SEFS to Host Wood Identification Workshop

Next week, the Center for International Trade in Forest Products at SEFS—in partnership with the World Resources Institute’s Forest Legality Initiative, World Wildlife Fund and the U.S. Forest Service International Programs—will be hosting a two-day workshop, “Development and Scaling of Innovative Technologies for Wood Identification.” Held in the Forest Club Room on February 28 and March 1, the workshop will feature short thematic presentations, as well as breakout groups centered on the different technologies, in order to dive deeper into the methodologies and challenges of the taxonomic and provenance (origin) identification of wood and forest products.

The remains of illegally harvested trees in Ghana.

Workshop Context
In many parts of the world, illegal logging continues to drive deforestation and poses a significant threat to biodiversity, the livelihoods of forest-dependent communities and the rule of law. As part of an international effort to combat illegal logging, the U.S. Lacey Act was amended in 2008 to require that an importer must declare the species and origin of the forest product they are importing. Since then, government and academic labs have been working to develop methods to identify the species and origin of timber and wood-based products. However, the ability to scale these methods and make them available to enforcement officials and the private sector has yet to materialize.

One of the problems for enforcement agents tasked with Lacey compliance is an inability to quickly and accurately verify the information in customs declarations. For all but the most experienced wood scientists, timber and forest products are nearly impossible to identify to species. Additionally, there is little to aid an agent in verifying a timber or wood product’s origin.

This workshop will convene academic, government and enforcement sector entities to help map out the biggest challenges, and set up partnerships and collaborations to resolve these challenges in the United States. Participants from SEFS include Professors Ivan Eastin and Indroneil Ganguly, Research Associates Daisuke Sasatani and Francesca Pierobon, and alumnus John Simeone. Other core participants will include scientists who have built methods in wood identification using mass spectrometry, stable isotope, wood anatomy, genetics and near-infrared spectroscopy; scientists who employ these methods on non-wood based materials; and state and national enforcement agents who will provide insights on their needs.

For more information about the workshop, contact John Simeone or Meaghan Parker-Forney.

Photo © Jane Atkins.

CINTRAFOR Grad Students Take Top Honors for Conference Posters

This past fall, SEFS graduate students Clarence Smith and Cody Sifford presented posters at the 2014 American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) national conference, held November 12-15 in Orlando, Fla. Both students work within the Center for International Trade in Forest Products (CINTRAFOR), and their research posters swept the top honors in the graduate student poster competition!

Clarence Smith and Cody Sifford

Clarence Smith, left, and Cody Sifford with their poster competition certificates.

Smith, of the Blackfoot Nation, placed first with his poster, “Measuring Economic Value of American Cultural Designs within the Wooden Gift Market.” Sifford, of the Navajo Nation, placed second with is poster, “Developing an Impact Assessment of Local Air Quality as a Result of Biomass Burns.”

AISES works to increase the representation of American Indians and Alaskan Natives in science, technology, engineering and math studies and careers. Held annually since 1978, its national conference is a major event that draws more than 1,600 students and professionals from across the country. That’s quite a stage to earn the top two awards in the graduate student poster competition!

Great work, Clarence and Cody, and way to represent CINTRAFOR and SEFS!

Photo © SEFS.

CINTRAFOR Scores Major Victory for Pacific Northwest Timber and Forest Products Industry

This past December, Professor Ivan Eastin of the Center for International Trade in Forest Products (CINTRAFOR) successfully teamed up with Dr. Daisuke Sasatani at Auburn University, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, Japan, and the Softwood Export Council to have Douglas-fir designated as a “local species” under a new softwood lumber subsidy program recently introduced in Japan. This is great news for the U.S. timber industry, ensuring that Douglas-fir grown and harvested in the U.S. Pacific Northwest maintains its access to the Japanese market.

Ivan Eastin

Douglas-fir logs being prepared for delivery to a local sawmill in Hiroshima.

The Wood Use Points Program, or WUPP, is a program designed to provide the domestic forestry and sawmill sectors in Japan with a competitive advantage by subsidizing the increased use of “local wood” species—such as sugi, hinoki and Japanese larch—in residential home construction. Homeowners and builders who use more than 50 percent of a “local wood” species in structural and non-structural end-use applications can receive as much as ¥600,000 in points. While the points don’t have a cash value, they can be redeemed for other products, such as energy-efficient windows or wooden furniture. “The size of the subsidy is huge,” says Eastin, the director of CINTRAFOR and lead author of the U.S. “local wood” submission. “The U.S. forest products industry stood to lose substantial market share as a result of these subsidies.”

While Douglas-fir is not indigenous to Japan, it is highly popular with local builders because of its unique combination of high-bending strength, durability, aesthetic appeal and reliability of supply. Douglas-fir is widely used in horizontal beam applications in traditional post and beam houses in Japan. In fact, more than 90 percent of the softwood products exported from the U.S. to Japan are Douglas-fir. Without gaining the “local wood” designation for U.S. Douglas-fir, the WUPP subsidy would have sharply reduced the demand for Douglas-fir products in Japan. A recent CINTRAFOR analysis estimates that the WUPP could have cost U.S. forest products exporters as much as $36 million over the 18-month duration of the subsidy program.

