Pining for Cooling, Update: Peak Sawlog

The Colorado mountains actually had some seriously cold days this winter. Some are hopeful that this’ll stall the pine beetles a bit. But no one I know expects significant relief. The weather has to go to thirty below and stay that way for five days or so to put a dent in pine beetle populations, and it has to do this year after year. We’ve had a good cold burst or two this year, but overall this hasn’t been happening enough to save the forests.

Since I’m sitting here looking at the little beetle holes in a piece of pine firewood, I thought I might as well update my 16 April 2009 post “Pining for Cooling”.

I just tossed that riddled chunk of proof into my fireplace confident that there’s a lot more just like it piled outside. That’s my good news. The bad news? It’s also a sign we continue to lose our forests. Worse yet, dying trees are not just a problem here in Colorado. It’s global.

For example, my original post elicited a couple of excellent comments from someone with firsthand experience of the pine beetle situation in Montana. Furthermore, a brief search of today’s Google news brought up a slew of articles on the damage to the forest industry in British Columbia.

Here’s one: “Business Suffers in British Columbia Over Mountain Pine Beetle Epidemic.”

This article succinctly explains the economic repercussions of the infestation: sawmill closings, higher lumber prices. reduced availability for all sorts of products.

Here’s another similar article from the Canadian press: “Pine Beetle to Have Continentwide Impact on Lumber Supply: Report.”

A third article points out the long term disadvantages as well as the short term advantages of lots of dead and dying trees:

“Eroding log quality, poorer conversion economics and shorter shelf life of the dead timber will all result in a much smaller B.C. industry in the future as a result of sawmill and plywood mill closures with significant and direct consequences expected for rural B.C. communities,” states the report.

“Peak sawlog availability and output is now forecast to occur within three to five years.”

Peak Sawlog. Yippee! Who thinks beyond five years? We’re home free!

More good news? One expert said that it was possible to mill wood that’d been dead for ten to twenty years.

Most Colorado trees are not going for expensive lumber though. Someone else is living in the time of Peak Sawlog. Here, we are living in the time of Peak Firewood. Finding pine beetle lumber from milled from Colorado casualties isn’t easy. This area, although thick with damaged, drying trees, has a Pine Beetle Lumber Gap.

Nice irony.

Of course, I am happy to have that pile of firewood. We have forestry friends who haul out dead trees, cut, and split them into firewood. They say that there’s at least a six year supply of dead trees close by. That’s six years of cozy fires to look forward to. Peak Firewood. I have nothing to worry about.

Then I click on a few links and wind up staring at a 15 Mar. 2010 article titled, strangely enough,“What’s Killing the Great Forests of the American West?” According to this report, one world-wide study

recently published in Forest Ecology and Management, reported that in a 20,000-square-mile savanna in Australia, nearly a third of the trees were dead. In Russia, there was significant die-off within 9,400 square miles of forest. Much of Siberia has warmed by several degrees Fahrenheit in the past half-century, and hot, dry conditions have led to extreme wildfire seasons in eight of the last 10 years. Russian researchers also are concerned that warmer, dryer conditions will lead to increased outbreaks of the Siberian moth, which can destroy large swaths of Russia’s boreal forest.

Harumpph! Leave it to those Russkies to become global warming advocates.



One Response to “Pining for Cooling, Update: Peak Sawlog”

  1. Peak Wood « Uncommon Scolds Says:

    […] By uncommonscolds Back in March, I posted “Pining for Cooling, Update: Peak Sawlog” The situation is even more real to me right now since the beetles are right now […]

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