Southeastern Forests are being cut down to supply Europe

General discussions of forests and trees that do not focus on a specific species or specific location.

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Re: Southeastern Forests are being cut down to supply Europe

Post by Lucas » Thu Oct 29, 2015 7:03 pm

We travel the Milky way together, trees and men. - John Muir


Re: Southeastern Forests are being cut down to supply Europe

Post by Joe » Fri Oct 30, 2015 5:44 am

Gaines, if you're ever up here in Mass. for a "Bob Leverett walk"- I'll take you around to see some forestry projects- some by me and some by other foresters. Is there a chip market in your area?

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Re: Southeastern Forests are being cut down to supply Europe

Post by gnmcmartin » Fri Oct 30, 2015 7:11 pm


I am not entirely sure if there is any chip market in my area, but I am pretty sure not. The local lumber mills may ship out some that are produced as waste from their operations, but I tend to doubt that also. And if they produce any chips, I further doubt they are used for power generation.

But what we do have is a very active pulpwood market--we have a paper mill not far away. This used to be a better thing for forest management than it is now. About 20 years ago, the mill would buy logs in lengths of 5 feet, minimum diameter at the small end 4", max diameter 18". This was a real boon for TSI thinnings done carefully, because a farmer with a tractor and a cart could harvest during with winter, or any other "slow" time for farming. But then they stopped taking this so-called "short wood," putting the farmers, and some other small operators, out of the pulpwood business.

When the mill went to 20 foot length logs, that encouraged, actually required, a more "aggressive" kind of pulpwood harvesting, using big equipment, and a primary goal of very high production. The mill pays as little as it can get away with, so the competition is fierce, and only the lowest cost producers can stay in business. This is a case of bad forestry driving out the good. Any woodland owner selling to any of these operators will suffer so much damage, that anything they may be paid for the smaller, lower quality trees could never compensate for the reduced health/quality of the remaining trees, and land generally. And some operators pay more to clear cut for pulpwood. I won't let any of these "destroyers" anywhere near my land.

One exception is pine plantations. Pulpwood operators can row thin, which is not so bad, but best done in the winter with a snow pack. The pulpwood market in my area is for both pine and hardwood. But I am saving my pines for "forest cathedrals," and they are just about there now.

Anyway, just one of my top quality veneer trees is worth as much as 50 acres of pulpwood thinnings. As I am sure you well know, if a woodland owner can take "the long perspective," he can make many times as much from his trees as a person who is temped by some near-term cash. The real money is in the highest quality trees. And for me, maybe the most important value is the beauty of my forest land.

I would love a tour of some nice forest projects. If I can get free, my wife and I will be there for sure. I would also love for Bob to show me some of the wonderful white pines up there. I have never seen a 150 foot eastern white pine.


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Re: Southeastern Forests are being cut down to supply Europe

Post by dbhguru » Fri Oct 30, 2015 9:07 pm


If you make it up here, we can visit any or all of the 7 locations in Mass with white pines over 150 feet, and there are at least 17 sites with 140-footers. It is something of a miracle that we have this many sites. We have 7 pines that make the 50-meter club. And oh yes, we're up to 33 black birch over 100 feet. Lots to see.

Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre


Re: Southeastern Forests are being cut down to supply Europe

Post by Joe » Sat Oct 31, 2015 5:27 am

gnmcmartin wrote:if a woodland owner can take "the long perspective," he can make many times as much from his trees as a person who is temped by some near-term cash
Too bad we don't get to fully realize the "long term" since we can't stick around all that long compared to the life of trees. This is why, my vision of paradise/nirvana- is that I get a planet with gorgeous forests- most of which I'll leave alone, but some I'll "manage"- meaning, I'll walk through, point to some trees, and they'll just vanish- no loggers, no burreacrats. Then after I finish a section, I'll snap my fingers and voila, time will speed up- as in the old H.G. Wells movie, "The Time Machine" from 1960 or so--- and I'll see the results- speeding up the growth of the trees I favor, and the openings being filled with young trees. I'll have eternity to "manage" these forests. I look forward to it! Thus, the work isn't about producing wealth, but because I just love interacting with forests.

So, when you come up- Bob and I will show you around- some of the finest old growth in Mass. and some pretty good silvicultural work.

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Re: Southeastern Forests are being cut down to supply Europe

Post by Bart Bouricius » Sun Nov 01, 2015 10:36 am

A few points overall,

1. Scientists studying carbon flux (cycling) agree that in the short run (several decades), burning woody biomass from a given plot of land is not carbon neutral.

2. In the very long run (millions of years) all fossil fuels are probably carbon neutral.

3. On average, "large" cuts that allow sun to dry out the soil produce as much or more carbon loss to the atmosphere as do the above ground trees that are burned for electricity.

