Nov Dec, 2003






International Small Log Conference,
March 31-April 2, 2004

By Barbara Coyner

It’s a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-to-work conference, an industry-driven event aimed at bringing together all the players working with small-diameter wood. When the “Small Log Conference on Utilization” comes to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, March 31 through April 2, 2004, it’ll be a chance to network, devise strategy, evaluate the options and walk away with an action plan. The international gathering, produced by TimberWest, reaches out to forest-based businesses, public and private forest movers and shakers, machine manufacturers, biomass consultants and researchers, indeed anyone with an interest in realistically addressing a Western forest problem.

“This is a conference to connect the dots, connect the people and look for solutions,” said co-chair Duane Vaagen, a Washington state mill owner. “It’ll be a demonstration of what’s possible. This is about math and how much material is out there, how much risk there is and how long the supply will last. It’s about solving problems, setting up goals and taking actions.” Processing small-diameter wood (up to 10 inches in diameter) at his Colville, Washington mill for a decade, Vaagen knows the technology exists, he knows the markets are there, and he knows that thinning for wildfire prevention and healthier forests represents sound practice. What he and others expect from the conference is a gathering of steam to make things happen on a larger scale.

Small-scale trial runs and showcase stewardship projects are a long way from confronting the true magnitude of the problem, he acknowledged. “We need to make the connection between small timber and production capabilities for the care of our forests, and utilization,” said Vaagen of some of the dots waiting to be connected. “We’ve had the technology for over ten years but we haven’t done it yet. We’re not making it happen because people don’t see the utilization. There are markets for the material and these are markets people support.” Ed Mayer, General Manager of title sponsor HewSaw Machines, has his own reason for stepping in to make the conference happen, noting, “Through business interaction, a consistent topic of forestry management has motivated me to help improve the current situation.

Knowing existing solutions are available to better utilize our resource, while at the same time revitalizing economies and reducing natural disasters, this issue needs addressing in an immediate way. It is puzzling why synergy cannot be made between groups to bring this situation to a better place. I am one of many that will do whatever possible to bridge this gap for the benefit of all.” The two other conference co-chairs, Catherine Mater of Mater Engineering and Michael O’Halloran of Western Wood Products Association, also lend plenty of input, promoting topics such as identifying supply, demonstrating why private forestry works, using available technology from harvest to final product, and creating profitable business environments. In a nutshell, the West’s glut of overcrowded forests is finally blowing up into wildfires costing billions of dollars, inflicting plenty of human suffering as well, and the nation is ready to consider real remedies that only the industry can offer.

“There is a working solution, but we just aren’t doing it,” co-chairs mentioned in conference planning strategy sessions. “What is the size of the problem, what is the solution and what would it take to make it work? Private forests do it and make it work, and make money doing it.” Given the magnitude of personal loss from the California wildfires and the risk still existing, conference backers emphasize that merely trimming around urban interfaces isn’t going to do the job. With a supplier showcase and a roster of nationally and internationally recognized experts lined up to speak, Conference Manager Jan Raulin says she plans to make the conference a premier networking event, one drawing a new mix of people together to chart an innovative course.

She notes that related government workers, private landowners, environmental leaders and politicians all need to take a seat at the table. For further information on the conference or the suppliers showcase, contact Raulin at 1-866-221-1017, Fax (425) 771-3623, or e-mail . TW

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This page was last updated on Tuesday, September 28, 2004