Wood Industry Can Prevent Catastrophic Fires
May 01, 2012

Courtesy of the US Forest Service.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Forest managers, policy makers and entrepreneurs are meeting this week in Flagstaff to discuss what to do with small trees before they become fuel for catastrophic wildfires or food for beetles.

The concept isn’t new. Cut small diameter trees; turn them into building materials; and sell them for a profit. That helps overly dense forests, people who need jobs and the communities vulnerable to fires.

What’s new is people are coming up with better ideas.

Catherine Mater is a senior fellow at the Pinchot Institute, a forest conservation think tank.

"You’re really looking at new technologies coming on line that better address how you take what has typically been considered a waste material essentially, put it through a thermal modification process and have it come out stronger than many of the hardwoods used across the United States," Mater said.

Mater and many others see the industry as a critical part of forest restoration.

Arthur Blazer is Deputy Undersecretary of Natural Resources and Environment. Blazer says many people in the Southwest should understand they have chosen to live in fire-adapted ecosystems.

"They need to realize that these areas over the centuries have relied on fire to keep them clean," Blazer said.

Many attending the conference are waiting to hear who will be awarded a U.S. Forest Service contract to thin and use 300,000 acres in Arizona. It’s the largest contract of its kind.