Sustainable Redwood? Where do you stand?

 

Let’s continue on from our last topic of discussion…why Redwoods are one of America’s most overlooked naturally renewable resources. 

Many people I’ve heard or encountered over the years have very differing opinions when it comes to the harvesting of Redwood. This topic tends to generate very interesting conversations, and unfortunately, can often lead to such events as protestor rallies or news headlines. Growing up in Northern California, I’m no stranger to the fact that much of our area’s industry comes directly from the harvesting of Redwoods.  I firmly believe in researching and educating myself before coming to any conclusion, no matter what the subject matter.

On one side of the spectrum, there are those who stand by the idea that cutting of Redwood trees is wrong, no matter the reason. My challenge to this type of thinking is to offer up an explanation of why harvesting must be done in forests on a continual basis.

The purpose of harvesting Redwood’s (and other species of trees) is to make the forest healthier and better able to grow. This allows the for a natural appearance to the area, rather than an area that’s been heavily affected by human activity. Selective foresting also helps protect the forest against wildfire. The decision to cut trees is never a task that is taken lightly. Careful consideration goes into which trees must be cut and which ones must be left. The chosen trees are cut down, leaving plenty of space for new trees to grow and, therefore, giving the forest a natural beauty that will thrive for many years to come. It’s estimated that 25% or more trees will grow in the next decade than what is cut down during the harvest.

A few tough considerations are made each time an area is harvested…

  1. When removing a stem from a growth of trees, how will the remaining stems respond?
  2. Will removing a stem foster more growth for the surrounding stems?
  3. Is one stem likely to improve in quality – will it stay constant or worsen over time?
  4. Does this particular stem foster a wildlife habitat?
  5. Does it have a flattened crown, cavities, flaking bark, or hollow areas?
  6. Will it develop the above characteristics in the foreseeable future?
  7. Will the removal of a stem allow for a safe removal without damaging any surrounding trees or the ground around it?

As you can see, many factors are taken into account each time a tree is taken down. This is how responsible foresting is accomplished. It’s a heavy responsibility that is integral to our country’s future and also supplies a steady flow of capital into America’s economy.

Now let’s take a look at how Redwood forests are certified for sustainable harvesting. It’s important to note that four out of every five acres of commercial Redwood forest are now independently certified as well as managed and harvested sustainably. Many of the larger redwood lumber mills have completed independent third party certification of all their forestlands. This is over 1 million acres, meaning that over 80% of the available forestlands are certified under one of the two most widely recognized certification programs… the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) program.

There are over 1.74 million acres of Coastal Redwood forests on California’s north coast alone! Around 26%, or 450,000 acres of this land is preserved in National, State, and municipal parks, national monuments and other lands that are prohibited from harvesting.  

See the chart below to discover how our Redwood forests are divided…

IMG_20160128_111513575

 

Commercial Redwood Foresting…

Of the remaining forests there are 1.29 million acres where harvesting may be done. Of this number, over 80% is being well managed and sustainably harvested.

IMG_20160128_111548592

 

This process of certification ensures that the consumers get environmentally safe harvesting practices. The programs that are monitored and certified are as follows:

  1. Sustainable Forestry
  2. Quick Reforestation
  3. Water Quality Protection
  4. Enhancing Wildlife Habitats
  5. Minimizing the visual impact of harvesting
  6. Improvements in wood utilization
  7. Protection of unique sites

 

The above practices are voluntary third party programs that are in addition to the mandatory California State Requirements within the Forest Practices Act, which is recognized as the most thorough timber harvesting regulation in North  America. Any company that owns a commercial forest containing more that 50,000 acres must prepare a Sustained Yield Plan. A Sustained Yield Plan must project an equal balance of growth and harvest over a 100 year period and must ensure sustainability of all forest resources, including wildlife, watershed, and soil.

 

These factors, when considering Redwood as a valuable sustainable resource, are very compelling and undeniable. Redwoods are a very protected part of America’s culture for their beauty and unique ability to survive…

They can withstand floods, fire, and just about any other element thrown at them.

They can withstand the test of time through human interaction and safe harvesting practices.

