How Association Research Is Advancing Sustainable Wood Production

Lumber August 4, 2020 By: Keith Skillman, CAE

The world needs wood—and healthy ecosystems. A forest-management research effort by the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement unites both aims, demonstrating the value and impact of association research initiatives.

Environmental experiments supported by the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI) suggest that by making relatively small adjustments to herbicide use, forest managers can reap environmental benefits without placing undue limitations on wood production needed to satisfy global demand.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations projects that global demand for wood will grow by 40 percent during the next 15 years. Meanwhile, land is becoming increasingly scarce. NCASI’s Intensive Forest Management Study supports environmental experiments to determine the effects of herbicides used in intensive forest management on biodiversity in the Oregon Coast Range. Partners in these experiments are Oregon State University, the Oregon Department of Forestry, Weyerhauser, and Hancock Natural Resources Group.

Applying Science

The NCASI initiative illustrates how an association and its stakeholders can apply research and evidence to a societal challenge—an approach the ASAE Research Foundation has been examining through its centennial-year Impact Every Day study of association contributions to public safety, education, and the economy and workforce development.

The NCASI-supported experiments tested the relationships between different intensities of herbicide treatment and a variety of animals. So far, bird studies, a moth study, and a deer and elk study have provided key insights into the ecological effects of herbicide treatment used to control competing plants in forested areas. Rigorous experiment design and the use of control groups have been essential to the reproducibility of results and the impact of collected data.

The NCASI initiative illustrates how an association and its stakeholders can apply research and evidence to a societal challenge.

Applying Results

The results of the Intensive Forest Management study provide two key benefits. First, the study offers guidelines on how best to manage forests to balance wood production and biodiversity in the ecosystem. The research notes that scientists should evaluate the practices and their impacts at landscape and regional scales. Second, the evidence will inform policy discussions. In Oregon, for instance, policymakers have begun the process of reassessing the State Forest Practices Rules for herbicide application and other forest management practices, and the study results will be part of the discussion.

“As critically important issues, such as forest conservation and management, are discussed in policy forums, it is essential to have reliable, scientific data to make knowledgeable decisions,” says certified wildlife biologist Darren Miller, Ph.D., vice president of forestry programs for NCASI. “Studies such as this one that examine real-world issues in an experimental context are critical for informing these decisions. The value of such research for guiding issues of great public interest and import cannot be underestimated.”

Keith Skillman, CAE

Keith Skillman, CAE, is senior research and content advisor for the ASAE Research Foundation.