Yellowstone National Park, is thought to be more like 20 to 100 ponderosa pines per acre. That means there are some four to 50 times more fuels than normal packed into any given acre of forest. Legal requirements and protections for creatures like the Mexican spotted owl keep them from being able to thin back to natural levels, but where they can, the Forest Service does intend to try to come close.
Were looking to create grassy openings, which will increase our diversity, Fleishman said.
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Despite the huge number of pines to be removed, those trees are worth very little.
Nonetheless, the biggest money generator will still be old-fashioned lumber. Horner said that the Campbell Group intends to leverage its proximity to large communities like Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, New Mexico and even cities south of the border.
Its a well-situated wood supply to be close to a lot of metropolises, so this is keeping us optimistic, he said.
Another factor working in their favor is that pine has kept its value, while other woods have declined in price, he said.
He said that the companys bread and butter will be making that lumber out of trees between 13 and 16 inches in diameter. Just how many two-by-fours can you pull out of such a small tree? A Phoenix-based public relations firm answering Daily Sun questions for the Campbell Group said it was impossible to tell. Few trees are ideal and many have variables like knots, shape and condition.
As they ramp up, the contractors have purchased the Lumberjack Sawmill in Heber, with plans to build a much larger processing facility somewhere in the region.
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On the even smaller end, the Novo Biomass plant in Snowflake will get the brush and very young trees. There, the wood will be burned and turned into electricity. The power plant operators contend that their biofuels are cleaner than fossil fuels because the carbon dioxide they release is offset by what the plants absorb during their lifetime. The company also makes the case that its plant filters the burnt trees, removing nitrogen oxides, unlike what would happen if the trees burned in a wildfire.
Other products will include landscaping mulch and composting. It is not looking at oriented strand board, or OSB, as had been discussed in the past with 4FRI.
The plan also contrasts with the reason Good Earth Power took an interest in northern Arizonas forests. The company specializes in biofuels and got word of a virtually endless supply of organic material. The problem is that the technology doesnt exist to make that practical.
New technology takes time; we cant afford to wait for that, Horner said.
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Part of the push comes from local officials eager to get thick stands of forests cleared before they go up in flames. One of those officials is Coconino County Supervisor Mandy Metzger. Part of her district is within the Schultz flood area.
At the Arizona Forward forum last week, she said that the Schultz fire and recent Slide fire show the perils of inaction. Since 2010, some 50 floods have hit downstream from Schultz and damaged some 85 homes, according to Metzger. One of those floods killed a 12-year -old girl.
Those floods have already cost Coconino County and other government agencies about $25 million to date. And from an environmental standpoint, Arizona Forward leaders said they had decided to host the forum because loss of forests means loss of water supply. One of the partners in Arizona Forward is the Salt River Project, which provides water to much of the state.
Our forests are the sponges that absorb precipitation and deliver it to our communities at a pace that we can use it, said forum moderator and Northern Arizona University Professor of Environmental Science and Policy Tom Sisk. Without healthy forests, we see dysfunctional water systems.
He said that forests will increasingly become an issue by 2050, as climatologists have placed a bullseye over Arizona for declining precipitation.
We are at a tipping point where minor developments may bring about significant and rapid changes, Sisk said.
Eric Betz can be reached at email@example.com or 556-2250.
My point, even where people are green to the point of absurdity as they are here in Germany, sensible regulations are possible. When whole industries in whole sections of the nation are handcuffed because of a few birds or a few snakes, we are confounded by our own fastidiousness.
Our culture has been conditioned ever since Walt Disney's Bambi to exalt this green fantasy over intelligent management of resources. Our law has so perverted procedure that the outcome is inevitable. When the court grants standing to green groups to bring "friendly" lawsuits against the EPA only to result in sweetheart settlements in favor of green fantasy, legalistic tyranny triumphs over democracy.
There mills in in the mid west who specialize into turning threes that size into 2x4s.
Believe me, one day they will spot a single flying horny toad and all work will stop to save the species.
There is a very good reason that the lumber industry there all but vanished and “once burned” won’t return freely.
They ought to bring millions of Sierra Club members to ask each tree if it want’s to be converted into lumber. Those that don’t....stay. Those who do continue on to meet a horrible and excruciating death by mechanical “tree death” machines.
They don't understand conservation - they're indoctrinated by academics preaching "the environment" and "the holiness of being green." Then it's reinforced by uninformed teachers, lazy politicians and a biased, ignorant media - now business has climbed aboard to profit from the ignorant public!
I remember when Scouting was more than promoting homosexuality, feminism and selling cookies.
There are mills in the South where the head rig cannot accept a log over 24" in diameter.
This has been a long time in the planning - gone through endless, repetitive EPA, “interested” parties, stake holder road blocks and hoop jumps - the pendulum has begun to slowly swing back. Flagstaff is granola squared, so it’s telling when something as massive as this begins.
America’s problem isn’t so much forests or management (well, pre-1990’s management). We have more forested acreage than when Columbus set foot here. We also grow more biomass than we cut. The new ‘natural’ management systems are designed to kill forest resource use. There are many management issues out there today, but the forestry school are churning out PC idiots just like every other school. Of course, it’s alright to import forest products from overseas or allow foreign groups like this one from Oman.
Who the hell cares anymore?
“Never gonna happen”, the “enviros” will get some liberal judge to support a court injunction against the project and all things will stop.
We have institutionalized globalism. Our institutions practically require American companies to go offshore and when they do, the same politicians who by their laws and regulations have forced them offshore, will accuse them of being unpatriotic. If we complain of foreign companies being brought into America we are charged with everything from racism to jingoism.
No one cares anymore because to do so is to lift one's head above the parapet and risk getting it shot off. Who wants to battle charges of racism, nativism, and (gasp) anti-Americanism? And to what ends? Prophets have all been wrung out of logging in Arizona and elsewhere by regulations which smother the industry and which have undercut the infrastructure needed to support it. There is no upside to political incorrectness or fighting the system in any way.
Until we have a culture that exalts capitalism and does so fearlessly by that name, I see very little hope of improvement.
They subcontracted to a company that’s working to find the equipment, the mills and the workers.
“.....Horner says that the first order of business for his company is to try to identify and mobilize timber harvesting resources. Horner said the company will need an estimated 300 logging trucks a day to move millions of tons of materials off the forest, and those resources arent going to appear with just a snap of the fingers. One of the things being considered is ramping up education and training at the community college level to help build a skilled labor force to tackle the timber......”
California transplants who "knew best" how to take care of the land invaded Arizona (including Flagstaff) but NOW that their property and their livelihood sits in a tinderbox (some lie in the path of flash flooding due to burns) they're singing a different tune.
Didn’t the president of the Sierra Club built a log home consisting of 2 million logs a few years back? I think so.
That I understood. What I didn't understand was why award the contract to a company from a nation where not a single tree grows natively?
The “green fantasy” goes to the heart of the human spirit, for it temps mankind in way similar to the way Satan tempted Eve: that salvation is possible by achieving harmony with “nature”, which in reality is a false god commonly called Gaia.
That would be the MEXICAN flying horny toads in Arizona. Here in Arizona we slap "MEXICAN" to the name of every "endangered species" the jugheads can come up with. Mexican Spotted owl. The Mexican wolf, etc.