Working together we can ensure forestland health and fire resilience by revitalizing a forest product industry sourced from the byproducts of forest improvement projects.

The focal strategy of FRG for improving ecosystems and resiliency in the western region is the utilization and promotion of small diameter trees thinned from overburdened forestlands, providing land stewardship services and assistance, value added timber frame homes, and many other meaningful products. FRG seeks to collaborate with First Nations, land-owners, and local and state agencies to this end.

Preventing catastrophic wildfires through bio-regional economic development of small pole utilization can change the way we think about housing and our relationship with the land we depend upon for materials and well being. Forest reciprocity can be an invaluable advance or long range carbon sequestration, for local economic development, and for entire ecosystems of rural communities across many bioregions.

 

A call to all forest stewards, foresters and land owners…

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There is a responsibility attached to forestland ownership, land with which social, ecological and economic well-being are so intimately intertwined. We live in an era with great need to sequester carbon as quickly as possible, as well as reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Yet today’s wildfires are taking human lives, whole townships, and entire forests—one of California’s greatest sources of carbon sequestration—while pumping massive quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in increasing amounts annually.

FRG’s mission is to incentivize the utilization of small trees thinned from county-wide forest restoration projects as an alternative to stick lumber sourced otherwise.

FRG’s Forestry Management Standards

FRG’s stewardship standards are guided by the understanding that forests are deep networks of complex living systems. We promote the utilization of materials only sourced through restoration management to improve forest structure and watershed health, to regain canopy integrity and species diversification. The issues at hand, and a basic outline of restoration methods for forest health and long term carbon sequestration are outlined below. Keeping in mind that every site has a specific prescription.

 
 

mnay problems

Crowded even-age trees on millions of acres of forestland—a result of clear-cut forest management—have increased the certainty of catastrophic wild fires throughout California. Very fast growing Douglas fir crowds out the slower growing hardwood species, compromising species diversification and stable forest structure. In the untended even-aged forest all flora is in deep competition for ground water and soil nutrients, increasing the risk of insect and disease infestation. Dense shrubs, young, dead and suppressed trees, called ladder fuels, allow fire to climb the healthier trees and burn entire forest canopies.

 
 

Removing Ladder Fuels: Small diameter tree thinning

Small diameter tree thinning allows healthier trees to take in more water, nutrients and sunlight. Removing over crowded trees and ladder fuels reduces the fire fuel load and can be a preparation for prescribed burns.

Prescribed burns

Controlled burns intentionally set burn away excess vegetation to mimic the impact of historic ground fires and keep the forest from becoming overgrown. Many California species such as the fire poppy, redbud and manzanita lay dormant and will only germinate after a place has recently burned. Without fire there is a loss of species diversification and severely compromised forest structure.

Watershed restoration / Infiltration

The litter and duff layers over the forest’s mineral soil consist of decaying organic matter. These layers hold much of the water available to the ecosystem long after the rainy season and even into drought years. Thinned trees and brush can be mulched or strategically placed within the landscape to increase water retention and reduce erosion.

 

Plecraft Sollutions crew selectively thinning small diameter trees in forestland near Laytonville, CA.

Prescribed burn, Sonoma County, CA

Jackson Demonstration State Forest, Old Growth stand at Chamberlin Creek, Mendocino County, CA

 
 
 

Forstland after selective small tree thinning restoration project by FRG member, Dane Downing, outside Round Valley, CA

 

FRG’s mission is to incentivize local restorative forestry projects by promoting small diameter pole utilization as a first choice to address affordable, local, fire-safe housing needs.

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Small Diameter Pole Utilization

 
 

Traditional Uses & Emerging Markets

Small poles have been used as the framework for housing and shelter for millennia in forested areas around the world. Dimensional lumber has only been used within the last hundred years. In the early years of milled lumber derived from old growth trees, the growth rings were compact and many thus providing superior strength and structure. Today the quality of lumber found in retail stores has been compromised in the wake of clear-cut forestry, the extractive unsustainable management of our forestlands. The lower quality of this product is a result of utilizing fast growing trees which form larger growth rings. It’s thought that an abundance of that high quality wood is a thing of the past.