4. The soil can take as long or longer to recover this released carbon as the trees.

5. There are several areas in the Southeastern US where mature or even old growth forests are being harvested for the European pellet market.

6. There is a 35% to 40% increase in carbon dioxide produced over coal burning mentioned in the referenced article on the wood pellet industry. Here is another article about this problem: Here is an older, but more thorough article: ... ing-europe

7. When looking for the truth, we should look at what claims are best supported by good scientific evidence, rather than just accepting the most moderate or middle of the road position. The truth is not always somewhere in the middle, but more likely it lies wherever the best evidence points.
Last edited by Bart Bouricius on Sun Nov 01, 2015 1:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.


Re: Southeastern Forests are being cut down to supply Europe

Post by Joe » Sun Nov 01, 2015 1:38 pm

Bart, I seriously doubt they're chipping timber quality wood from old growth forests and shipping it to Europe.

And, the Dogwood Alliance, like many other groups, depends on the somewhat lame Manomet Report, which I've read 3 times- probably a world record. It's not definitive science. They had limited data from which they built a model- which was based on looking only at the acre being cut, not a larger forest. That acre, of course, will take a long time to grow back. But if you look at, say, the forests in a region- at any given time, some is cut but most is growing. If that regional forest, overall, is maintaining its sequestered carbon, or actually increasing its carbon- then focusing just on the acre being cut is a misrepresentation of the situation. Lets face it- without biomass, the same forests will still be cut and many clearcut. I suspect the carbon emissions from non biomass harvesting is as large or almost as large. Much of the cut tree in a non biomass cut- will be left in the forest to rot- and that wood will release most of its carbon within a decade.

The Manomet Report, if you read it, you'll see how weak it is. I looked for and counted certain words: "estimate"- 178 times, "assume"-180 times, "anticipate"-18 times, "presume" - 4 times, "suggest"- 110 times, "uncertainty"- 25 times, "literature review"- 12 times.

If you read real science- like Newton's "Principia"- you won't see any of those words- nor in Einstein's relativity theories or any other real science.

The only real science is physics and chemistry- that can be proven in a rock solid fashion. If you take any 2 chemists and tell them what you're going to pour into a test tube and what you're going to do to it- I doubt they'll disagree in their predictions.

There are a lot of sciences that aren't really science like physics and chemistry because their too complicated- especially the social sciences- which is why nobody can agree their theories- in psychology, sociology, political science and economics.

Now, biology is a pretty good science- though because they're looking at organisms, it's not quite as rock solid as physics and chemistry.

The forests are further removed from real science because they are truly complex. Climate is even more complex. Then add modifciations to the forest- such as logging- and how you use that resource- and predict the effect on climate? That's getting way out there. Sure, burning wood adds carbon to the atmosphere- but as I said above, if you look at all the forest in a region- what really counts is the total carbon sequestered by that region, not what the result is from logging an acre.

It turns out- and I got this from one of the guys who produced the Manomet Report- is that the state officials ordered Manomet to focus on the acre being cut, not the regional forest.

Now, lets back up a bit. Let's look at all other forms of energy production. Can anyone argue that oil or coal or nuclear is better? They may result in less carbon emissions- or not--- but, look at the consequences of producing those forms of energy- wars, destroyed mountains, and possible nuclear catastrophe. Solar and wind? A solar farm was built behind my 'hood. It's a monster, destroyed 18 acres of land which is now without topsoil- merely pure subsoil sand, covered with 14,000 solar panels made in China and shipped here by burning oil in big ships, then trucks. Does anyone look at all that? Generally, no. As for wind farms, who wants one of those next to your house?

I've had countless debates with people who hate biomass. What it really often turns out to be is that hate forestry- and biomass is their way of expressing it. A major anti-biomass web site shows photos of what are the worst logging jobs on the planet, implying that they are typical biomass harvests. I called up the guy who runs that web site. I asked why he lies like that. He said, "we're activists- so we don't have to be fair!" duh!

Now, my point isn't to defend all forestry and all biomass - but- the anti biomass people almost always portray all forestry as bad. If they at least indicated that SOME forestry is good, I'd respect them a lot more. And, if GOOD FORESTRY produces SOME biomass, as a by-product, given the fact that having that biomass market MAKES IT POSSIBLE TO DO GOOD FORESTRY- and if the biomass goes to an efficient facility- especially for thermal purposes, which even the dubious Manomet Report says has a short payback time for the "carbon debt"- then that would be fine. But no, the anti biomass people won't do that.

