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Restored forests mitigate CO2 production

for the long haul.

 
 

The urgent need to incentivize forest ecology improvement above extractive logging…

California’s annual fire season once was made up of scattered wildfires that have been a part of forested and grassland ecologies for millennia, where fires caused damage of little consequence to healthy tree stands, burning out crowded understory and sapling overgrowth, maintaining healthy forest structure and genetic diversity. In less than 20 years this “fire season” has progressed to multiple annual catastrophic fires burning from July well into early winter, having increasing fatal and disastrous effect to human lives, entire townships, and to the land with which social, ecologic and economic well-being are so intimately intertwined. Not only are we loosing increasingly massive stands of carbon sequestering forestland each year, but these fires are in turn pumping massive amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere as they burn. It has become an imperative that we restore what remains of the forests—one of California’s main sources of carbon sequestration.

 
 

Clear cut at Owl-Creek grove, 1995, Headwaters, Northern Ca. You can see the even age growth in the upper right of this image next to the residue of more recent clear cut logging. The Headwaters Forest became a State Reserve in March of 1999, after the largest forest defense action in U.S. History.

 

The even-age growth from post clear cutting that we see today have created the conditions for the catastrophic fires raging annually.

98% of California forestland (nearly 50% of which is privately owned) is recovering from clear-cut forestry, which is still legal on private lands and widely practiced. Much of that forestland is 3rd, 4th and 5th generation grow back from multiple clear cuts and is in deep need of tending in order to bring it to a state of health and fire resilience.

Best-practices forest stewardship that thin overburdened stands of fire-fuel loads, that assists in genetic, age, and species diversification; watershed restoration; and natural succession (the gradual process by which ecosystems change and develop over time); is one of our greatest hopes for long term environmentally based carbon sequestration throughout California.

 
 

Clear cut logging 2018, on private land off Comptche Ukiah Rd. Mendocino, Mendocino County, CA

 

The unfortunate reality is that currently landowners are well compensated for timber felled by clear cutting which also costs far less then if they were to choose selective tree thinning methods. This is among other real challenges to making a shift to restorative forestry stewardship a standard.

However, the FRG has identified real solutions to the ends of main-streamed best-practices forest stewardship by revitalizing a localized forest product industry sourced only from forest improvement projects.

 

Forestland in Round Valley after selective small tree thinning by FRG member Dane Downing. Image credit: Dane Downing

Round wood from above tree thinning project, finished and utilized for a home shade structure by FRG member, Dane Downing. Image credit: Dane Downing

 

Chalenges >> Solutions

Challenge #1:

Land owners lack the informed will or the means to restore their forestland. The main forest improvement grants available make it difficult for the sale of thinnings to compensate for expenses, and landowners must put a large portion of the cost up front, making these options prohibitive for far too many.

 
 
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Solution:

IMPROVED COUNTY, STATE, & FEDERAL FOREST IMPROVEMENT ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS - Advocate for grants and assistance that are more accommodating for forestland owners, allow for the sale of by-products from restoration projects, and incentivize utilization of by-products

BUILD CAPACITY AMONG ALL FORESTLAND OWNERS - FRG’s will host workshops on forest improvement grants & assistance

FRG will advocate for, and host workshops by forest restoration specialists including traditional Indigenous forest stewardship practitioners

Challenge #2:

Create a market for forest thinnings.

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Solution:

MARKETING FOR SMALL POLE UTILIZATION (SPU) - The abundance of small diameter wood is a material-base for housing shortages.

Many meaningful uses including bio-char, biomass for gasification electric units, pallets, crates. It is an abundant by-product and potential material-base for a revitalized forest product industry that carries the integrity of making good use of a byproduct of restorative forestry.

EDUCATE THE PUBLIC ON THE BENEFITS OF SPU - Local byproduct sourced from restoration projects; superior quality wood than dimensional lumber bought at hardware stores; round poles are compatible with fire-resistant earthen wall features

EDUCATE A NEW GENERATION OF HOME BUILDERS AND CONTRACTORS ON SMALL DIAMETER POLE UTILIZATION - The more industry professionals and trades-people know how to work with small poles, the more access consumers will have to these services and methods of building and market demand will increase.

INCREASE EDUCATIONAL & NETWORKING OPPORTUNITIES - in small pole utilization and all aspects of forest reciprocity will increase awareness and therefore market demand.

FRG NATURAL BUILDING ARTS & INNOVATION CENTER - A centralized location where forest restoration byproducts can be brought, processed and made available to the public, the NBAIC will be developed as a HUB for knowledge sharing and innovating round wood timber frame design and engineering, natural housing techniques, and biomass product development; serving general contractors, natural home builders, innovators including students & interns, wood workers and more.

 

Chalenge #3

County agencies thwart large scale, coordinated restoration efforts due to autonomous mandates they must uphold, for example the Air Quality and Resource Conservation Districts.

 
 
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Solution:

ADVOCATE FOR POLICY CHANGES - Stakeholders participate in focus groups created by the newly established Mendocino County Climate Action Advisory Committee to implement policy changes for intra-agency mandates prioritizing GHG emission reduction and carbon sequestration efforts which include land and forest restoration and fire resilience.

CREATE A WIDER BASE OF FORESTLAND & WATERSHED RESTORATION EXPERTISE

- Advocate for restoration as a priority and end goal for forestry education curriculum in colleges, and for forestry certification throughout northern California.