Is there a market for tiny trees?

 

Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story.

Flagstaff isn't the first place to try its hand at manipulating forests. One southwestern Colorado county has already learned some hard lessons about restoration's bottom line.

Like the forests around Flagstaff, the ponderosa pine forests in Montezuma County, Colo., show the effects of fire suppression, logging and overgrazing. The Forest Service wanted to restore these forests, and the county hoped to revive a struggling local timber industry by finding a market for small-diameter trees (HCN, 5/13/96). A collaboration among county officials, the Forest Service and Fort Lewis College researchers led to a pilot plan for about 500 acres of Forest Service land.

Like the Flagstaff group, the Ponderosa Pine Forest Partnership "tried to do the right thing ecologically, and let the chips - so to speak - fall where they may," says Dennis Lynch, a Colorado State University professor who advised the project.

After thinning and burning the study area, however, the group had truckloads of timber with nowhere to go. Bigger trees were easy; they were sold as sawlogs and sent to a nearby mill. Other timber was sent to a local producer of excelsior (a paper-like packing material), who unsuccessfully experimented with the small pines. But more than half the wood travelled about 100 miles north - to the Louisiana-Pacific waferboard plant in Olathe, Colo.

It wasn't the local business the Montezuma group had envisioned, but L-P's purchases enabled the project to turn a profit on three of its five study plots. "That plant makes the difference in doing good forest restoration and not doing it at all," says Lynch. "If we couldn't put wood into that plant, it would just be stacked up on the road."

Although researchers are still gathering data on the ecological success of the restoration, Bill Romme, a Fort Lewis College professor, believes the prescribed burning "accomplished its goal" of thinning the forests and encouraging the growth of grass.

But the forests of northern Arizona tend to grow denser, with smaller trees, than those of southwestern Colorado, and Lynch says the much larger Flagstaff project may have trouble getting rid of its timber, even if it's willing to sell the trees outside the local community. "If they're confronted with a lot more of the small-diameter logs than we were, they've really got a problem," he says.

Despite the difficulties, Lynch still supports the idea of "doing the right thing ecologically," and says the Flagstaff partnership may have one major advantage over the Colorado experiment. Private foundations have begun to take an interest in restoration forestry, and the Flagstaff group has put together a sizable nest egg, giving it more time to find local buyers for the small logs. It may be just the push these projects need, says Lynch. "They've got some money to work with," he says. "We're poor folks."

High Country News Classifieds
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    North Cascades Institute seeks their next Executive Director to lead the organization, manage $4 million operating budget, and oversee 60 staff. Send resume/cover letter to...
  • DISTRICT MANAGER
    The San Juan Islands Conservation District is seeking applicants for the District Manager position. The position is open until filled and application plus cover letter...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Mountain Time Arts, a Bozeman-based nonprofit, is seeking an Executive Director. MTA advocates for and produces public artworks that advance social & environmental justice in...
  • BEND AREA HOME WITH AMAZING CASCADE PEAKS VIEW
    Enjoy rural peacefulness and privacy with one of the most magnificent Cascade Mountain views in sunny Central Oregon! Convenient location only eight miles from Bend's...
  • MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a Marketing Communications Manager to join our...
  • EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks an Editor-In-Chief to join our senior team...
  • RESEARCH FELLOW (SOUTHWESTERN U.S. ENERGY TRANSITION)
    The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) in partnership with the Grand Canyon Trust is seeking a full-time Fellow to conduct topical research...
  • LENDER OWNED FIX & FLIP
    2 houses on 37+ acres. Gated subdivision, Penrose Colorado. $400k. Possible lender financing. Bob Kunkler Brokers Welcome.
  • ONCE OR TWICE
    A short historical novel set in central Oregon based on the the WWII Japanese high altitude ballon that exploded causing civilian casualties. A riveting look...
  • HISTORIC LODGE AND RESTAURANT - FULLY EQUIPPED
    Built in 1901, The Crazy Mountain Inn has 11 guest rooms in a town-center building on 7 city lots (.58 acres). The inn and restaurant...
  • HOUSE FOR SALE
    Rare mountain property, borders National Forest, stream nearby. Pumicecrete, solar net metering, radiant heat, fine cabinets, attic space to expand, patio, garden, wildlife, insulated garage,...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER- NORTHERN PLAINS RESOURCE COUNCIL
    Want to organize people to protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life with Northern Plains Resource Council? Apply now-...
  • CONSERVATION MANAGER
    The Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT) is hiring an energetic and motivated Conservation Manager to develop and complete new conservation projects and work within...
  • POLLINATOR OASIS
    Seeking an experienced, hardworking partner to help restore a desert watershed/wetland while also creating a pollinator oasis at the mouth of an upland canyon. Compensation:...
  • ELLIE SAYS IT'S SAFE! A GUIDE DOG'S JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE
    by Don Hagedorn. A story of how lives of the visually impaired are improved through the love and courage of guide dogs. Available on Amazon.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY
    All positions available: Sales Representative, Accountant and Administrative Assistant. As part of our expansion program, our University is looking for part time work from home...
  • RUBY, ARIZONA CARETAKER
    S. Az ghost town seeking full-time caretaker. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Powder River Basin Resource Council, a progressive non-profit conservation organization based in Sheridan, Wyoming, seeks an Executive Director, preferably with grassroots organizing experience, excellent communication...
  • ADOBE HOME
    Passive solar adobe home in high desert of central New Mexico. Located on a 10,000 acre cattle ranch.