Innovative wood products offer potential for healthier forests and statewide carbon benefits
(Photo: USDA / Raymundo Valencia)
As the COVID-19 crisis continues to unfold, California’s forest management world leaders have not lost sight of another crisis among us: the continuing threat of wildfires.
Among those working on solutions was the Joint Institute for Wood Products Innovation, which operates under the aegis of the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection.
In a new study, the Institute concluded that the development of innovative wood products has significant potential to generate multiple benefits in California. These benefits include creating healthier forests through sustainable forest management and restoration, reducing the risk of forest fires from overgrown forests, promoting carbon storage in long-term wood products. lifespan and the strengthening of local capacities and regional collaborations that can lead to greater economic resilience.
The study, “Literature review and research gap assessment to support wood product innovation, âWas developed by the Institute in collaboration with a team of researchers led by the University of California at Berkeley.
The size and intensity of California wildfires have increased dramatically in recent years due to decades of fire suppression, droughts, insect infestations and climate change. Not only are lives, property, businesses and public health threatened in rural and urban areas, but also the ecosystem benefits of healthy forests, including water supply, native biodiversity and carbon storage.
The Institute was created by a Executive Decree to Address the Forest Fire Crisis, published by Governor Jerry Brown in May 2018. The Institute’s objective is to facilitate the development and expansion of a strong and sustainable forest products market sector by California, including identifying market and workforce gaps, encouraging innovations, and making recommendations for state and federal policy changes.
The study reviewed several types of commercial uses of surplus wood material in forests and identified three particularly promising categories of wood products:
- Solid wood products, including panels, beams and columns used in the construction of buildings.
- Liquid and gaseous transport fuels.
- Chemically and thermally treated wood products offering high durability characteristics.
According to the document, these products have “sufficient commercial and technical preparation, and a potential market size, to justify increased public and private investment in their development.” Other less mature technologies also have potential and deserve continued monitoring.
The study exposed several ways in which the state could foster a policy environment more conducive to innovation in wood products, including by supporting research capacities in science and engineering, creating markets, encouraging regional actions. and promoting rural economic development, and taking into account the benefits of carbon sequestration that may result from greater use of wood products. The Institute’s study explained that it is imperative that “system-wide changes in forest management and forest product innovation” be undertaken.
The study highlighted a key finding contained in the California Economic SummitThe recent Forest Fire Crisis Report, which explained that at least $ 10 billion over the next 10 years will be needed to address the landscape-level restoration that is needed on public and private forest lands in California. This report, “California wildfire crisis: a call to action,Called for statewide mobilization of resources and actions, including the development of vibrant forest industries through environmentally friendly practices, to restore forest health, revitalize rural communities and sequester carbon.
The Institute’s new study noted that because the Institute is a state entity that brings together academic expertise and stakeholder networks, it is ready to facilitate opportunities for cross-sector partnerships to advance its goal. Going forward, the Institute will focus on several key programmatic focus areas:
- Identify actions and policies that attract investment capital and expand markets for innovative wood products.
- Training and education to meet the need for a skilled workforce.
- Manage innovative financing to attract private capital.
- Improve stakeholder engagement and efficiency through convening activities.
- Public education, including promoting understanding of the benefits of forest products which are a by-product of sustainable forest management.
The report explained the multiple benefits that could be achieved by advancing the wood products industries, including meeting the ambitious goals of the California Forest Carbon Plan by incorporating carbon in structural materials and other wood products as well as in wood products. trees and soils within healthy forests.