Several windthrow events in 2015 have paved the way for a potential outbreak of Douglas-fir beetle in areas of eastern Washington this spring (2017).
The Douglas-fir beetle is a bark beetle that normally breeds in felled, injured, windthrown or root-diseased Douglas-fir. It may also attack western larch, but can only produce brood in downed trees. At outbreak levels, this bark beetle can attack and kill large diameter, healthy Douglas-fir. Outbreaks tend to occur after extensive windthrow events such as was seen in 2015. Outbreaks may also occur after defoliation events, fire and extended drought. Dense stands surrounding areas where windthrow, defoliation, fire and drought events have occurred may be at high risk for an outbreak, particularly if those stands contain a 50 percent or more component of Douglas-fir that are greater than 120 years of age and larger than 14 inches DBH (DBH = diameter at breast height; diameter of a tree bole 4.5 feet from the base).
The Douglas-fir beetle has one generation a year. Brood that developed through 2016 will pupate and emerge as adults this spring. Once emerged, they will begin attacking standing trees surrounding the windthrow, as the windthow is no longer habitable for them.
What can be done?
The best approach to prevent an outbreak this spring is to salvage any large diameter Douglas-fir or western larch that were downed by the storms prior to the adult beetle flight, which should occur in April, depending on temperatures. Windthrown trees can also be burned or chipped on site if salvage is not an option. Time is running out; if you find you cannot take care of this material, the use of the anti-aggregate pheromone MCH is another option.
A pheromone is a chemical released by bark beetles that is used to affect the behavior of other beetles of the same species. Aggregating pheromones attract beetles, while anti-aggregates repel them. A bark beetle might use an anti-aggregate to prevent overcrowding within a tree. An anti-aggregate basically tells other beetles that there is no room for additional inhabitants in the tree.
The Douglas fir-beetle naturally produces an anti-aggregate to repel others. A synthetic version of this anti-aggregate, MCH, has been produced and is available for purchase through several online companies. MCH comes in a “bubble capsule” and can be used to protect individual live, high-value Douglas-fir or even an entire stand. For individual tree protection, two bubble capsules can be stapled on either side of a Douglas-fir bole at approximately 6-8 feet from the ground for a tree less than 24 inches DBH. Four bubble capsules should be used for Douglas-fir larger than 24 inches DBH. To protect a stand of Douglas-fir, 30 bubble caps per acre can be evenly placed through the stand.
MCH costs approximately $2.50 per capsule and should be hung prior to the beetle flight in April. It is advisable to contact your local forest health specialist if you are considering this method of management. Additional information about this method can be found in the free publication, “Using MCH to protect trees and stands from Douglas-fir beetle infestation,” published by the US Forest Service.
“Lions and tigers and bears. Oh my!” Remember in the Wizard of Oz how Dorothy and her three companions (four if you count Toto), chanted this phrase in the creepy forest while looking over their shoulders nervously for certain doom?
Sometimes people who have moved out to their own little piece of paradise in a rural area feel this same trepidation, particularly after hearing a neighbor or news story about a predator encounter. It’s important to consider that we now live in someone else’s neighborhood, namely that of our rich Washington wildlife. This includes some significant predators. But don’t worry too much. With knowledge and good habits, we can peacefully coexist with these animals.
Worries over these big toothy critters include indirect effects, such as losing livestock or pets, or seeing damage to infrastructure from bears getting into garbage or destroying bee hives. These also may be sparked by fears of direct encounters with these animals. Here I will present a few facts, stories, and some links to good resources.
Predators tend to have large territories, and will continually cross ownerships in their quest for survival. This means that the home ranges of predators usually cover far more land than our average small forest landowner. If you see one, it probably is either passing through, or has found just what it needs there for a limited time (See cougar story below).
We have a rich variety of meat eaters across our landscape, with varying species and populations depending on where you are. Black bears, cougar, wolves, coyote, bobcat and fox all live with us, and sometimes thrive on our forest lands. Their life histories require killing of prey, and the size of prey generally correlates with the size of the predator. For example, coyotes eat mice and voles, cougars eat deer.
