Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Voices of the Future (11) - On Reintroduction of Species

by Shelby Harkless
Wildlife and Fisheries Science major, graduating Spring 2016
sah5588@psu.edu

In terms of policy, there are very few set guidelines when it comes to the reintroduction of a species. There are a few guidelines from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), but these only account for animals born or held in captivity, and they are not widely enforced. The IUCN does have guidelines on the reintroduction and translocation of species, but does not touch on specifically monitoring the stress of the individuals. Since the AZA and IUCN do not hold any legal power, it is essential to form laws ensuring reintroductions are performed as appropriately as possible, with minimal stress. This is a critical topic since it is believed we are entering the next great extinction. To slow, or counteract this process, we are able to take measures to reintroduce extinct or extirpated (absent from a specific area) species back into their native environments. Every species found on Earth has a specific niche within its ecosystem. Even the smallest organism can impact all other species found around it, from bacteria to wolves, with its absence.

Regulating reintroductions is near to my heart because it is the topic of my honors thesis. Sources to reference for your own personal gain will be cited numerically in parentheses, with their accompanying information listed at the end of this post. I am researching how the stress of an individual arctic ground squirrel affects their dispersal and survival rates after being introduced into an area in Kluane National Park, Yukon Territory, Canada where the species was previously extirpated (1). The squirrels were tracked using radio telemetry to determine survival and dispersal using GPS. The new environment was also altered in one of four different ways (tall grass no artificial burrows, tall grass with artificial burrows, short grass no artificial burrows, and short grass with artificial burrows) to determine if habitat type may determine the habitat use by the animals. In previous studies, it has been shown that increased stress, determined by measuring fecal glucocorticoids, will cause higher mortality and higher dispersion (2).



If studies such as mine can show that lower stress does in fact improve survival and lower dispersion, then it would be critical to ensure lower stress in future attempts. This can be accomplished by performing several different methods of reintroduction. For example, my experiment used soft release and hard release methods to compare how they affected the stress level of the individual. In the soft release, the squirrels were placed into holding cages for approximately two weeks to acclimate to the area. Inside the cages, the squirrels were protected from all predators, provided with fresh water and food, and also provided with shelter from the elements before being released into the new area. Once released, the animals were still able to enter the cages which were now open, and were also still protected by an electric fence for an additional two weeks. On other hand, the hard release squirrels were immediately released into the new area without any acclimation period or assistance.




This comparison will be beneficial to determine if acclimation to the area can affect the outcome of the reintroduction as a whole. If an elevated stress level does hinder the success of the reintroduction, then every measure which could possibly lower the level should be taken. Future studies should take this into account. Similar to my study, others should use a variety of methods to determine which will result with the least amount of stress on the animal. At first, this should be practiced with smaller, less endangered animals at first to improve the quality of the attempts. Once this has been perfected, it can be used with more vulnerable animals which cannot afford to be lost to poor practices.

Since reintroductions are performed at the collegiate, state, and even national level, a national policy mandating stress evaluation be conducted during a reintroduction should be established. This way, all parties involved would fall under the same guidelines. There are some rather simple ways to make this happen. You can simply talk to your state legislature to educate them about the issue and solution, or bring it up to the ecology/wildlife and fisheries departments of colleges and universities. I believe educating the source of the reintroduction itself is key to ensure people are willing to abide by the new practices. Laboratories which are able to perform the stress analysis need to cooperate with this new procedure in order to ensure its success. With your help, we can help improve the success of future reintroductions of our precious species.

1. Wheeler, Helen C., and David S. Hik. "Arctic Ground Squirrels Urocitellus Parryii as Drivers and Indicators of Change in Northern Ecosystems." Mammal Review 43.3 (2013): 238-55.
2. Sheriff, M. J., et al. "Mountain‐top and valley‐bottom Experiences: The Stress Axis as an Integrator of Environmental Variability in Arctic Ground Squirrel Populations." Journal of zoology 287.1 (2012): 65-75.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Voices of the Future (10) - There’s No Crying in Water Issues!

“Seriously, we can’t afford the tears.”

By Sarah Xenophon
Environmental Resource Management Major, graduating Spring 2017
sxenophon1@gmail.com

History:

Water issues and water use policies have been a bit of a busy topic since, well the beginning of human collection of climate data. (A quick disclaimer: This is not a post about climate change gloom and doom. However, whether you believe that humans are the cause or not, there are many scientific studies that point to drastically changing global weather patterns and ultimately, climate change.) Recently, with California Governor Jerry Brown mandating a 25% reduction in water use across California, things are getting a little heated…literally. Now into its fourth year of record-breaking drought conditions, California is feeling extreme pressure to reduce its water consumption and save itself from desertification. Shown in the figure below, precipitation has dropped to dangerous levels and the temperature has been on the relative rise since the start of the 20th century.


