Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
FIA Project Y071330

    Evaluating the potential to store beetle-killed logs under an insulated snowpack to mitigate volume and value losses after mountain pine beetle attack
 
Project lead: Whitehead, Roger (Natural Resources Canada)
Contributing Authors: Whitehead, R.J.; Wagner, W.L.; Nader, J.A.
Imprint: [BC] :, 2007
Subject: Forest Investment Account (FIA), British Columbia
Series: Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
Description:
The large volume of trees killed by mountain pine beetle has disrupted orderly harvesting plans and log inventory management in affected forest regions. Uplifts in AAC to contend with beetle attack have created a temporary surge in log supply in affected areas with a concomitant expectation of a post-beetle falldown. Recent Harvest Billing System statistics show that the most affected Districts (e.g. Nadina, Vanderhoof and Quesnel) are harvesting pine at well above the local mill production capacity and exporting logs for processing in other Districts (e.g. Mackenzie, Peace or Okanagan). As an expanding epidemic spreads into these latter districts, further uplifts of AAC could swamp capacity to absorb logs from other areas or changes to stumpage could result in less incentive to do so.

Long-term storage of beetle-killed logs has been proposed to help mitigate future falldown or reduce loss in volume or value recovery. Investigations have focused primarily on storage under water or sprinklers, but studies (e.g. R&S Rogers 2001) suggest that environmental issues associated with mill yard runoff from extended storage under sprinklers and economics of storing large volumes in water are not promising, and have recommended that beetle-killed trees be stored as standing dead. However, both recovery volumes and log value decrease with the amount of time that dead trees are left standing (Byrne et al 2006) and effective and economical long-term storage in affected areas remains an imperative need.

Storage of logs under an insulated snowpack is a well-established operational tool for log inventory management in parts of Scandinavia, where it is used to prevent deterioration of log value through drying or decay when logs cannot be processed immediately. Up to 250,000 m3 of wood harvested in winter has been stored under snow at some mills until processed in late summer or fall (pers. comm. Dr. B. Stennes, Industry Trade and Economics Program, CFS, Victoria). Recent FERIC research assessed the potential to integrate this storage method into forest operations in eastern Canada and found that wood stored under snow remained frozen throughout the summer and retained properties that resulted in higher lumber yields and savings in processing cost that more than offset the cost of storage (Nader 2003). As a result, several companies have integrated this technique into their operations. Further study (Nader 2005) examined the economics of wood storage under snow and identified benefits in both forestry operations and at the mill. Reported benefits to forestry operations were mainly from maximizing winter transportation which reduced road maintenance costs associated with hauling during summer and fall. In BC, maximizing winter harvest may have even more significance if hydrologic effects of MPB damage result in the loss of summer logging ground in affected areas (Heile et al 2005). Benefits to sawmills resulted primarily from reduced energy consumption during sawing and prolonged working life of equipment. For pulp mills, fresher chips required less energy and less bleaching during processing.

There is anecdotal evidence that logs have been stored under snow for up to 2 years in Quebec operations (pers. comm. E. Heidersdorf, Research Director, FERIC Eastern Division). This suggests that it may be possible to extend the timeframe for extracting high value from beetle-killed logs for at least that long if stored logs are rotated regularly. Longer term storage has implications for licensee operating costs and crown stumpage payments based on point and time of scaling and/or billing that would need careful consideration and policy incentives may be required to make this feasible.

We propose to assess the strategic potential to store beetle killed logs under an insulated snowpack in forest operations located in British Columbia, and to examine requirements and implications of applying this technique to log inventory management to maintain high fibre quality, extend timeframe for economic recovery from affected stands and potentially to defer expected timber supply fall down in some affected areas. We will also assess the potential for aiding efforts to control expansion of the epidemic in forest districts where the infestation is still building (e.g. Mackenzie, Peace or western Alberta), where green attack harvested in winter might be stored under snow at temperatures too low to allow development and emergence of adult beetles, until transport and milling can be coordinated.

    Deliverables:

Final Report (0.5Mb)

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Updated August 17, 2010 

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