Mostly, we coexist with these animals and never even know they are there. But sometimes we notice. Smaller predators generally cause small scale problems, such as the occasional loss of pets (cats and small dogs) or small livestock (such as chickens). Those causing the deepest consternation for landowners are the larger predators, particularly black bear, and cougar. (Wolves are large and wide ranging, sometimes taking range livestock, but rarely causing problems for small forest landowners or threatening people directly. Hence I won’t discuss wolves here. Check the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website for useful information about dealing with wolves and all sorts of other wildlife.)
Cougars occur in most forested regions of our state, in varying populations, but basically can occur wherever prey, mostly deer, occur. Some of the Puget Sound islands are currently without cougars, perhaps due to historic extirpation, but one recently appeared on Vashon Island and has been quite the phenomenon there.
Cougar observations are rare, and those of us who have been fortunate enough to see one in the wild remember it vividly. Even rarer events are attacks on people (and pets) but they do occur. Precautions can be taken, particularly if active cougar sign is about. They are outlined in the WDFW publication, Living with Cougars. Remember, cougars prey primarily on deer. If you choose to feed deer, you may also be inadvertently attracting cougars.
I heard a landowner near Spokane tell me a story from his neighborhood of part time landowners, (where he lives full time), with seven deer feeders. These were the barrel variety with a timer that causes the noisy machine to come on at a set time. The deer would come running for the spray of delicious corn. Needless to say, the neighborhood has a healthy population of resident whitetail deer. There is also a resident mother cougar and her cubs. Nearly everyone had seen this big cat and several youngsters following her around. The neighborhood alarm was substantial. It was exciting but probably dangerous for all concerned, the cougar in particular. To my knowledge, the situation has not changed at the time of this writing.
Here is an interesting story about cougars from by my good friend, Don McIvor. He provided this transcript and wonderful video to add to this topic.
I received a trail camera for Christmas a few years ago and put it out on our 20-acre property near Twisp, Wash., in early January. A fresh snowfall blanketed the ground, wiping the forest floor clean and leaving few clues as to a good spot to mount the camera. I found a faint set of tracks, almost completely obscured by the new snow, and strapped the camera to a nearby tree. The photograph here (see above) is the very first image captured by the camera; you could have knocked me over with a feather! What followed was about a 10-day visit from this female cougar and her three cubs. I repositioned the camera to a nearby spot where the snow was so compacted I couldn’t distinguish the tracks. Turns out this area was immediately adjacent to a deer the mother had killed, and the packed-down snow was the cubs’ playground. I managed to document much of the visit with video and still photography. This was probably a once-in-a-lifetime event and I am pleased our small property could host the big cats, even if only for the short-term. This rare glimpse into the lives of these graceful creatures also illustrates our property’s role in the broader landscape where we help to maintain populations of animals that need large blocks of habitat to survive.
Black bears are big, cute, roly-poly, cartoonish characters; and are also the other big predator we may encounter on our small forest lands. Most of us have bears about. They are omnivorous but opportunistic predators, and will eat most anything they can find, including the occasional deer fawn or elk calf. They tend to be solitary and shy, avoiding humans whenever possible. They can be aggressive towards humans, but it is very rare and usually associated with a mother bear with cubs. Black bears are a game animal and may be taken during legal hunting seasons.
Black bears are famous as scavengers and will take advantage of free food. Avoid leaving pet food or garbage out in bear country. Bird feeders can also lead to bear attention. If bears find your feeders, take them down until the bear moves on. “A fed bear is a dead bear” is a saying among wildlife control folks. Habituating bears to human food will lead to trouble, especially for the bear. “Problem” bears are sometimes relocated by WDFW but this is a last resort in situations where the bear has become habitual to a location and human safety is at issue.
Trail cameras are an excellent tool for viewing wildlife on your property. They are a subject for a future article!
The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife has an excellent source of information on these critters in its Living with Wildlife Series
The message here is, if you live in wild lands, expect wild animals. Live accordingly.
And please send me good stories and photos!
By Ken Bevis, DNR stewardship wildlife biologist, Washington Department of Natural Resources, firstname.lastname@example.org
Pine needles, dry leaves, a recycle bin full of newspaper, dead plants. What do these items have in common? They can easily start on fire from a single ember.