A solution to this dilemma is in the materials thinned for forest restoration and has multiple advantages of fire prevention, forest health, as well as economic development.

 
 
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Tight-ring sturdy building material

No need for dimensional milling

Byproduct of restorative forestry management

Affordable material for housing and shelters

Compatible with fire resistant cob and other earthen infill materials

 
 

The solution to reducing catastrophic fire fuel loads economically lies in the need for high quality building materials. Here’s how:

  • Suppressed and limited growth patterns of smaller trees thinned from over-burdened forests creates tight dense growth rings within the trees' structure.

  • Suppressed growth small diameter trees mimic the same structural characteristics and integrity of old growth trees.

  • High quality, small diameter trees can be utilized for housing without the laborious step of dimensional milling.

  • Utilizing these abundant thinned trees as small pole building materials for homes can make housing more affordable.

  • Building techniques for housing that utilize small logs and include earthen materials to enclose/encase small pole framing produce structurally integral, fire-resilient buildings.

 
 

Fire Safe Housing

 
 

The most efficient, sustainable and intelligent solution for today’s housing needs is the use of small diameter poles, that are selectively thinned to restore forestlands. Small poles are abundant and going to waste in too many cases. But when understood as a valued byproduct of restorative forestry management and fire mitigation, this viable and superior building material can change the way we think about housing and our relationship with the land we depend upon for materials and well being.

With creative adaptability, round pole timber frame homes are constructed using peeled log posts while applying traditional and innovative joinery and infill techniques.  The live-edge, prefabricated small diameter poles quickly assemble into beautiful sturdy superstructures for home and utility. Compatible with cob, plastered straw bale, wood chip clay, and other natural composite infill, then coated in earthen plaster.

These homes are compliant with Cal Fire Wildland Urban Interface Building Standards.

 

Round or partially sawn timbers have their bark removed from where they are felled. 

 

Connections are secured using interlocking wood joints, such as the mortise and tenon joint, hardwood dowels, and angled shear bracing. 

Buildings made from small pole frames, enclosed with natural composite infills and coated in earthen plaster are wildfire resistant and extremely energy efficient.

 

Assembled frames are surrounded by earthen walls, or walls coated with thick, fire resistant natural plaster that also serves to shield the structure from the elements. The smooth and sturdy round pole framework is left exposed to the interior of the building, embracing occupants with a sense of security and well being. Earthen materials are typically used on the ground floor, with pumice thermal breaks below and at the edges.  Radiant floor tubing or hypocaust systems can be built into these earthen floors for heating or cooling.

The roof—being the most vulnerable to wildfire destruction—is applied with clay and concrete tile which are the most fire resistant. Other materials used for roofing include epoxy-coated steel shingles and metal roofing.

 

FRG has been a conduit of funding for the engineering of an affordable and efficient "saltbox" design, developed by Polecraft Solutions, who have years of experience working with these materials and further developing natural building techniques. This saltbox design is now available to the public as a home framing kit, with minimal site specific cost additions. Not only an affordable framework for green housing developments and eco-villages, but an economic  solution addressing housing needs for fire victims and the housing crises we see throughout CA

 

More uses…

Shade & Utility Structures | Lodge Pole Structures | Round Pole Gazebos and Kiosks | Round Wood Furniture | Small Pole Agricultural Trellising | Traditional Split Rail Fencing & Round Wood Livestock Fencing | Biochar | Basketry | Mycelium Log Plugs & Substrate for Mushroom Farming | Small Log Shiitake Farms | Wood Pallets | Attractive Wood Gift Crates | Wood Stove Fuel Pellets | Biomass for Gasification Energy Units | Forest Mulch / Wood Chips …

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