Researcher: Managed forests needed to fight climate change

Wood products can replace existing fossil fuel-based materials

PORT ANGELES — Wood products and managed forests are necessary for climate mitigation, a 20-year forest management researcher told the Clallam County commissioners.

Dr. Edie Sonne Hall of Three Trees Consulting in Seattle gave a presentation Monday on the role of forest management in climate mitigation. She was invited by Commissioner Randy Johnson as part of the commissioners’ ongoing focus on timber harvest issues.

“We have been discussing forest management a lot lately,” County Commissioner Mark Ozias said. “There’s a lot of interest around here.”

Hall said 74 percent of annual resource extraction is of non-renewable resources. Since 1970, the Earth’s population has doubled while global extraction of materials has more than tripled and is expected to double again by 2050, she said.

Hall has more than 20 years of experience and connections developing sustainable forestry strategies and policies at the state, regional, national and international levels. She has a Ph.D. in forestry from the University of Washington, where she specialized in forest carbon accounting and life cycle assessment, and a bachelor of science degree in biology from Yale University.

Several wood products could replace existing fossil fuel-based materials, Hall said, giving the following examples:

• Engineered wood made from saw logs can replace concrete, steel and bricks in buildings.

• Wood foam can be used as insulation in walls, furniture and doors, and packaging can replace polystyrene and polyurethane.

• Textiles made from wood pulp can replace polyester, polyamides, acrylics and cotton.

• Bioplastics made from pulp byproducts such as tall oil, wood sugars and lignin can be used in packaging, including food grade packaging.

• Composites made from wood chips can be used in decking, siding, roofing and furniture.

“We have a growing population and we have non-renewable resources,” she said. “There’s real climate benefits to using renewable resources.”

A high demand for timber corresponds to stable or increasing carbon stocks, which are measured using field plots monitored by the Forest Carbon — Forest Inventory and Analysis National Program, Hall said. Strong demand for wood products also keep forests from being cut down for other uses, such as agriculture or urban development, she said.

The two risks to Washington’s forests are land conversion and forest health and fire, Hall said.

Forest acres declined by 394,000 acres, 2 percent, between 2007 and 2019, and Western Washington’s small forest landowners are expected to convert almost 80,000 more acres by 2030, with the majority going to residential development, she said.

The average number of acres burned by wildfires in Washington state has increased more than five-fold since the 1980s, Hall said.

The inventory of managed forests in the Southeast and Northwest have increased since the 1960s because of commercial forestry, she added.

The Forest Service is putting more biomass in the forest every year, but their forests have a higher mortality rate and they do less harvesting, she said.

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Reporter Brian Gawley can be reached at brian.gawley@peninsuladailynews.com.

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