A recent report produced by the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the United States Forest Service and the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana provides an assessment of carbon storage in forest ecosystems in California and of carbon storage in wood products produced in California.
While the report indicates that California’s forests are sequestering (storing) carbon dioxide at approximately 27 million metric-tons of carbon dioxide per-year, slightly exceeding the 20 million metric-ton objective established by the California State Legislature in 2010 (Assembly Bill 1504, Pavely), a closer look at the numbers shows some alarming trends.
According to the AB 1504 Forest Ecosystem and Harvested Wood Products Carbon Inventory Report, over half of the carbon being stored in California’s forests is stored on our Federal lands, in our National Forests, Wilderness Areas, and in our BLM lands, while our wood products are storing less carbon dioxide, and the wood products we produce are being thrown into landfills, resulting in additional carbon dioxide storage losses.
The Harvested Wood Products Carbon Inventory looked at wood products used and the end use outcomes of harvested wood products from California’s forests on Federal and Non-Federal lands, and shows a sharp decline in carbon dioxide stored in harvested wood products, and a dramatic increase in the amount of carbon dioxide being lost from wood products that end up in landfills where no energy capture is created from combustion as biomass or hog fuel.
What’s happening to our harvested wood products, why are they not storing carbon, and why are we throwing them away? Logging of native forests and the creation of even-aged, monoculture, short-rotation industrial tree plantations on private industrial lands and on our National Forests, means harvesting of increasingly younger forests in an unnatural plantation setting that translates into quick growth of fiber, but not carbon dioxide-storing heartwood.
The majority of the harvested wood products from our private industrial timberlands in California are young, even-aged, mono-culture plantation-grown, and grown for the quick production of wood fiber, most of which turns out to be sapwood, and the trees simply are not allowed to grow long enough, slowly enough, or under the most optimal conditions to produce heartwood fiber, tighter growth rings, and thereby store greater amounts of carbon dioxide.
These young, plantation-grown, sapwood harvested wood products are far less structurally sound and far more prone to rot, decay, mold, and to eventually, end up in the neighborhood landfill.
The findings of the AB 1504 Forest Ecosystem and Harvested Wood Products Carbon Inventory Report shows that our wood products are losing carbon sequestration both in the products themselves, and through an eventual end-outcome of landfill waste. Loss of carbon storage debunks the false narrative being spun by the logging industry and its lobbyists that carbon dioxide stored in a board-foot is just as good as carbon dioxide being stored in living trees, roots, soil, and plants in native, diverse forests.