Since I earn my meager existence doing forestry- and some of that now includes biomass- I deeply resent those who ferociously show such hatred of ALL forestry, implying all such work is extremely destructive- and they imply that biomass is a major contributor to global warming, which it isn't. What really is, are all the oversized cars/trucks and houses that so many people have, including, yes, including people who hate forestry and biomass. Flying in carbon spewing jets? Yes, many who hate biomass love to fly in jets. And, as we all know, meat production in America is a huge contributor to carbon emissions. I bet most people who hate forestry and biomass eat meat, drive in nice SUVs, live in houses larger than necessary and fly in carbon spewing jets.

So, all that means is we're all part of the problem and all need to improve our behaviors to lessen our contributing to global warming. But, sheesh, when I see those anti biomass web sites- they really demonize forestry and biomass. If they stop all biomass- the positive impact regarding global warming will be so tiny as to be barely measureable. They should focus more on ever increasing human populations, land development (true destruction), the lack of public transporation, and meat eating!

Good forestry is a great thing- and yes, most "forestry" ain't forestry at all- but the critics need to give a break to the few of us trying so hard to get good forestry.

I've spent my entire career of 42 years fighting against the scumballs doing bad "forestry" and they've punished me in many ways- such that at the age of 66 I can't retire because my social insecurity will be so low, I can't live on that. Otherwise, I'd spend much of my time tagging along with Bob Leverett!

I really need to write a book.

photo attached of a solar "farm" next to my 'hood- if instead, that acreage was managed forest, even with some biomass cutting, the impact to the planet would be far less
solar monster.jpg

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Bart Bouricius
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Re: Southeastern Forests are being cut down to supply Europe

Post by Bart Bouricius » Sun Nov 01, 2015 6:17 pm

Let me start by saying I do appreciate your efforts at doing forestry well, avoiding high grading etc. what follows though is a very specific response.

You state "I seriously doubt they're chipping timber quality wood from old growth forests and shipping it to Europe".

The following quote from a Wall Street Journal article indicates, that while uncommon, some old growth is being cut for pellets for Europe. "in May 2013, contractors supplying both lumber and an Enviva pellet mill shipping to Europe clear-cut a stretch of wetlands for logs in a cypress and tupelo swamp along the Roanoke River in North Carolina, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Contractors also reported that they had sold Enviva wood from clearcuts in forests more than 100 years old." They further state "the old-growth clear cuts reported in North Carolina were likely an anomaly". Since, as you point out, there is hardly any old growth left in Southern lowland forests I find these "anomalies" particularly distressing. ... rn-forests

Regarding your statement that "The only real science is physics and chemistry- that can be proven in a rock solid fashion", I would say this way of looking at it is too limited. Chemistry is not only what goes on in the laboratory. In, for example Atmospheric Chemistry, new reactions and probabilities of those reactions under different conditions of humidity, etc. are being discovered and recalculated each year. Understanding these reactions and the extent that various sorts of electromagnetic radiation at different temperatures and altitudes impacts their speed and the chain of following reactions, is not simple or straightforward, yet this sort of research is critical to understanding global climate change.

I would also argue that other sciences such as Biology, All climate sciences (several disciplines studying long term climate patterns), Quaternary science, Limnology, Geology, Genetics, Oceanography, Paleontology, etc, etc. all have aspects or parts just like Chemistry, that are more or less probabilistic, that involve statistical likelihood. This does not however make them not legitimate sciences. What makes something a science is methodology and fallibility (can the methods and procedures be replicated and the data thus contested). I will make no claims about social science here.

That said, I agree with you that the Manomet report, which was a report partly based on scientific, and partly on economic studies, had some serious problems. To me, these deficits, were not related to using the language of probability, as there never is absolute certainty in such reports, or much else. Instead, I would say that the report's greatest sin was in using a false dichotomy. What I mean, is rather than compare types of woody biomass burning for electricity generation with say appropriately sized and sighted solar, wind, or low head hydro, the biomass was only compared with other carbon based fuel burning. This may simply be what was mandated, and I plead ignorance here. I will admit I only looked at certain parts of this 182 page report, but it seemed like it's scope was in some ways too narrow.

Regarding all forestry being bad, I will argue that there is better and worse forestry, and that shifting some construction to bamboo would also be desirable. Of course we will continue to harvest trees for firewood and construction, however the less we use wood, and other carbon based fuels to generate electricity, the less Carbon we will be putting into the atmosphere. I would also like to see a moratorium on any harvesting of old growth forest, except for example, removing invasive species, which are much less common in old growth anyway. I would also argue that woody biomass in Europe is becoming a more and more significant source of carbon emissions.

Regarding pay back time for biomass burning, of course the efficiency and use in co generation are important factors, but the restoration of the carbon in trees and soil does take time.

One question Joe, are you against all solar installations, or just a too large one, or one near your house? This is a real rather than simply rhetorical question.


