Forest Policy Looms Over Oregon’s Climate Change Debate.. Or Does It? Oregonian Story

Forest Policy Looms Over Oregon’s Climate Change Debate.. Or Does It? Oregonian Story

Steve posted this story on forest carbon in Oregon in the comments here, but I thought it was worthy of its own post.

The article says..

As lawmakers gear up to make another attempt to pass a climate change bill in 2019, new data suggests that the forest sector is not only a factor in Oregon’s carbon picture, it is THE factor and one of national and even international importance as lawmakers look to reduce the concentration of heat trapping gases in the atmosphere

I’ll come back to the italics later at the end of this post.

What is the “new data”? I wrote Ted Sickinger, the author of this article, and he said via email “I linked to the global warming commission’s draft report, which I’ve attached. But the paper linked below also addresses it. It’s also the one giving the industry conniptions.” Now I don’t know what industry he’s talking about for sure. But based on the abstract, if I were a grass grower who was asked to stop making money from grass crops, grow trees and not cut them, so that other people can claim a carbon reduction for the state, I would be a bit cranky. Unless the state were to compensate me for the loss of income..

Here is the abstract of the paper his is talking about linked here:

Strategies to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions through forestry activities have been proposed, but ecosystem process-based integration of climate change, enhanced CO2, disturbance from fire, and management actions at regional scales are extremely limited. Here, we examine the relative merits of afforestation, reforestation, management changes, and harvest residue bioenergy use in the Pacific Northwest. This region represents some of the highest carbon density forests in the world, which can store carbon in trees for 800 y or more. Oregon’s net ecosystem carbon balance (NECB) was equivalent to 72% of total emissions in 2011–2015. By 2100, simulations show increased net carbon uptake with little change in wildfires. Reforestation, afforestation, lengthened harvest cycles on private lands, and restricting harvest on public lands increase NECB 56% by 2100, with the latter two actions contributing the most. Resultant cobenefits included water availability and biodiversity, primarily from increased forest area, age, and species diversity. Converting 127,000 ha of irrigated grass crops to native forests could decrease irrigation demand by 233 billion m3⋅y−1. Utilizing harvest residues for bioenergy production instead of leaving them in forests to decompose increased emissions in the short-term (50 y), reducing mitigation effectiveness. Increasing forest carbon on public lands reduced emissions compared with storage in wood products because the residence time is more than twice that of wood products. Hence, temperate forests with high carbon densities and lower vulnerability to mortality have substantial potential for reducing forest sector emissions. Our analysis framework provides a template for assessments in other temperate regions.

This study was funded by DOE and USDA-NIFA.

But this analysis reminds me of the California studies of thinning.. perhaps Oregonians could save water by doing more thinning rather than converting grass crops to trees? Was that analysis included in the study?
Here’s a link from an NSF funded study:

Forest thinning has increased in recent decades in an effort to stave off disastrous wildfires fueled by dense forests. This study shows that restoring forests through mechanical thinning or wildfire can also save California billions of gallons of water each year.

“The need for forest restoration is being driven largely by the need to lower the risk of high-intensity wildfires and restore forest health,” said University of California Merced scientist Roger Bales, director of the Southern Sierra CZO and study co-author. “Downstream users who benefit from the increased water yield are an important potential revenue stream that can help offset some of the costs of restoration.”

Forested areas needing restoration are large, Bales said, but potential changes in water availability are significant. The total effect of wildfires over a 20-year period suggests that forest thinning could increase water flow from Sierra Nevada watersheds by as much as 10 percent.

But back to the discussion draft, DISCUSSION DRAFT_OGWC Forest Carbon Project Report_v10_CLEAN_061818. I noticed that most of the references were from Harmon and Law. Which is fine, they work at OSU and OSU is the Oregon State University. But it makes me wonder whether other scientists have equally relevant ideas or points of view or research that might be relevant. If I were the State Legislature, I would have asked for a report that included a variety of different thinkers and stakeholders and scientists from all parts of Oregon, and asked “what are the environmental and social pros and cons of different approaches to forest carbon in Oregon?” That indeed might be an effort/paper worth funding.

PS After all that reading, nowhere did I find anything comparing the emissions of the timber industry to other industries, as alluded to by the first paragraph in the post “it is THE factor”. Or am I missing something?


via A New Century of Forest Planning

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