VerticalBlueLine Forestry & Timberland

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Forest Management

What are the top forest management concerns for U.S. timberland owners in 2023?

U.S. timberland owners are concerned with improving forest health and resilience in the face of threats like wildfires, insects, and disease. Thinning and restoration projects are seen as beneficial for reducing tree density and competition, allowing remaining trees to grow stronger and be more resistant to threats. However, federal agencies like the U.S. Forest Service face implementation challenges at the necessary scale due to budget constraints, bureaucracy, and litigation from environmental groups. Still, timberland owners want to see streamlined processes and increased funding from Congress to expedite forest management projects.

Another major concern is the preservation of old growth and mature forests which play an important role in carbon sequestration. However, timberland owners feel restrictions on logging these forests have gone too far, hampering their ability to actively manage forests. They want changes to Forest Service plans to allow some logging in old growth forests. Environmental groups strongly oppose this.

Overall, timberland owners want policies that balance forest management for health and commercial use with conservation. They seek compromise solutions and collaboration between stakeholders. Groups like the Pinchot Partners exemplify this approach. But challenges remain in aligning the goals of the timber industry and environmental groups.

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Forest Management

Green Building

Green Building

How is the growing interest in green building affecting U.S. forestland owners?

The growing interest in green building is affecting U.S. forestland owners in a few key ways.

First, there is increasing demand for timber and wood products to supply the growing mass timber construction industry, which uses engineered wood products like cross-laminated timber (CLT). This could create new revenue opportunities for forestland owners to manufacture mass timber. However, some environmental groups oppose logging projects in mature forests to protect carbon storage and biodiversity.

There is also interest in managing forests, including thinning dense areas, to reduce wildfire risk and improve ecosystem health. Thinning creates timber supply but environmental groups want protections for old growth forests, and new tech could aid selective thinning.

Finally, investors and companies are looking at forestry as a way to offset carbon.

Overall, green building is spurring demand for timber but also debates over forest management. Forest owners must balance revenue from timber, fire risk reduction, and conservation concerns.

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Wood Pellets

What is the outlook for U.S. timberland owners supplying wood pellets to Asian and European energy producers?

The demand for wood pellets globally is expected to increase dramatically in the coming years, driven largely by Asia and Europe looking to replace coal with biomass for electricity generation.

  • Japan and South Korea are two of the largest importers of wood pellets, with Japan's demand alone projected to reach 20 million tonnes by 2030, up from eight million currently.
  • Vietnam has become the second largest wood pellet exporter after the U.S., recently signing a three-year deal to supply pellets to Japan.
  • While Canada has historically been the major supplier of lumber imports to the U.S., British Columbia has seen a major decline in production capacity over the past five years. As a result, European sawmills have been able to increase their share of the U.S. lumber import market to 15%, with opportunities for continued growth in lumber supply to the U.S. in the coming decade.
  • Domestically, new legislation like the Timber Innovation for Building Rural Communities Act aims to further support and incentivize wood product innovation and use, including for mass timber construction. Federal pilot programs to demonstrate the use of wood products in rural infrastructure could also boost demand.

With global demand increasing, particularly in Asia, and constraints on supply from traditional sources like Canada, U.S. timberland owners appear well-positioned to benefit from growing export opportunities for wood pellets and other wood products in the years ahead.

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Wood Pellets

Carbon Market

Carbon Market

What significant issues are arising regarding the carbon market that timberland companies should be aware of?

The voluntary carbon market is rapidly growing as companies seek to offset their emissions, but there are concerns about the quality and integrity of some carbon offset projects.

Verra, the leading carbon credit certifier, has faced scrutiny over selling credits from questionable REDD+ projects to major corporations. This highlights the need for robust verification to ensure that carbon credits represent real climate benefits.

New standards like Lux Carbon Standard are emerging to facilitate smaller, cheaper projects in a wider range of biomes. This could enable more landowners to access carbon markets. However, the reputation of these new players has yet to be established. Proposed legislation like the Rural Forest Markets Act could help small, private forest owners overcome entry barriers to carbon market by providing government guarantees on loans and bonds. This may create new opportunities for timber companies with substantial smallholder partnerships.

There is a risk that rising demand for wood products could drive extensive logging that releases significant carbon into the atmosphere. Flawed carbon accounting often ignores these emissions. Timber companies should thus be cautious of overstating the climate benefits of their wood harvests.

Overall, the voluntary carbon market offers timberland companies new revenue streams; but navigating the complex, rapidly evolving space requires strict adherence to scientific integrity. Partnering with reputable project developers and pursuing high-quality certification is key.

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Net Zero

How are corporate 'net zero' goals linked to interest in forest planting and carbon trading?

Corporate 'net zero' goals are linked to increased interest in forest planting and carbon trading because forests act as natural carbon sinks. Planting trees or avoiding deforestation can offset a company's emissions, helping it achieve net zero goals.

Several articles discuss companies like Apple, Goldman Sachs, and Shell investing in forest carbon projects to generate credits to counterbalance their emissions. However, recent studies have exposed issues with forest carbon offsets, finding many projects exaggerated emissions savings. This has made some companies reconsider offset purchases amid 'greenwashing' concerns.

EasyJet, Nestlé, and fashion brand Gucci have reduced offset buying due to uncertainty around forest project benefits. Voluntary carbon markets, including forestry offsets, declined 8% in the first half of 2022 - the first drop in years.

Still, the American Forest Foundation states that family-owned forests represent an underutilized climate solution. The group calls for innovative carbon financing models to incentivize small landowners to manage forests for climate mitigation.

The U.S. paper industry also touts its use of sustainable forestry practices to absorb and store carbon.

Overall, corporate net zero goals have increased interest in forest projects, but scrutiny of offset quality has prompted reevaluation of some strategies. More investment in robust measurement and innovative finance is needed to fully realize the potential climate benefits of forests.

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Net Zero

Digitalization

Digitalization

What digitalization efforts are being made in forestry, and how are they revolutionizing the industry?

Digital technologies like drones, remote sensing, AI, and advanced computer modeling are transforming forestry operations. These technologies enable more effective, large-scale restoration of degraded forests worldwide.

  • Drones equipped with seed pods are being used to replant hard-to-reach areas, dropping seeds 25x faster than manual planting. Companies like AirSeed and Mast Reforestation are pioneering drone reforestation, with some drones able to plant 40,000 seeds per day.
  • Remote sensing technologies are also revolutionizing the industry. In Peru, new drone-based forest mapping is helping to digitize and monitor forests to aid planning and conservation.
  • Advanced niche modeling and machine learning algorithms leverage big data can identify optimal native species for reforestation sites based on climate projections, significantly improving restoration outcomes.
  • Monitoring technologies like sensors and satellite imaging allow cost-effective tracking of forest growth and health.
  • The U.S. is utilizing technology to mitigate wildfires and legislation is expediting technology use for treatments.
  • Digital solutions are also emerging in forestry operations - remote sensing aids planning while advanced automation and digitization are optimizing packaging, manufacturing, and inventory management.

Overall, these technologies are enabling more rapid, targeted, and successful restoration of forests worldwide, while improving operational efficiency, contributing to the sustainability of the industry.

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