Embers are small pieces of burning material that are carried into the air during a wildfire and can be carried over a mile before they fall to the ground. If these embers land on some dead leaves, dead needles, newspaper, cardboard or any other flammable material, they may start another fire. If this happens on your deck, roof or next to your house, that small ember could start a fire that grows and ignites your house.
Typically during a wildfire, the ember shower can spread more than a mile ahead of the main fire front. This exposes homes to the wildfire even when the smoke is still in the distance. Often, the ember shower is accompanied by high winds that blow the embers sideways. Embers going sideways instead of falling from the sky can slip under decks, porches and other places to start your home on fire.
Homeowners can take some simple steps to reduce the chances that an ember will start a fire on or next to their home.
Vents in soffits, eaves, crawlspaces and elsewhere — look for any opening around your house where an ember could possible slip through and start a fire. Make sure these vents are screened with 1/8-inch mesh.
Doors — even on outbuildings — should be tight fitting with no gaps around the frame.
Flowerboxes — keep them watered with healthy plants. Remove dried up, dead foliage.
Woodpiles — keep them at least 30 feet from structures.
Roof and rain gutters — inspect to make sure they are free of leaves, conifer needles and other burnable debris.
Decks and porches — install screen, siding or other material to prevent embers from blowing underneath.
Garbage cans and recycling bins — don’t leave them open and filled with paper or other flammable material. Use tight-fitting lids that will not blow off during the high winds typical around large wildfires.
Finally, before you leave on a summer or early fall vacation, do a fire safety check around your house at the same time that you do a security check. Look for items that could be ignited by an ember and move them away from your house.
These simple steps may help your home survive an ember shower from the next wildfire.
Click here to get more information on Be Ember Aware or call your local fire district or Washington State Department of Natural Resources office.
Northeast Region Office, Colville: 509-684-7474
Southeast Region Office, Ellensburg: 509-925-8510
Western Washington: 360-902-1391
Firewise tips and contacts on the Washington DNR website
Firewise Communities: a national non-profit that brings neighbors together to reduce their community’s wildfire risks
(This article first appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of Northwest Woodlands. It is published here by permission.)
What will be the log markets of the future? That’s a question for which all foresters and woodland owners would love to have a reliable answer. Whenever I venture into making predictions about the future, I’m reminded of a saying I heard years ago – there are two kinds of people that predict the future: 1) those who don’t know the future and 2) those who don’t know that they don’t know the future. So there’s my disclaimer. While I won’t claim to be able to predict the future, I present here a variety of wood products innovations and their potential implications for future log markets.
The Past (and Present)
For decades, the wood products industry has focused on maximizing the utilization of the forest resource. Said another way, the industry has focused on utilizing waste (e.g., via composite panels like particleboard), minimizing waste, and maximizing yield of sellable products. And of course, that trend continues today. For example, modern sawmills use scanning systems with computer-based optimization to get the maximum volume and/or value from every log. And veneer mills use technologies like ultrasound and video to grade veneer. Multiple types of scanning technologies (e.g., video, laser, and dielectric sensors) are now used to grade finished lumber as well.
Given a growing global population and the accompanying increase in the demand for wood products, the need for process innovations that minimize waste, minimize production costs, and maximize yield will only continue. However, there are newer drivers that are sparking innovation in the wood products industry as well.
The Present (and Future?)
Societal demand for products that are natural, sustainable, and renewable is what appears to be driving much of the innovation in the 21st century wood products industry. And if you’re wondering what specifically is meant by the terms ‘natural, sustainable and renewable’, my experience has been that these concepts are often best defined by contrasts. For example, ‘natural’ is often contrasted with synthetic or artificial. In other words, it’s all about the ‘source.’ For sustainable, the contrast in the forest industry is often with deforestation – of tropical forests in particular. And when considering what is or is not renewable, we often contrast rapidly renewable resources like wood or bamboo with non-renewable resources such as petroleum-based products.
I’ll present several examples of innovations with regards to the specific innovation impetus or driver (i.e., natural, sustainable, or renewable). However, admittedly, this categorization is primarily a convenient way to present a wide variety of innovations. The reality is, there is significant overlap in the natural/sustainable/renewable concepts and of course, many innovations are driven by more than one of these concepts.
