Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Biomass Industry in Review
Biomass can come from many organic sources such as crops and crop residue, grasses, and trees.  These sources are renewable and provide a clean, renewable source of carbon neutral energy.  The biomass industry is another way to encourage the "sustainable" use of our forests.  Growing and harvesting trees provides family-supporting jobs for millions of men and women across rural America.  Working forests are good for the environment providing wood products, wildlife habitat, clean water, and carbon storage.  Encouraging the growth of this industry will provide forest landowners with additional markets for low grade wood and less desirable trees thus promoting proper management and healthier forests

So, where do we stack up as far as biomass generated energy is concerned?  Kilwa Biomass Wood Energy News recently posted a year end summary.  The summary was prepared by Tim Probert and posted on  The most telling part of the report illustrated the impact natural gas had on the development of biomass energy.

"... the most important factor impacting biomass in 2012 was not Washington, D.C. but natural gas prices. As a result of an abundance of natural gas from shale gas fracking, several coal plants - which may otherwise have been potential candidates for biomass co-firing or conversions - were closed, often to be replaced with combined-cycle gas turbine power plants." To read the full story click here.

What do you think about using trees, a renewable energy source "wood", to provide heat and power?  This can be as simple as burning firewood to heat your home or buring wood chips and pellets to fuel boilers that can generate both heat and electricity.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Real vs Fake Christmas Trees

Cutting your own tree is a
 more sustainable option
 With Christmas right around the corner I thought I would share a story with my readers that I came across recently about the question many of us have....Should I use a fake or real tree at Christmas?  

You would have to use a
fake tree 20 years before
it matched the carbon
footprint of a farmed tree
 Much of the general public feels it is environmentally correct to use a fake tree instead of a real tree for Christmas each year.  The mindset being that it must be wrong to cut down a tree.  Steve Mitchell, a forestry professor at the University of British Columbia, referencing a life cycle study completed in 2009 by Ellipsos, a sustainable consulting company out of Montreal, indicated that a fake tree would have to be kept 20 years before it would match the carbon footprint of a tree grown on a Christmas tree farm.  He added, the most sustainable option would be to use a wild grown tree since farmed trees are sheared and many fertilized.  All of which increases their carbon footbrint.  Their study points out that most fake trees are used only 6 years before most are thrown out and end up in a landfill.

When Christmas is over don't just set your Christmas tree out on the curb for trash pick-up.  They make great wildlife habitat.  If you feed birds over the winter set them out near your feeders.  They will provide shelter for the birds and great escape cover from predators.  Following that you can pile them in brushy areas to provide habitat for small mammels, such as rabbits.  If you do have to throw them away make sure they will be chipped and composted.  That way the tree is recycled and not just tossed in a landfill.

Real Christmas trees more sustainable than fakes, forestry professor says
An artificial Christmas tree would have to be used for 20 years before its carbon footprint matches that of a farmed tree, according to a forestry professor at the University of B.C. Steve Mitchell said most artificial trees are kept only six years before fashions change and owners throw them out. Most end their life in a landfill.

"Artificial trees need to be kept for 20 years for the carbon emissions to be equivalent to using natural trees," Mitchell said, referring to a life cycle study done in 2009 by Ellipsos, a Montreal-based sustainable consulting company.

To read the full story click here.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Wildlife Leadership Academy Field Schools

I wanted to share with my readers a neat opportunity for teenage youth, the Wildlife Leadership Academy: Field Schools.  I was invited to be a part of the Pennsylvania Bucktails Camp for the first time last year.  It was a great opportunity and I was able to work with a fantastic bunch of young people who were passionate about learning and the outdoors.  In fact, I was so impresed by this group of folks, I have joined the planning committee this year and hope to be involved with the academy from start to finish.  There is also a Pennsylvania Brookies Field School.  Both of these schools are organized by the Pennsylvania Institute for Conservation Education (PICE).

We are currently looking for new recruits and adult mentors to attend the schools this coming summer.  I have provided some of the details below.

