With a fleet of 312 unmanned aircraft, the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Office of Aviation Service flew nearly 5,000 missions in 2017 to support everything from fighting wildfires to monitoring dams and spillways and mapping wildlife. The accomplishments of its unmanned aerial systems (UAS), or drone program, can be found in a recent report by DOI that summarizes flights made by more than 200 certified pilots in 32 states nationwide.
Drone flight to support natural resource management across DOI, including support to firefighters suppressing wildfires, increased 82 percent from 2016 to 2017. The report breaks down the flights for more than 1,000 projects by agency, geographic area, and missions for wildfire and non-wildfire purposes.
“Interior is committed to preventing the spread of catastrophic wildfires through smarter and more aggressive practices and tactics,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “After seeing the capabilities, I know it will continue to make a big difference in firefighting. Coupled with more aggressive fuels management, this technology will help prevent and control catastrophic wildfires.”
This past fire season, DOI conducted 707 drone missions on 71 individual wildfires. Drones were used by firefighters to gain a tactical advantage on wildfires by allowing them to improve their surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. The data and information gathered during these flights was used to support strategic planning for fighting wildfires. These advancements support the safety of our firefighters and the public through the detection of hotspots, improved mapping, and advanced monitoring of wildfires.
A decade-long study of cutthroat trout in the Oregon Coast Range has found that logging practices conducted in accord with the Oregon Forest Practices Act had no adverse impacts on coastal cutthroat trout and coho salmon populations or movements, Oregon State University reported.
In studies of logging practices prior to passage of the act in 1971, changes to fish habitat were documented from the use of stream channels as transportation corridors for logs and from other changes to riparian areas adjacent to streams.
The results were published March 1 in a professional journal, Forest Ecology and Management.
Lumber and Log Prices. Prices for the typical DNR log were markedly higher in 2017 than previous years, averaging $611/mbf for the year. The typical DNR log averaged $521/mbf in 2015, having fallen from an average of $591/mbf in 2014. The average price for 2016 was slightly higher at $536/mbf. The increase in prices through 2017 was primarily due to increased lumber demand. Prices are expected to remain high through early 2018, though are unlikely to increase significantly.
Timber Sales Volume. Given current timber sales plans, the sales volume forecast for FY 18 is unchanged at 500 mmbf. Sales plans in outlying years have not changed, so absent a new sustainable harvest calculation, sales volume forecasts in those years also remain at 500 mmbf.
Timber Sales Prices. FY 17 auction prices averaged $345/mbf. To date, auction prices for FY 18 have averaged $444/mbf with slightly over 50 percent of the forecast volume sold. The sales price forecast for FY 18 is increased to $403/mbf due to the strong auction prices to date and high expected prices for logs and lumber for the remainder of the fiscal year. The sales price forecasts for outlying years are unchanged.
Timber Removal Volume and Prices. Accounting for changes to purchaser plans, the timing of contract expirations, and the likely average monthly harvest possible, FY 18 harvest volume expectations are lowered by 51 mmbf to 539 mmbf. The FY 19 harvest volume forecast is decreased by 12 mmbf to 585 mmbf. Harvest volume forecasts for FY 20 and 21 are increased by 9 mmbf and 36 mmf, respectively.
The average timber removal price for FY 18 is increased to $334/mbf, due to increased auction prices and an increase in the value of remaining inventory. Timber removal prices for FY 19-21 are projected to be about $353 (+$12), $348 (-$2), and $344 (+$1) per mbf. These removal prices reflect changes in both the sales prices and removal timing.
Timber Revenue. The above changes to timber sales prices, sales volumes, and harvest timing have shifted projected revenue in all forecast years. Revenues for the 2017-2019 biennium are forecast to total $387 million, down around one percent ($2 million) from September’s forecast. Forecast revenues for the 2019-2021 biennium are increased by five percent ($17 million) to $378 million.
Total Revenues. Total revenues for the 2017-2019 biennium (FY 18 and 19) are unchanged at $533 million. Revenues for the 2019-2021 biennium (FY 20 and 21) are raised by $16 million to $517 million.
For the full forecast, visit https://www.dnr.wa.gov/about/fiscal-reports/quarterly-economic-and-revenue-forecasts.
The Seattle Times reported that Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell (D), working with a bipartisan coalition of Pacific Northwest senators, was able to “notch a significant win this past week in the years’ long effort to change the system for funding Forest Service wildfire fighting.”
Instead of siphoning funds to pay for wildfires, the measure, tucked inside the spending bill, creates a new fund to provide — in severe fire years — more than $2 billion for Forest Service efforts to combat the blazes. The money will be available through 2027.
“Everyone in our region was pretty much on the same page,’’ said Cantwell, ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “We kind of knew what we wanted to do and that had a big impact on the negotiations.”
Mass timber has made more headway in the construction world. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has signed a law requiring the state’s building code council to begin developing rules for the use of mass timber in commercial and residential construction, according to the Architect’s Newspaper. This could pave the way for state and local building departments to start including mass timber in their building codes.
The new law mandates that Washington officials must consider upcoming changes to the International Building Code (IBC) dealing with mass timber buildings of up to 18 stories. The IBC Ad Hoc Committee on Tall Wood Buildings will begin hearing public comment on the revisions next month.
Constructiondrive.com reported that Washington lawmakers are also working on legislation that would require cross-laminated timber be used in any public building 12 stories or less. If passed, it would be the first law in the U.S. requiring the use of mass timber in construction projects.
On the Cover
Lindsay Mohlere captures a John Deere 2154 working in an Idaho forest.
A Legacy Going Strong
Starting out as far back as Idaho statehood, the Brown family has carried the logging tradition into the fifth generation.
Finding Success in the Residuals Market
Wood shavings may be regarded as a waste product, but for Gem Shavings, supplying animal bedding has proven to be a successful business model.
Eastside Challenges of Modern Day Logging
Kreige Logging understands that overcoming challenges is part of running a successful business.
Sawmill Training Takes a Seat in the Classroom
Five wood products manufacturing companies have teamed up with North Idaho College and Lewis-Clark State College to gather $482,582 for sawmill training.
The Fix Is in! ... Or Is It?
Congress passed a $1.3 trillion omnibus budget that has solved the “fire borrowing” conundrum that has plagued the Forest Service for years.
Focus on Building Leadership
Intermountain Logging Conference review.
2018 OLC Pictorial Review
A look at the highlights of the recent conference.
Guest Column: Forestry’s Best Days are Yet to Come. Here’s Why.
Nick Smith of Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities explains what lays ahead for the industry.