The best way to summarize the ‘natural’ concept as a driver of innovation is with the phrase ‘consider the source.’ There are numerous ‘bio-based products’ made from plant-based resources and many of these products are not new. For example, the pulp & paper industry provides a great deal of products beyond pulp. Byproducts of chemical pulping include crude tall oil, crude sulphate turpentine, and lignin. These products are chemical feedstocks that are used to produce a wide array of products such as adhesives, fragrances, cleaners (e.g., Pine-Sol®), turpentine, food additives (e.g., glycerol ester of wood rosin – an additive for citrus-flavored beverages), rosin that baseball pitchers use, etc.
Again, these products aren’t new. The innovation in this sector may in fact be a return to past practices as the interest in natural products increases. I had the opportunity to visit Diamond G Forest Products, a small family business in southeast Georgia, a couple years ago. In addition to producing pine lumber, this company taps their pine trees for ‘pine gum’ (see Figure 1). They collect the gum in plastic bags and distill it. The condensed vapors are turpentine and the solid fraction is pine rosin. Of course, the basic source is essentially the same as when these products are produced from chemical pulping. The difference may be primarily in that the production process itself seems far more ‘natural.’
Other products that have garnered media attention in recent years include bio-based plastics. And this example covers both the ‘natural’ and ‘renewable’ innovation drivers. For example, both Pepsi and Coke have announced using ‘plant-based’ materials for their PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles. Pepsi’s March 15, 2011, news release states that the bottle is “…made from bio-based raw materials including switch grass, pine bark, and corn husks.”
As another example, Tecnaro, a German firm, invented a product known as Arboform® that they also refer to as ‘liquid wood.’ Arboform® is a thermoplastic material made entirely from lignin, another byproduct of pulping. As you can see from Figure 2, it can be used to make products commonly made from plastic. Hence these ‘liquid wood’ products are an alternative to plastics made from petroleum.
More generally, there is a trend related to ‘green chemistry’ and natural sources for common chemicals. For example, Dr. Kaichang Li at Oregon State University (OSU) invented a new formaldehyde-free adhesive for the wood products industry that is based on soybean protein. This adhesive is now being used throughout Columbia Forest Products’ hardwood plywood operations and marketed in the company’s PureBond® products. Other hardwood plywood firms have also developed soy-based adhesives.
The final example I will give in this category is related to wood preservatives from natural sources. I’m not aware of any major commercial successes yet in this area. However, research has been conducted for years on the use of various plant-based compounds for wood preservatives. For example, cinnamon leaf oil has been tested as a natural wood preservative. And a graduate student at OSU recently tested oils distilled from the foliage of western juniper. When tested on small pine blocks, the juniper oil was highly effective in providing resistance to termites and fungi. Commercializing this invention will require finding a cost-effective way to extract the oils, determining the required minimal concentration, and perhaps the most significant challenge, finding an environmentally-friendly method to apply and ‘fix’ the preservatives in the wood; a key challenge is preventing wood preservatives from leaching out of the wood when the wood gets wet.
As stated above, in the forest industry, the concept of sustainability is often presented in contrast to deforestation in the tropics. Many innovations in wood products have come about in recent years that are marketed as alternatives to tropical hardwoods. The overarching theme for many of these innovations is that of wood modification. Wood may be modified by chemical impregnation, thermal treatment, or mechanical treatment. As with many innovations discussed above, these concepts by themselves are not entirely new. For example, with respect to thermal modification, centuries ago the hulls of wooden ships were charred as a means to increase durability. However, what is new is more sophisticated means available nowadays to control the treating conditions and as a result, the material properties. Further, some technologies that were developed decades ago are just recently seeing commercial success.
We’ll begin with polymer impregnation. There are companies that produce products such as flooring, tabletops, and countertops that pressure impregnate wood with polymers such as acrylic to harden the surface. For example, Nydree Flooring in Pennsylvania impregnates oak veneer with liquid acrylic that then polymerizes and hardens within the wood cells. As they state, the product is “…300 percent more durable than standard engineered wood flooring.”