If we all do our part, Redwoods can remain a part of America that lasts forever!!!

 

Thanks for reading,

Andy Webb

 

 

 

REFERENCES:

U.S. Forest Service Inventory and Analysis

Forest Stewardship Council

 

A System that Really Works

America the beautiful…but what makes this little section on a world map so beautiful? You can look around and find amazing landscapes just about everywhere in this country. There are many different renewable resources that are often at the forefront of our minds, such as  oxygen, fresh water, solar energy, and biomass. The focus of this article will highlight the use of timber, specifically Redwood, as one of the best sources of consistent replenish-able material on the planet.

Lets begin with a brief definition of  renewable resource:

“An organic natural resource which can replenish to overcome usage and consumption, either through biological reproduction or other naturally recurring processes. Renewable resources are a part of Earth’s natural environment and the largest components of its ecosphere.”  (Definition taken from Wikipedia)

Redwood traces it’s roots (no pun intended) way back to the earliest civilizations and has remained a staple of American culture up to today. Redwood is one of the few resources, when coupled with sustainable harvesting, that will continue to last for future generations to come.  Just like any other material or resource, the longevity aspect is affected most directly by human planning and care taking. 

To better understand the Redwood tree and its many uses, a brief description of the reproductive process will serve to explain why it has become such a demanded resource. A ring of Coast redwood reproduces sexually by seed and asexually which leads to the sprouting of buds. Seed production starts usually at 10–15 years of age. It is very common to see large seed crops occur frequently, but the seeds viability can also be low at times.  This is where the wind plays a major role in Redwood reproduction. You see, empty seed pods have little wings that catch in the wind and scatter up to 390 feet from the parent tree. Young seeds grow very quickly and have been known to grow up to 20 feet in 20 years…that’s 66 feet tall! Seeds can also reproduce by layering or sprouting from the root crown, fallen branches, or a stump. When a tree falls down, it regenerates a row of new trees along the trunk, forming a straight line of new growth. Dormant buds eventually form sprouts at or under the surface of the bark. The dormant sprouts get stimulated when the main adult stem starts to die or becomes damaged. Sprouts also randomly erupt and develop around the tree trunk, forming its own root system. The dominant sprouts form a ring of trees around the the stump or parent root crown. This ring is referred to as the “fairy ring” and can grow up to 7.5 feet in one growing season.

Reproduction also occurs within the burl of the tree, which appears below the soil line and can be as deep as 10 feet below the soil surface. Burls can sprout into new trees when detached from the parent tree. Redwood trees are also very tolerant to flooding due to the roots rapidly growing into thick silt deposits after floods. Another key component the reproduction and growth process is cool coastal air and fog…these two elements are highly effective in keeping the moisture content sustained within the forest. The height of the trees depends upon the amount fog. Taller trees are less frequent in areas where fog is less frequent.

The diagram below shows the different layers of a Redwood tree. Notice the burl with a new-growth sprout near the bottom of the diagram.

Now that we’ve spent a moment on the reproductive attributes, let’s talk about the reasons why Redwood is one of America’s greatest renewable resources.

The Coast redwood is one of the most sought after timber species in the lumbering industry. In our great state of California, over 899,000 acres of redwood forest are logged, nearly all of it being second growth. Coast redwood lumber remains popular for its lightweight, beauty, and resistance to decay. The lack of resin makes it resistant to fire.

Due to its resistance to decay, redwood has been used for railroad ties and trestles. Many of the old railroad ties have been recycled for use in gardens, steps, and house beams. table tops, veneers, and turned goods.

The coast redwood originated from New Zealand,  with many other areas of successful cultivation found in Great Britain, Italy, Portugal and certain elevations of Hawaii, South Africa, a small area in central Mexico, and the southeastern United States from eastern Texas to Maryland. It also does extremely well in the Pacific areas of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, and  on the opposite side of the state in southwestern Oregon. 

This is only the first post in many to come about Redwood and many other categories surrounding this majestic and renewable part of our planet!

If you’re interested in learning more…

The continuation of Redwood as one of our best renewable resources will be posted soon!

Thanks for Reading,

Andy Webb – General Manager @ Artisan Outdoors