Re: Southeastern Forests are being cut down to supply Europe

Post by Joe » Mon Nov 02, 2015 6:25 am

Bart, most old growth timber is going to include a good deal of sawlogs. My point is that they are unlikely to chip sawlogs to send to Europe- not that they aren't logging/clearcutting old growth forests which of course should not happen. I suppose it's possible some old growth has no sawlogs, but I would be surprised. When the media simply says "they're chipping old growth to send to Europe"- it really does sound like they're chipping the entire forest- which is media bullshit, as I see in ALL the anti biomass web sites.

I certainly don't mean to imply that climate science isn't science, only that it just ain't that accurate for predictive purposes- such as the daily weather report. We know global temperatures are going up but it's a tossup as to how much. But when you talk physics and chemistry, you talk to umpteen decimal places accuracy. Thus, exactly what the effect of any amount of carbon emissions has on global warming is not particularly accurate.

And, again, the Manomet Report was a model. They did not "do science". They did a literature search and they came up with the carbon debt/credit model- which has some value but it's based entirely on focusing on the acre being cut, not the regional carbon sequestered in forests- which, if it's steady or going up, it's absurd to blame forestry work for global warming, especially by people living in big houses, driving big cars, spewing carbon from jets, and eating meat like wolves, while more land is developed every year.

Bamboo? NOT GONNA HAPPEN. People own forests- pay taxes on it- and they have and will cut their trees. If we switch to bamboo, how many millions of acres of forest will have to be cut down to grow bamboo? Growing forests is a renewable resource- it really is- and the battle is to not stop it but improve such work. And, you'll have to ship the bamboo thousands of miles. The new Trustees of Reservations building in central Mass. has a bamboo floor. I spend much of a year going to that building as part of the Forest Futures Vision Process, earning nothing that year, while all the other participants were on salary or generous government pensions- I asked one of the Trustees if it was politically correct to import bamboo from Indonesia while there are forests across the street? I got no reply. By the way, some of the most ferociously anti biomass characters were asked to participate but they begged off- couldn't spare the time.

As for solar--- I detest the sight of solar "farms" covering many acres of the landscape- just hate it. Not just because it might be next to my house. They are UGLY, UGLY, UGLY. In the case of the one next to my house- yes, Mary Booth loves to say it was "just a gravel pit"- but, most of that old gravel pit and restored itself to forest with zero help from the landowner or all the enviro groups on the planet. Much of the acreage was growing back to pitch pine, white pine, grey birch, red maple, etc. Next to several large vernal pools, a river, a state DFW swamp, and my 'hood, and the entire area is zoned "residential/rural"- which the *&^%$ planning board thought was a fine place for such a monstrosity. The developers of this solar "farm" ripped out all the forest and all the topsoil- hard to believe, but it's true- down to bare sand (the valley is a glacial outwash plain). It once had several rare and endangered species. I couldn't even get the enviro groups to take a look so my dislike of them is approaching infinity. Yet, if it had been a normal forest under forest management- and I wanted to merely thin it, the state Natural Heritage Agency would have gone bonkers and prevented ANY work here- yet it was OK by them to utterly destroy the land. I called them and they just begged off- because governor Patrick and the enviro groups JUST ADORE solar. There are a few other solar "farms" in the area which did not go down to bare sand- instead, they build on fields but to me, they are still as ugly as sin.

Solar should be put on buildings and parking lots. A few years ago, the local Walmart upgraded its local store. They should have been forced to put solar on its several acres of roof.

For those who called me a NIMBY- I asked who would like it in THEIR back yards, so I could give their names to the solar developers. Nobody raised their hands. I have several hundred phots and hours of video of the construction of the solar farm in my 'hood, which someday I'll turn into a PBS video.


Re: Southeastern Forests are being cut down to supply Europe

Post by Joe » Mon Nov 02, 2015 8:19 am

Joe wrote:They did not "do science". They did a literature search and they came up with the carbon debt/credit model- which has some value but it's based entirely on focusing on the acre being cut, not the regional carbon sequestered in forests
The choice to focus entirely on the acre being cut was done for strictly POLITICAL reasons. Up to the point the state commissioned the Manomet Report, the state was gung ho for biomass. But after the resistance built up- the governor was facing his reelection and realized that he didn't want to lose the "enviro vote"- so he turned on a dime, and commissioned the Manomet Report- with instructions to focus on the acre being cut, knowing full well what the conclusion would be.

It also turned out that a certain enviro lawyer, *********, who had a vast family fortune made from fossil fuel investments, gave Manomet a nice check with a reminder about all the previous financial support given to Manomet from that same foundation. The lawyer also gave something like a third of a million bucks to Mass. Audubon with a similar reminder- encouraging that group to strongly oppose biomass.

So, though there was some truth to the Manomet Report- it was more a political document than a science document. The Manomet team made out quite well for this "research"- with nice fat paychecks.

then came the media blitz with "biomass worse than coal".

Machiavelli would be proud!

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