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RMRS-RP-37: Opportunities for making wood products from small diameter trees in Colorado

Lynch, Dennis L.; Mackes, Kurt H. 2002. Opportunities for making wood products from small diameter trees in Colorado. Res. Pap. RMRS-RP-37. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 11 p.

Colorado's forests are at risk to forest health problems and catastrophic fire. Forest areas at high risk to catastrophic fire, commonly referred to as Red Zones, contain 2.4 million acres in the Colorado Front Range and 6.3 million acres Statewide. The increasing frequency, size, and intensity of recent forest fires have prompted large appropriations of Federal funds to reduce fire risk and improve fire protection. Experimental ecological restoration studies using thinning and prescribed fire have been conducted at several locations across the State during the past 5 years to determine if high-risk areas could be treated to improve forest health and reduce the potential for catastrophic fires. These studies established that 80 to 96 percent of the trees removed to improve ecological conditions were between 5 and 11.9 inches in diameter. Some trees 12 inches and larger in diameter had to be removed to properly apply ecological prescriptions and typically comprised 4 to 18 percent of the trees removed. The projects studied had profit margins of 1 percent (Pines Partnership), 6 percent (Mixed Conifer Project), a loss of $78,000 (Chessman Reservoir-Trumbull Project), and required subsidies of $779 per acre (Fox Run) and $679 per acre (Air Force Academy). A search for opportunities to use small diameter trees from these projects was conducted as part of an effort to improve the financial feasibility of forest restoration. A previous study, "Wood Use in Colorado at the Turn of the Century" (Lynch and Mackes 2001), describes in detail the various types and quantities of wood products used in the State and identifies where products came from. Using this study, the authors identified potential products that might be manufactured from small diameter trees removed in restoration thinnings. The potential opportunities for using wood are listed in two categories: (1) existing products, processes, and technology, and (2) new products, processes, and technology. Products are arranged within each category in order of increasing complexity of processing and technology. Estimates of the potential retail market value for each product are presented. Examples of existing product opportunities include Christmas trees, mine props, firewood, posts and poles, rough sawn lumber and timbers, and oriented strandboard. Examples of new products and processes include structural roundwood, biomass energy, and wood pulp. The report concludes that future restoration programs must be designed to provide a consistent supply of raw material to processors. It also recognizes that there is no single product that will utilize all small diameter trees from Red Zone areas. Instead, a stable, diverse wood industry appears to be the most desirable future.

Keywords: small diameter trees, wood products, forest restoration

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Title: RMRS-RP-37: Opportunities for making wood products from small diameter trees in Colorado
Electronic Publish Date: September 26, 2002
Last Update:
January 14, 2010

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