And Torzo Sustainable Surfaces is a new company in Woodburn, Ore., that produces polymer-impregnated panels for tabletops, countertops, wall panels, etc. They combine the ‘natural’ and ‘sustainable’ categories in that they use wood, as well as wheat straw, sunflower hulls, sorghum, and hemp.
Acetylation is another innovation that falls into the category of wood modification. The technology has been around for several decades. In fact, the first patent for acetylating wood was issued in Austria in 1930. However, commercial success for acetylated wood has only come about in the last 10 years or so. Accsys Technologies in The Netherlands is marketing acetylated radiata pine as Accoya® wood. The process involves using vacuum to impregnate wood with acetic anhydride followed by heat. The acetic anhydride alters the chemistry of the wood such that it has a greatly reduced tendency to adsorb water. The result is wood that is far more dimensionally stable, harder, and resistant to fungi and termites. Acetylated wood is being used for a wide variety of exterior products such as siding, windows, doors, shutters, bridges, etc.
The bottom line is that, by acetylating the wood, short-rotation, non-durable plantation species like radiata pine are made suitable for purposes previously restricted to slower-grown naturally-durable wood species. In fact, Accsys Technologies makes precisely this point in their advertising – “Accoya® has properties that match or exceed those of the best tropical hardwoods and treated woods, yet is manufactured using wood from sustainable sources.”
You may notice that we have a theme of ‘better living through chemistry’ developing here and that continues with the next example – furfurylation. This is another process by which non-durable wood species such as southern yellow pine, Scots pine, radiata pine, and maple are impregnated with a chemical (furfuryl alcohol, a byproduct of sugar production) that then polymerizes within the wood cells. The product is being marketed as Kebony® by a Norwegian firm of the same name. As with acetylated wood, the company states that one driver for the innovation is to produce a “…sustainable alternative to hardwoods from tropical regions.”
Wood modification is possible without the use of chemicals; thermal modification is an example of one such technology. The basic premise is still about chemistry though – the wood is heated to over 400° F in a special kiln and the result of these very high temperatures is to alter the chemistry of the wood such that it is more durable and stable. The process was developed in Finland in the 1990s and is used on non-durable species. Target markets include a wide variety of exterior applications such as decking, siding, doors, windows, spas, saunas, fencing, outdoor furniture, etc. And in keeping with the sustainability (and renewability) theme, Cambia, a U.S. producer of thermally-modified wood, states that their product is “…an environmentally responsible choice to tropical hardwoods or petrochemical-based wood alternatives.”
Lastly, Dr. Fred Kamke at OSU patented a process known as VTC wood – short for viscoelastic thermal compressed wood. This wood-modification process differs from the processes described above in that it relies primarily on mechanical rather than chemical or thermal modification. In simple terms, VTC wood is made by getting wood hot and wet and then applying pressure to essentially flatten the wood cells and thereby remove the pore spaces. Such an effect could be achieved via pressure alone, however the VTC process densifies the wood without damaging the wood structure. The result is an increase in stiffness approximately proportional to the increase in density. For example, in one research project, untreated hybrid poplar boards began with a density of about 21 lbs/ft3 and a bending stiffness (modulus of elasticity – MOE) of 1.26 million psi. After being densified to 42 lbs/ft3, the boards had an MOE of 2.32 million psi. Research is ongoing for markets that can capitalize on this process and for a means to conduct the densification on an industrial scale.
While many of the innovations presented above could also be categorized as being driven by an emphasis on renewable materials, there are a few for which that appears to be the primary focus. For example, in just the past few years, we’ve noticed several new consumer products made from wood that are traditionally made from non-renewable sources like plastics and metals. Examples include:
‘All of the Above’ – Natural, Sustainable, and Renewable!
No discussion of innovation in the wood products industry would be complete without a discussion of green building and cross-laminated timber (CLT). There has been a lot of attention in recent years to the fact that wood buildings can have a lower environmental impact than structures made of concrete and steel. However, concerns for seismic and fire performance, and the accompanying building codes, have limited wood’s use to residential and low-rise construction. But a relatively new product known as CLT is changing the rules of the game.
