Director’s Message: Spring 2016

We are all highly aware of the extreme polarization across all aspects of the political sphere in the United States, especially during this presidential election. Front and center in this tense landscape are issues surrounding the environment and the appropriate management of our public lands—with the recent Malheur occupation in Oregon reflecting some of this friction, and only amplifying the divide.

However, in this age of changing climate and declining forest health, I believe there’s an enormous opportunity to find common ground through sustainable forest management and mass timber products—specifically, through the emergence of cross-laminated timber (CLT).

Gifford Pinchot, the founding head of the U.S. Forest Service, envisioned foresters as conservationists and frontline stewards of the land. But from the 1950s to the 1980s, the practice of forestry on federal lands strayed from its conservation roots to an economically driven model of harvesting and replanting. The goal became maximum production rather than sustainable management, and the health of the federal forest system quickly declined.

As the impacts of these practices became clearer, the public began to equate forestry with extractive industries, such as mining and oil exploration. This shift in public perception fueled demand for greater conservation of public lands, and also helped drive major policy changes to federal forest management. The result was an abrupt reduction in forest harvest on federal lands from the mid-1990s to today (timber harvest on U.S. Forest Service land in Washington is now at 5 percent of what it had been in the ‘60s), leaving what were once heavily managed forests in a state of unmanaged regeneration. The impetus for these changes—preserving our forests—was noble and necessary. Yet wholly unmanaged regeneration, without the purifying and stochastic influences of fire or wind-throw, end up creating overstocked forest stands that are neither appropriate as wildlife habitat nor productive as forests.

So the question is, “How can forestry, something that was deeply embroiled in polarization in the Pacific Northwest, and an engineered wood product simultaneously help address ecological and social divides?”

Constructed from cross-laminated timber panels from the first floor up, nine-story Murray Grove—designed by Waugh Thistleton Architects—was the world's tallest modern timber residential building at the time of its completion in 2009.

Constructed with cross-laminated timber panels from the first floor up, nine-story Murray Grove—designed by Waugh Thistleton Architects—was the world’s tallest modern timber residential building at the time of its completion in 2009.

In the last decade, we’ve observed a revolution in wood building products that began in Europe and eventually spread to Canada and Australia. That revolution is the generation of mass timber products—extremely strong panels and beams created from the glue lamination of smaller boards—that can be used as structural components in large buildings. These CLT panels can be up to 40 feet in length by 10 feet tall and eight inches wide, and they can be used partially in place of steel and concrete in the production of wood-based tall buildings—allowing wood construction 10 to 20 stories tall (and reducing the impact of steel and concrete as major sources of CO2 emissions in the region). They create buildings that are structurally sound and fire-resilient, and they use materials that are fully renewable and that can be produced sustainably.

Since CLT is built from smaller boards, as well, I believe it could increase the value of small-diameter trees taken via thinning and restoration harvests. Targeting those trees could help improve the health and resilience of previously overstocked stands, restore wildlife habitat and reduce fire severity, and facilitate carbon storage in preserved mature trees and in CLT panels. Finally, building tall with wood represents a smart approach to urban densification, reducing pressure on rural landscapes and changing the way our cities and towns grow in the next 50 years.

There’s still more to learn about CLT and how best to build an industry that upholds and respects the values of so many interests. But the potential is real, and clearly gaining momentum.

During the last year, along with a number of faculty and staff in SEFS, I have been working with a group of researchers, agency personnel, environmental organizations, architects and private industry who have come together to plot the future of CLT in the state of Washington—and to do it right on all fronts. We see CLT as a catalyst for change in the built environment that is holistically integrated with sustainable land management, and we have organized events and testified in senate and house hearings on the development of CLT. Coming up on April 21, a well, we—SEFS, Forterra, the Washington Department of Commerce, and the Washington Forest Protection Association—will host renowned architect Andrew Waugh for a guest lecture on green building with mass timber products in Europe (RSVP to join us at the talk!).

Long-term, I have great hope for CLT development in the state, in large part because of the diverse cross-section of stakeholders invested in its success. We represent what might be considered disparate interests, yet we share a strong desire for a healthy, prosperous and sustainable future. That’s a powerful roadmap for overcoming polarization and political gridlock, and I look forward to our role in advancing this movement.

Tom DeLuca
School of Environmental and Forest Sciences

Photo of Murray Grove © Waugh Thistleton Architects.