It’s no surprise that California has implemented such a drastic policy to combat the declining conditions in the state, but with the long-standing water allocation policies in the west, the reduction has a variety of effects on different individuals and rights owners. This will be explained further in the next section of the blog, but for now, all you need to know is how water allocations work and what might be causing the shortage issues at their roots.




Water allocation, in its simplest form, is a long line for a limited resource. There are many straws in every natural waterway running through the west and as populations rise, more new straws are added. Allocations are basically claims on the water that strengthen with age. The older your claim, the higher on the list you fall for rights to the water and the more likely it is for you to receive all of the water you need. However, in recent years, it has been increasingly difficult to keep track of who is using what water and allocations have been found to be consistently higher than the actual amount of water available. In other words, more than 100% of water that is meant to be allocated is being allocated. This leaves a recurring deficit in waters that are required for other prescribed uses.

How could this be in the age of science you ask? The answer is poor quantification of actual water supply and tracking of uses. Policy makers are relying on often-incorrect and out-of-date information to make decisions on whose use should be restricted and where it is most necessary to show concern. It makes it more of an accounting issue rather than a rain dance type of situation to rectify the over-allocation issue. To learn more about over-allocation in California and what needs to be changed in order to make the policies already in place more effective, Waterblog has some excellent explanations and data sets to clarify the situation.


New Policy Outlook:

Let me just start by stating the obvious. A 25% water reduction in modern California is a lot of water. In fact, it’s a reduction of around 9.5 billion gallons per day, which is almost 3.5 trillion gallons per year according to the USGS. To achieve such a drastic cutback, the Governor has declared several water saving directives. Such directives include lawn replacements, consumer goods replacements, reduced irrigation on certain properties, and irrigation bans on other certain public lands.  Fifty million square feet of grass lawns are on the chopping block under this new policy. Grass is to be replaced by native, drought resistant plants that require far less irrigation and homes are prohibited from irrigating unless they use water efficient drip systems. Golf courses and other highly irrigated properties, like campuses and cemeteries, are to reduce their water consumption. There is also a state rebate program in place working to have consumers replace household appliances with more water and energy efficient models.

If you’ve come to the conclusion that most of these reductions are focused on the activities of home and private landowners, you’ll be glad to know that the locals did too. Many Californians who are most affected by these cutbacks are angry with Governor Brown for the restrictions, pointing fingers and blowing whistles at big agriculture. After all, around 80% of California’s water is used for irrigation in agriculture. What many people might not know is that they are already on it! Plus, having borne the harshest economic hit caused by this drought, farmers are more than eager to find ways to reduce their water use and thus their resource cost. Allocations have been reduced, water management plans must be submitted, water usage reports shall be collected for better understanding of where water goes, and local water suppliers working with the California government will enforce these directives. 

Why do I care? (And so should you!):

Well to start, I can’t get enough of water-related education in my life.  Water issues are to me as perms were to rock stars in the eighties. But in all seriousness, global water stewardship and ensuring clean water for future generations is the epitome of my college career. Aside from my personal mission to save the waters of the earth, you can see from the earlier video and make educated inferences that water issues in California, or anywhere on this planet for that matter, are really bio-indicators for potential water issues elsewhere. With an exponentially growing human population, there is a high demand for increased agriculture. Where there is a need for more agriculture, there is an intrinsic need for more clean water.

If California loses the capacity to supply roughly $37.5 billion in produce annually, more than any other state currently does, this agricultural production falls on the shoulders of other states, or is removed from the net US food production. The obvious direct impacts would include rising prices in products ranging from veggies to nuts to oils to everyday staples. It would also cause an increase in water use in other states trying to fill the hole California has left. This might not seem like a bad idea until you find out that the water tables in many other states have also dropped and added agriculture would cause more stressors on local watersheds.  Some of the most prominent water issues in my home state, Pennsylvania, include nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment runoff from you guessed it, agriculture. Seeing as it’s already a tough situation to control, a high demand on farming would only intensify the problems. To avoid such increased stressors on our local environments and on your local watersheds, the best course of action would be to contact your local and national governments and voice your concerns about the growing water issues. Along with that, in the modern era of NGO lobbyists, joining agencies like the Nature Conservancy, Water for People, or any number of other non-profits that are concerned with water conservation would be a great way to become more active.

Think you’ve got better ideas? Lay down the law and contact your legislator!


