A log yard of primarily small-diameter timber.

This summer as a Conservation Connect Fellow, I conducted surveys of 15 timber mills on behalf of the Northern Blue Mountain Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP). To restore ten million acres of forestland across northeast Oregon and southwest Washington, the Northern Blues CFLRP needs to identify markets that monetize forest restoration byproducts that are not traditionally commercially viable, like small-diameter timber. I visited mills to discuss their utilization of these non-sawlog materials, asking questions about operational constraints, industry conditions, current timber volumes, and potential capacities if constraints could be removed. In addition to these conversations and mill tours, I interviewed more than a dozen industry representatives, timber executives, forest restoration investment analysts, academics, and U.S. Forest Service employees. These stakeholders provided valuable background on industry trends, current research, volume estimate conversions, and financing outlooks.

A residuals processing facility that uses timber byproducts.

After my surveys, I spent my fellowship hours processing data and responses, creating a report on industry trends with figures to support my findings. This report included investment recommendations for the implementation of the Northern Blues CFLRP. The most significant of these recommendations calls for providing additional grant capacity to biomass and other byproduct-specific facilities that have traditionally required financial support for their operations. Examples of cited grant resources include the Forest Service’s Wood Innovations Program and Community Wood Energy Program. More of these programs are likely as the result of recent legislative packages that designate funds for forest health. Another recommendation – inspired by the National Forest Foundation’s facilitation trainings for fellows - is to increase the scope of collaborative engagement in forest health programs. The experiences I had through the Conservation Connect Fellowship this summer gave me perspective on how important it is to include stakeholders of all backgrounds in successful landscape restoration models.

Exploring the Umatilla National Forest.

In addition to my mill tours, I had exceptional opportunities to explore the Wallowa-Whitman, Umatilla, and Malheur National Forests. Seeing the effects of catastrophic fires on these beautiful landscapes was a poignant reminder of the importance of forest restoration work. I am sincerely grateful for the opportunity I had through the National Forest Foundation Conservation Connect Fellowship to assist the Northern Blue Mountain CFLRP in its restoration objectives.

Evie Vermeer is a 2022 Conservation Connect fellow pursing a Master of Environmental Science and Management at UC Santa Barbara's Bren School. At Bren, Evie is specializing in conservation planning and participating in the program's sustainable forestry fellowship. He also contributes to research work with UCSB's Earth Research Institute.

National Forest Foundation