CLT was invented in Switzerland in the early 1990s. It is often referred to as ‘plywood on steroids.’ Structural plywood is made by cross-laminating (alternating the grain direction) veneer while CLT is made by cross-laminating lumber. Large panels can be made similar to the way glulam beams are made and these panels are then machined to create openings for windows, doors, plumbing and electrical, etc. The panels are then lifted into place by a crane and multi-story structures can be made in a fraction of the time required to construct concrete and steel buildings. For example, the 9-story Stadthaus CLT structure in London was built in 49 weeks; an equivalent concrete structure was estimated to require 72 weeks to build.
One concern that always arises with ‘wood skyscrapers’ is seismic and fire performance. However, a seismic test conducted in Japan on a 7-story CLT structure showed what we’ve known for centuries about wood – it is amazingly flexible and resilient. The structure showed no apparent damage even after a simulated 7.2 quake. Similarly with regards to fire performance. We’ve also known for years that massive timber structures perform well in fires due to the char layer developing on the wood which then serves to insulate the structural members from further damage. Another test in Japan on a CLT structure demonstrated that fact.
Implications for Log Markets
Of all the innovations discussed above, I believe CLT is the technology likely to have the most direct impact on the Northwest forest industry. This product capitalizes on the strength of solid-sawn softwood lumber – and of course, the Pacific Northwest is king in production of softwood structural lumber. CLT manufacturing capacity is slowly growing in North America. There is now one CLT manufacturing facility in Quebec (Nordic Engineered Wood), two firms in British Columbia (CST Innovations and Structurlam), and one in Montana (Smartlam). In March of this year (2014), Idaho Forest Group announced a joint-venture with Austrian Firm KLH to market and distribute CLT in the United States. Should a significant shift occur to the use of CLT in the construction trade, we are sure to see accompanying growth in the market for sawn lumber.
Beyond CLT, for many of the innovations presented above, it’s difficult to forecast the linkages to log markets. Innovations in biomass, bioenergy, and bio-based products are focused largely on the use of residues of forestry operations (e.g., logging slash and non-merchantable timber) and to some extent, purpose grown crops like hybrid poplar for transportation fuels. At the least, it seems clear that the development of a wood-based biofuels market in the Northwest will impact markets for residues.
Lastly, with regards to wood modification and ‘better living through chemistry’, many innovations are resulting in making wood quality less of an issue; foresters simply need to do what many have done for decades and that is – grow more fiber, faster!
By Scott Leavengood, director, Oregon Wood Innovation Center, Oregon State University
(If you are reading a paper copy of this newsletter, links for these events can be found at the WSU Extension Forestry Website: http://forestry.wsu.edu )
Forest Stewardship Coached Planning
If you own wooded property, our flagship course will teach you how to assess your trees, avoid insect and disease problems, and attract wildlife. State experts will help you develop your own Forest Stewardship Plan to keep your woods on track to provide enjoyment and income for years to come.
Forest and Range Owners Field Days are back in 2017
These all-day, out-in-the-woods, family-friendly events allow you to attend five or six different outdoor classes and workshops on topics like tree planting, weed control, thinning, tree diseases, mushroom-growing, and much more. Watch for registration information at http://forestry.wsu.edu
Eastside Field Day at Dayton, Wash., on June 24, 2017
Idaho-Washington Field Day at Athol, Idaho, on July 15, 2017
Westside Field day at Oakville, Wash., on August 19, 2017
Ties to the Land: A Facilitated Workshop on Succession Planning for Keeping Family Forests, Farms, and Ranches in the Family
Note: Dates and locations for these workshops will be determined by community interest. Contact Andy Perleberg at WSU Extension, 509-667-6540, or email email@example.com for more information and to request a class in your area.
Many small landowners want to preserve their family lands but don’t know how to involve family members in ownership and operation of their small land-based businesses. This facilitated workshop focuses on ways to maintain family ties to the land from generation to generation, and is a mix of presentations and practical exercises to help families address tough issues. Each family attending will receive a copy of the Ties to the Land, a workbook designed to help families continue to improve and direct their communications at home. Topics covered also will be relevant to professionals who work with landowner families. More information is available on the Ties to the Land website.