Calling all wildlife enthusiasts, naturalists, and future conservationists!

The Wildlife Leadership Academy is now accepting applications for the 2013 Field Schools, a five day camp for Pennsylvania students ages 14-17 that will forever change the way they see the outdoors. Youth spend the week exploring their passions with teens from all over the state, learning how to protect the legacy of our wildlife for years to come.

Guided by the state's top biologists, professionals and sportsmen, each Field School introduces them to biology, habitat and conservation issues that impact a single species.

White-tailed deer will be the focus of the Pennsylvania Bucktails field school (June 18-22, Stone Valley Recreation Area in Huntingdon County).   Brook trout and freshwater fisheries will be center stage at Pennsylvania Brookies field school (July 9-13, Sieg Conference Center in Clinton County).

Monday, December 3, 2012

Emerald Ash Borer Continues to Spread...What Do I Do?

Emerald Ash Borer Decision Guide for
 Urban and Community Trees
Our struggles to manage the forest in the face of invasive exotics continue to cause us problems.  Emerald ash borer (EAB) is spreading and will continue to spread as long as host trees are available.  I received word last week that the insect has been positively identified on the Penn State campus in an ash research plantation, in Musser Gap on the Rothrock State Forest by DCNR foresters, and by the Penn State Forestland Management office on the Stone Valley Experimental Forest in Huntingdon County.

Knowing this I think we would have to make the assumption that all stands with high densities of ash trees are under an immediate threat of attack in the Centre Region.  In other areas where populations of EAB are still more geographically isolated it is recommended to use mapping as your guidance for management prescriptions. EAB populations expand at an average rate of ½ mile per year.  Stands greater than 5 miles from EAB populations are projected to be about 10 years away from EAB impacts. Unfortunately, confidence in maps of EAB population locations is low and only serves as a guideline.

Insecticide controls are avaialble for individual ash trees and trees in urban/suburban settings.  Purdue University has done a great job at pulling this information together.  You can find their information here.  Their suggestion for making management decisions is as follows: If EAB has been found in your county or within 15 miles, you should start protecting your ash trees.

Also, recall that in April of 2011 the quarantine restricting the in-state movement of all ash materials and hardwood firewood was lifted by the PA Department of Agriculture.  To my knowledge, the federal quarantine has remained in effect to help stop the spread into other states.

Below are silvicultural guidelines that were developed by the Michigan DNR you may find them helpful in making management desicisions.

Ash resources within 10 miles of EAB populations:
These stands are at high risk of EAB caused ash decline and mortality within 10 years. Reduce ash basal area, if ash comprises greater than 10% of total stand basal area. If the ash resource is of poor vigor, the risk of EAB caused decline and mortality is greater. Where ash resources are generally of poor vigor, retain a minimal or no ash component.

Ash trees in upland hardwoods: Generally, it is not advisable to reduce stand basal area below 70 square feet per acre. Remove the largest ash first, leaving vigorous pole sized trees.  Limit canopy gaps to 60 feet in diameter or less if possible.

Ash resources > 10 miles of EAB populations:
These stands may have greater than 10 years before EAB arrives. Use conventional forest management practices to increase tree species diversity and decrease ash components, as outlined above. Ash reduction is a higher priority the nearer an ash resource is to EAB populations. (Note: Watch for newly discovered EAB populations established via artificial movement of firewood or other ash products which place stands < 10 miles for EAB populations.)

Tree species diversity and stand regeneration: The EAB mortality or ash pre-salvage/salvage harvests may lead to under-stocking, conversion to undesirable tree species and/or to areas of non-forest cover. This is especially true where American beech and ash comprise a significant proportion of the total stand basal area. In such cases, active treatment of ash regeneration through cutting and/or herbicide application may be necessary to keep the ash component to an appropriate level and to encourage tree species diversity. Under-planting and/or planting canopy openings may be necessary to attain the desired stocking and mix of tree species. Select tree species which are matched to the habitat type and which improve species diversity.