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Voices of the Future (9) - Erosion & Sedimentation Plans are Necessary but can be Too Strict

by Zach Gentilesco
Forest Science Major, graduating May 2016
zgentilesco@yahoo.com

Over the breaks and a few weekends, I like to go back home from school to work in the woods for either of my uncles who are loggers. I first learned how to safely use a saw at 12 and learned how to operate a skidder before I learned how to drive a car. Working in the woods is something most of the males in my family are accustomed to.

This past winter break my uncle had a several-acre clearcut planned for us to do. Due to the strict environmental and sediment plan that was required we have yet to fell a single tree. This ordeal lasted several months and resulted in my uncle losing interest in the job. I guess I should mention now that the area that we were going to cut was not to be managed, but intended to be developed and have condominiums constructed.

The real work of logging is not felling and skidding. It is getting past all the red tape of erosion & sediment plans and getting bonds to use county roads for the single log truck my uncle owns. Life is already tough enough for the small time logger that is trying to put food on the table along with paying taxes and the never-ending battle with fixing equipment. In my opinion, I think that the tedious and strict e&s plans required to log should be loosened depending on the intentions of the landowner and the size of the operation. For instance, if a logger is only cutting down snags and hazard trees, he should not need to have an e&s plan. This idea is in practice in some areas, but is not practiced in my home county.

A logger should only have to focus on removing trees to the best of his or her abilities. They should not be put on hold due to a strict e&s plan that sometimes will make no difference due to the decision of the landowner. Should e&s plans be loosened all together? No, they shouldn’t for massive logging operations that cover an entire landscape, or for the companies that are doing the construction; but for small operations that will not do any harm to riparian zones or any open water, they are over the top.

People lose their minds if a little dirt falls in a stream, but no one seems to complain about all the salt that the state spreads on the roads during the winter. In the spring all the salt has to go somewhere and it is not into some containment area that safely stores the vehicle eating salt until next year. It goes into the streams that are near roads. I am not a wildlife and fisheries person, but I don’t think all that salt is good for the wildlife that live in or use those open water sources.

Below is a video that goes into great detail about the planning and precautions that go into an erosion and sediment control plan. All the work that goes into an e&s plan is a little over the top for a small time logger to complete.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Voices of the Future (8) - Wind Turbine Setback Regulation

by Ryan Conner
Majoring in Wildlife and Fisheries Science, graduating May 2016
rec5295@psu.edu

After our guest lecturer, Mr. Barton, gave his amazing speech, I decided I was going to look into the regulation for setbacks of wind turbines. Mr. Barton went through PA’s model for setbacks, things like the nearest building or public road should be at least 1.1 times the total height of the turbine, and that the nearest occupied building should not be within 5 times the hub height of the turbine. These all seemed like reasonable restrictions, but then Mr. Barton mentioned that these were just guidelines and they were not actually mandatory. This instantly struck me as being strange. I could not believe that there were not actual regulations that needed to be followed, especially because I felt like it would be really unsafe to have a turbine right next to a house. That is what spurred my interest in looking into turbine setbacks, and the first thing I stumbled upon was this video.


The video really surprised me. I never really thought about the wind turbines causing problems to people’s health because of the load constant noise. Although I could not find the report that was mentioned to come out sometime this year, it seems like there is information defending both sides of the argument. On the one side, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) mentions that “these allegations of health-related impacts are not supported by science.” On the other side, in a review done by the Minnesota Department of Commerce on the international policies of wind turbine setbacks, they mention that noise limits are one of the most used means for determining the placement of the wind turbines. So in other words, many countries would have to believe that the noise from wind turbines can cause problems for humans.

After seeing all the regulation for other countries I had to see what type of regulation the United States had for the placement of wind turbines. In The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’ (NARUC) report I found that only a very small portion of states actual have regulations that need to be followed and then a few like Pennsylvania have models that can be followed. A lot of them had no regulations at all. I just don’t understand why some states can basically ignore the risks of wind turbines (noise, shadow flicker, ice-throw, and blade and tower failure) while others have policies they have to follow. All states should have to follow some kind of setback regulations. It might vary for different areas because certain areas may need more or less distance for it to be safe, but there will still be regulation they need to follow. At the very least I feel that no buildings or roads should be within 1.1 times the total height of turbine. That way people should be safe from most of the harm except for the sound which is still not seen as a threat to human health.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Voices of the Future (7) - Hours of Operation of Turbines to Minimize Wildlife Kill

by Ryan Klinedinst
Wildlife and Fisheries Science Major, graduating May 2016
rmk5339@psu.edu

Wind energy - it is renewable, environmentally friendly, and somewhat efficient...but with all good things there comes a cost. A hidden cost of wind energy and turbines is that it has an effect on song birds, birds of prey, and bats. Yeah, there will be some wildlife death when you change an environment and add something unnatural, but we can limit its effects on the wildlife.