 

SEFS Senior Seminar: Spring 2016 Schedule

This spring, Professor Bernard Bormann has organized the SEFS Senior Seminar (ESRM 429a) around the theme, “Westside forestry: What have we learned in the past 30 years from different disciplinary perspectives that could be influencing future directions?”

The intent of this seminar is to present different perspectives on sustainable forest management in the Pacific Northwest, and to show how they come together to inform forest policy as a whole. Lectures will come mostly from chapter authors in an upcoming book from Island Press, Sustaining people and nature in moist conifer-dominated human-forest ecosystems.

The seminars are held on Tuesday mornings from 8:30 to 9:20 a.m. in Anderson Hall 223.

The public is invited, so mark your calendars for the talks below!

Week 1: March 29
“Sustainability framework for integrated analysis”
Beatrice van Horne
Ecosystem Program Coordinator, USGS

Week 2: April 5
“Role of forests in regional economies”
Richard Haynes
Retired economist, U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station

Week 3: April 12
“Sustainable ecosystem services”
Robert Deal
Team Leader, Pacific Northwest Research Station

Week 4: April 19
“The development and evolution of collaboratives”
Professor Stanley Asah
SEFS

Week 5: April 26
“Silviculture for sustainability”
Paul D. Anderson
Supervisory Research Forester, Team Leader
Pacific Northwest Research Station

Week 6: May 3
“Sustainability and adaptive management”
Teodora Minkova
Natural Resource Scientist,
Washington Department of Natural Resources

Week 7: May 10
“Biodiversity and sustainability”
Dede Olson
Supervisory Research Ecologist, Team Leader
Pacific Northwest Research Station, Corvallis Forestry Sciences Lab

Week 8: May 17
“Vegetation ecology and dynamics”
Professor Jerry Franklin
SEFS

Week 9: May 24
“Synthesis and implications for plan revisions for the National Forest”
Professor Bernard Bormann
SEFS
Director, Olympic Natural Resources Center

Week 10: May 31
No Seminar

SEFS Seminar Series: Spring 2016 Schedule

The schedule is set for the Spring 2016 SEFS Seminar Series, and this quarter we’ve organized the talks around the theme, “Exploring Nature, Health, Ecosystems and Sustainability.” We’ll also be featuring three candidates for the Nature, Health and Recreation faculty position we’re interviewing for right now—all in the first three weeks—so there’s a lot to get excited about this quarter.

Held on Wednesdays from 3:30 to 4:20 p.m. in Anderson 223, the talks are always open to the public, and the first seminar of each month will be followed by a casual reception down the hall in the Forest Club Room. Students can register for course credit under SEFS 529A.

Check out the schedule below and join us for as many talks as you can!

PowerPoint PresentationWeek 1: March 30
“The Impacts of Nature Experience on Mood, Emotion Regulation and Cognitive Function”
Greg Bratman
Stanford University

Week 2: April 6*
“The Effects of Family-Based Nature Activities on Family Relationships”
Dina Izenstark
University of Illinois

Week 3: April 13
“Access to Nature and Psychological Health: The Geography of Children”
Dongying Li
University of Illinois

Week 4: April 20
“Measuring Ecosystem Function in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region of Alberta: Problems and Solutions”
Professor Derek MacKenzie
University of Alberta

Week 5: April 27
“Hello from the Other Side: New Approaches for Wildlife Population Modeling”
Professor Beth Gardner
SEFS

Week 6: May 4*
“Bryophytes and the Sustained Nitrogen Economy of Boreal Forest Ecosystems”
María Arróniz-Crespo
Universidad Politécnica de Madrid

Week 7: May 11
“Contrasting Plant Flammability and the Implications for Fire Regimes”
Morgan Varner
U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station

Week 8: May 18
“What are We Trying to Sustain, Anyway? Some Questions About the Idea of Sustainability”
Professor Steve Harrell
SEFS and Anthropology

Week 9: May 25
“Nature’s Rx in Cities – Economic Value . . .  and Who Should Care”
Dr. Kathy Wolf
Research Scientist, SEFS

Week 10: June 1*

“Blast from the Past: Understanding Plant Community Assembly on Mount St. Helens”
Professor Cynthia Chang
UW Bothell
School of STEM, Division of Biology

* Indicates reception after seminar