Thursday, July 15, 2010

“pre-commercial thinning" as a source for biomass incinertion

The posting below comes from Shawnie who has provided photos many times for this blog. She loves hiking in our forests. Thank you, Shawnie for your thoughtful contributions to the blog.

Many of us have been wondering where the wood for our three proposed biomass plants will come from. The numbers don’t seem to add up, there does not seem to be enough wood out there. I believe that the numbers do not add up because people are not counting our National Forest lands in their calculations. Now, I’m just stating this as an opinion based on what I have seen in the forest and I could be way off base, but I think that a lot of the wood will come from our National Forest. No, I don’t think they are going to clear cut in the National Forest; those days are over. I think they are going to thin every inch of the forest. The catch phrase for this is “pre-commercial thinning”, Tim Sheldon used the phrase in a recent commissioners meeting but he was talking about tree farms.

Pre commercial thinning is a part of the Olympic National Forest (ONF) plan to accelerate old growth characteristics within the remaining second growth forest. Here is a link about precommercial thinning in Olympic National Forest. From my perspective as a student of forest ecology, this does not make a lot of sense, but I can see how this would make great sense from a business perspective.

The forest service is cash strapped and has hundreds of miles of logging road to decommission. Decommissioning logging roads is expensive and clear cutting the forest to make money is not in line with the forest service current goals of conservation.

Pre-commercial thinning is a way for the forest service to log the land and make money and all in the name of "stewardship".

When they do a pre commercial thinning they take out the smallest trees and leave the biggest trees. The little trees they pull out don’t have a lot of commercial value. That is where biomass incineration comes in; these little trees are perfect for incineration.

The forest service can make contracts with logging companies to do the thinning and then the logging companies can sell the thinnings to the highest bidding biomass plant. Like I said, it‘s just an opinion but I think that is where a lot of the wood is going to come from.

Olympic National forest has been doing a lot of pre-commercial thinning lately and with the demand for biomass that the three proposed incinerator will bring in I think this practice of pre commercial thinning will accelerate and turn into a big money maker for the National Forest.

Here is a quote from a recent pre commercial thinning operation that took place near Shelton.

“The selected stands would be commercially thinned to enhance structural diversity and promote the development of old growth characteristics to achieve desired conditions identified by the Forest Plan. The 69 acres of commercial thinning would be selected from a combination of two stands; one stand is in the Pine Creek drainage and the other in the Lebar Creek drainage within the Skokomish watershed. The receipts from the commercial thinning of these stands would be used to fund decommissioning and conversion to trail of 0.6 miles of Road 2361000 and to pre-commercially thin 110 acres of overstocked conifer plantations within the Skokomish drainage."

This is a picture I took of that very thinning operation in the Skokomish watershed. You can see the old growth stump left over from when Simpson clear cut the land under the 100 year sustained yeild  and you can see a second growth stump that was created during the "thinning" that was done to pay for the pre-commercial thinning. You can also see the logging scars left on the remaining trees when the trees all around them were cut down and dragged out.

This next picture shows where the property line is between Simpson and the National Forest.  The standing trees are in the National forest. That's a lot of wood and thinning it would create a lot of "biomass" to burn. Ignore the trees on the other side of the lake, some of them are in a protected wilderness area.

The property line near Lake Cushman.  Simpson land is clear cut, the forest service land has trees. I bet logging companies salivate when they see all these trees that they can not have.

Another picture of the property line.  The trees left standing are on Prospect Ridge.  Prospect Ridge was clear cut by Simpson during the 100 year sustained yeild.  Due to the new Forest Service conservation goals, these trees can not be clear cut again, but they can be "thinned" in the name of stewardship.  There are hundreds of acres of land just like this in Olympic National Forest, maybe enough to supply a  biomass plant or two.


  1. Too funny Brenda.. you posted that while I was still editing it.. :)

  2. Wonderful information! Thank you.

  3. Wow, great information. Thanks!

  4. Even forest managers who favor Adage think this outfit is strange in their beliefs as to the availability of biomass. If Adage - or anyone else - think they can harvest thinnings at Lebar, haul it to Shelton and make money converting it to electricity - well the people of Shelton won't have to worry long. Trouble is all these Federal and local subsidies will create incentives out of reckless ideas that no sane manager would touch if the project had to stand alone.

    However the people within the Port District - well that is another story. One need only go down to the harbor and look at some of the derelict industrial wood "great ideas" of the past that now sit as an eye sore and liability as the owners don't or can't pay the cost of demolition. Predictions should the Port be so gullible as to accept this project; Adage builds it, takes the incentive money and the cream of the depreciation - then sells to a low ball manager that goes broke. Port is then stuck with a liability on their land and no income.

    The Port managers have taken a position and refused to think through the consequences and cost to the public. They are stuck on the ideology of the idea - refusing to accept pragmatic consequences. Sadly the public - not the managers - will pay the ultimate cost.

  5. Carbon credits to Duke Energy for burning northwest forests makes tons of sense? They won't (or can't) state the level of dioxins they'll be emitting. But they DO state they're going to refuse to use 'maximum' technology to remove the toxins and small particles (most harmful) but use the 'best' technology. Of course 'best' has been defined in law to mean 'standard' (inadequate from a human health perspective) and perverting the English language in the process. This is an example of the dissembling Adage promotes when it bills itself as brining CLEAN energy to Mason County...using technology that's dirtier than coal!