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Timber and Watershed Laboratory
P.O. Box 404
Parsons, WV 26287

Phone: (304) 478-2000
Fax: (304) 478-8692

Forestry Sciences Laboratory
241 Mercer Springs Road
Princeton, WV 24740
(304) 431-2700
Fax: (304) 431-2772

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Research Work Unit NRS-4802

Eastern Forest Use in a Global Economy
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Problem Areas Problem Areas

Problem 1:
Benchmark and monitor hardwood use to access the impacts of change and competing demands on the forest industry, forest resource, and forest-based communities of the eastern United States.

Working closely with state foresters and utilization foresters, the work unit will compile statistics on roundwood receipts by primary processors within the 13 states comprising the Northeastern Research Station. Under a Memorandum of Understanding signed with NRS-4801 in 2001, complete responsibility within the Northeastern Research Station for all activities associated with timber product output assessments (TPO) was given to NE-4803. Responsibilities include coordination and collaboration of survey activities with state natural resource personnel, summarization and tabulation of survey data, and preparation of data for inclusion in the TPO on-line database and written reports.

The Forest Service has responded to congressional mandates to shorten the time between TPO surveys. Thus, where in the past mills in some states were surveyed every 10 to 13-years, current plans call for putting all 13 northeastern states on a three-year rotation. Consequently, survey efforts that entail a complete canvass could be reduced dramatically if statistical sampling methods were developed for data collection. We plan to explore the possibilities provided by statistical sampling using Forest Inventory and Analysis grids and other means to select participants. One issue whether sampling, or conducting a complete canvass, is that of nonresponse. Project scientists have initiated a review of methods employed in dealing with nonrespondents and have found them to be inadequate in detecting differences. We plan to continue this work by exploring the potential of nonparametric statistical methods in dealing with nonresponse.

In addition to TPO which focuses on roundwood receipts, NRS-4802 will continue to benchmark and track wood use in key secondary manufacturing sectors including: pallets, furniture, millwork, cabinets, flooring, railroad ties, exports, and wood components working in conjunction with others including university collaborators, industry associations, other government agencies, other researchers, and by review of the literature and use of secondary data sources. This information will be used to analyze and assess current and future demand within these important industry sectors. The intent of these studies is to provide consistent and accurate estimates of hardwood consumption that will be readily available for inclusion in the RPA Assessment as well as for use in analyses by industry, resource managers and others. Much of this research is reflective of ongoing efforts. NRS-4802 has a history of conducting and supporting, either directly or indirectly, wood use studies in the aforementioned sectors. A complete assessment of each sector every five years by NRS-4802 or others is our goal.

Assessing the impacts of a changing technology and increasing globalization on forest industry competitiveness in the Northeast requires benchmarking existing industry and its economic contributions. NRS-4802 plans to undertake a first-of-its-kind assessment of the forest-based industry within the Northeast that will include production and employment data along with other economic variables. Models and techniques such as IMPLAN and Shift-Share analysis will be employed to establish a baseline upon which future changes in the industry on a regional and state basis can be compared.

Specific outcomes

  • Timely, comprehensive, and accurate information on roundwood receipts by all primary processors in the Northeast, including sawmills, veneer mills, engineered wood product manufacturers, and pulpwood producers

  • Timely, comprehensive, and accurate information on wood use in major and secondary wood use sectors including:

      Pallets and containers



      Wood components and parts




      Railway ties

  • Comprehensive regional assessment of wood products industry and its importance to the Northeastern economy

  • New methodologies to improve data collection efficiency and wood use estimation

Problem 2.
Provide information, analysis, and tools to assist in assessing competitive environments and evaluating product, market, and management opportunities and challenges facing U.S. producers of wood and wood-based products so as to more effectively manage and utilize the U.S. eastern hardwood resource.

A number of studies are underway and contemplated to assess the status, economic vitality, and competitiveness of several major segments of the U.S. wood products industry. Within segments, studies will be conducted to determine the effects of size, product type, management style and quality, financial structure, employee relations, material cost, and other factors that affect competitiveness. One area that will be researched in detail is the use of new manufacturing approaches, such as lean manufacturing, to reduce production costs. Such techniques have proven effective in nonwood industries such as personal computers.

We also will conduct studies that rely on market-based approaches to competitiveness, such as investigating the perceptions of domestic species. Research has demonstrated that consumers have little knowledge of U.S. hardwoods. For example, just 1 in 4 students in a recent survey could identify red oak and fewer than 1 in 10 could identify maple. In another study consumers were found to be more receptive to “character marks” than most manufacturers had thought. Thus, the unit will continue to conduct studies that quantify consumer tastes, preferences, and knowledge of U.S. wood products. The lack of a clear U.S. species identity makes it far more likely that U.S. consumers will accept foreign substitutes. We also need to develop grading standards for character-marked products to help facilitate trade and acceptance of such products.

The work unit will continue its work focused on finding economical uses for lesser utilized species and grades with the aim at achieving a balance between resource use and resource availability. We will continue to look for ways to achieve more complete utilization of the forest resource and to eliminating barriers to better management. One such effort will attempt to identify links between different ownership types and their influence on management objectives and on the availability and use of low-grade and low-value hardwood material. Research will continue to explore new opportunities for use of low-grade, low-valued material provided by engineered wood and composite products.

Studies also will focus on factors that contribute to the success or failure of U.S. exporters. We plan research that identifies characteristics of long-term successful exporters. We will continue to track trends in export markets and deliver this information to industry and to the research community.

We will continue to develop easy-to-use software that helps industry decision-makers with assessing their costs and relative performance. Examples include collaborative efforts with NRS-4701 and SRS-4702 in developing software to determine costs in hardwood sawmills and an optimal edger and trimmer trainer for simulated processing of hardwood boards, respectively. There has been considerable interest of late in information regarding the cost structure of hardwood sawmills and interest among sawmillers in lowering operating costs.

Specific outcomes
  • U.S. forest industry will be given information to help them better compete in the global marketplace

      N.A. housing and economic updates

      ECE / FAO annual market reports

      Assess engineered wood product use

      Examine manufacturing, marketing, and management alternatives that may improve operational, manufacturing, and wood-use effectiveness

  • Information to encourage balanced use of the hardwood resource including the lower-grade, and lower-value hardwoods

  • Cutting edge, state of the art, easy-to-use software for the forest products industry

  • Continued technology transfer efforts to provide important information to our various client groups on hardwood markets through semi-annual publication of the Bulletin of Hardwood Market Statistics, trade and professional journal articles and presentations at industry association meetings and society conferences, and through response to individual requests for information and assistance

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