Cut logs represent the challenges of utilizing wood products in a sustainable mannerDENVER – Although Colorado experienced a relatively moderate wildfire season in 2017, the current catastrophic losses faced by California and some other Western states highlight the need to address wildfire-prone forests on a regional basis. Yet an ongoing challenge to forest management in Colorado and throughout the West is finding profitable uses for the wood, or biomass, removed to make forests less susceptible to catastrophic wildfires.

As part of this year’s recognition of National Forest Products Week – celebrated during the third week of October each year – Colorado is serving as the location for the first-ever gathering of forest products utilization specialists from states across the West, in the form of a newly formed Forest Utilization Network established by the Council of Western State Foresters. CWSF is hosting the first event in Denver this week.

The gathering will offer updates on ongoing biomass utilization accomplishments from each state, a review of national priorities updates, discussion on new and developing markets for forest biomass in building and energy applications, and guidance on adoption of organizational priorities and work plans for increasing biomass utilization from private and public forests.

Interstate cooperation among western states

“We simply have to work together across state boundaries to find more solutions to the sustainable and profitable use of biomass removals from our public and private forests,” said Tim Reader, utilization forester with the Colorado State Forest Service. “The Council of Western State Foresters and the U.S. Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory have provided the necessary leadership and resources for just such interstate cooperation among our Western states.”

The new chair of the CWSF Forest Utilization Network, Forest Products Program Leader Adam Smith of the Nebraska Forest Service, says that the gathering in Denver will allow the states to establish a more effective strategy for biomass utilization across the West.

“The Eastern U.S. has had a similar network of forest products and biomass utilization specialists for years, and we’re following their model in establishing our organization in the West,” Smith said.