Ivan Eastin

Douglas-fir precut lumber that will be used in traditional post and beam housing in Japan.

CINTRAFOR, an internationally recognized center of excellence located within the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences at the University of Washington, worked closely with Dr. Sasatani, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and the Softwood Export Council to demonstrate that U.S. Douglas-fir complied with the criteria established by the Japan Forestry Agency for gaining recognition as a “local wood” species. To make their case, CINTRAFOR needed to document that U.S. Douglas-fir satisfied three conditions: 1) that it is sustainably grown, 2) that it is legally harvested, and 3) that Douglas-fir wood products provide economic benefits to rural and mountain communities in Japan.

The first two conditions were fairly easy to demonstrate using forest inventory data provided by the Forest Inventory and Analysis Program of the U.S. Forest Service. To demonstrate compliance with the third criterion, an economic model was developed to estimate the economic contribution derived from processing Douglas-fir logs to lumber in sawmills located within four prefectures in Japan. Each of the “local wood” submissions was translated into Japanese by Dr. Sasatani with support from Tomoko Igarashi, the director of the American Softwoods Office in Tokyo.

It took three submissions—one in August, another in October, and then a third in December—before Japan’s National Land Afforestation Promotion Organization finally approved the inclusion of U.S. Douglas-fir under the WUPP program on December 17. This recognition marks the first, and only, case where an imported wood species has received “local wood” status under the WUPP program, and the designation will help U.S. forest products exporters maintain, and potentially increase, their market share within the Japanese market.

Photos © Ivan Eastin.

Thesis Defense: John Simeone!

Simeone Thesis Defense

An 18-wheeler carrying roundwood in Dalnerechensk, Russia.

SEFS graduate student John Simeone, who is working on a joint degree at the Jackson School of International Studies, will be defending his thesis for the latter program this coming Friday, May 3, at 10:30 a.m. in Anderson 22.

While the Russian forest sector languished for much of the first 15 years following the break-up of the Soviet Union, beginning in 2007 the Russian government instituted a set of policies designed to develop and modernize the Russian forest sector. This thesis is a policy analysis of Russia’s 2007 and 2008 forest sector initiatives—principally export taxes on roundwood and investment subsidies for value-added processing.

If you can’t make this Friday’s defense, then keep an eye out for Simeone’s SEFS defense later in August. His faculty advisor is Professor Sergey Rabotyagov, and he is also working closely with Professor Ivan Eastin and CINTRAFOR on Russia’s role in the timber trade. Should be great stuff!

Photo © John Simeone.

Chinese Forestry Delegation Visits SEFS

Chinese Delegation at SEFS

Members of the Chinese forestry delegation join SEFS faculty in front of Anderson Hall.

Last week, a delegation from the Chinese Academy of Forestry (CAF) visited the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS) for two hours of short presentations and discussions on April 3. The delegation included members from the research section of the State Forestry Administration (the equivalent of the U.S. Forest Service), and from the Gansu Province Forestry Department.

Organized by Professor Ivan Eastin and the Center for International Trade in Forest Products (CINTRAFOR), the meeting included a series of talks on forestry issues—first from SEFS faculty members, and then from members of the Chinese delegation.

On the agenda, SEFS presentations included introductions from SEFS Director Tom DeLuca and Professor Indroneil Ganguly; Professor Greg Ettl (“Sustainable Forest Management at Pack Forest”); Professors Stevan Harrell and Tom Hinckley (“Forest Expansion onto Meadowlands, U.S. v. China”); and Professor David Ford (“Overview of Sustainable Forest Management at the Olympic Natural Resources Center”). Madam Hu Zhangcui from CAF then followed with “PRC-GEF Partnership on Land Degradation in Dryland Ecosystems: Current Progress, Achievements and Prospects” before a final discussion session.

SEFS in China

Professors Tom Hinckley, foreground, and Steve Harrell coring trees in Yangjuan-Pianshui villages, Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture, August 2008.

SEFS’ collaboration with Chinese researchers began in 1999, when the UW established a joint program to study environmental challenges in the two countries. Professor Emeritus Tom Hinckley had joined several exploratory trips to Sichuan around that time, visiting a future research site at Jiuzhaigou National Park in the northwestern part of the province.

When the university began an undergraduate student exchange, Professor Hinckley joined Anthropology Professor Steve Harrell and Biology Professor Dick Olmstead in leading a multinational team to Yangjuan Village in Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture in the summer of 2002 to conduct joint research on forest ecology, agriculture, plant biodiversity and local history. Several SEFS (and previously CFR and SFR) students have since conducted research there.

Photos © SEFS.