The following statistics in bold are taken from a presentation Mr. Mike Barton gave us in class.

  • “The PA Game Commission did a study and found that one turbine kills about four song birds a year.” Now to some people four doesn’t seem like a big number, but think about how much turbines you see on one mountain and each one of them kill’s four birds a year! “Most of these deaths occur in the fall and spring time, when birds are migrating.” 


  • The birds of prey such as red-tailed hawks, coopers hawks, and turkey vultures are also affected by the turbines, which makes sense since they use high wind currents to glide and look for food. “According to the PGC about 86 birds of prey are killed a year.” Check out this video. Warning: this may be too violent for some viewers.





  • The most interesting part to me is the death toll that wind turbines have on the bats! Now bats are out mostly in the night time, but the turbines are running at night too. Since these turbines have lights on them, those lights attract bugs. Due to the turbine lights attracting bugs, bats fly around trying to get a meal, an effort that sometimes results in death or injury. The PGC states that “twenty five bats are killed by one turbine in a year.”


Now there are policies and laws in place that regulate the amount of time a turbine can be running. The turbines also get turned off at certain times of the day to try to prevent wildlife death from occurring, but it isn’t a perfect solution. I honestly don’t know if there is a perfect solution to prevent wildlife death by turbines, but I believe it is possible to improve the chances for the wildlife. I believe that we can make policies that can add more regulations to the activity period of the turbines. We already have laws in place that during migration times that the turbines are shut down.

I believe that we could have more regulations in place, such as:

  1. Let the turbines run in the middle of the day, compared to morning and evenings when birds are more active.
  2. Another thing we can do to help prevent death in bats specifically is not have lights on the turbines, like I said before the lights are attracting bugs and the bats eat bugs. So wouldn’t it make sense to not have lights on the turbines, or if they need lights use a light color that doesn’t attract bugs?
  3. Also why not turn off the turbines after a certain time of the night like around midnight and then start them back up around eight or nine o’clock in the morning to help reduce the bat mortality. This is how I believe that we can help out the wildlife and hopefully prevent less death from turbines.

Check out this video on wind turbines and birds:




Friday, May 15, 2015

Voices of the Future (6) - Wind Turbines are Worth Your Investment

By Todd Techentine 
Forest Science Major, Graduating May, 2016 
ttechentine20@gmail.com


Over the past couple years the amount of wind farms has increased significantly. In Pennsylvania alone there are 24 operating wind farms with a total of 717 wind turbines. With this increase of wind farms comes a lot of questions. Such questions as “Are they worth building, how long until they pay for themselves, what are the benefits of having then, and etc.” Most of these questions come from taxpayers and people who think they are worthless investments.

The total cost for everything when building a commercial wind turbine comes out to be around four million dollars for a two megawatt (MW) capacity turbine. The 2MW capacity turbine is the one you see mostly for commercial use. Now yes, this is a very high number to install these wind turbines, but compared to commercial solar energy per MW it is pretty cheap. There is no denying that. This money does come from grants from the government and yes also out of taxpayers’ pockets. With this number being so high, it makes people think that there is no way it can pay for itself. But in fact a wind turbine can pay for itself in just one year. This is, however, if it is placed in an efficient place. By that, it has to be able to get wind with no interference. This way it can get the maximum amount of wind hitting the blades allowing it to turn more, thus producing more electricity. With the more electricity produced, the faster it will pay itself back.

Now knowing that they can pay themselves off, let’s look at the many benefits that come with investing in windmills. Some of the advantages include economic, social, and also environmental. One major economic advantage is that the increasing number of windmills also increases the demand for workers. People are needed to build these wind turbines as well as perform maintenance on them when they are built. The biggest advantage, however, is with the environment. As you know coal has been a major supplier of electricity for many years. This is done by burning the fossil fuel in plants called co-generation plants. They burn the fuel which causes a large amount of emissions. These plants also take a longer time to pay for themselves compared to wind turbines.

Source: http://www.world-nuclear.org/Nuclear-Basics/Greenhouse-gas-emissions-avoided/

At first glance it is easy to see why people think wind turbines are a bad investment. It’s not hard to tell that two million dollars per MW is a lot of money. But when you look into the benefits that wind turbines produce, and the payback rate it makes, it is a no-brainer to invest in wind turbines. In time, you may not even have any other choice but to have to invest in them, so why not start now? In a couple years, the major producer is going to either be solar power or wind power. So getting used to investing in wind turbines now will just get you ready for the future., because wind power is the next big thing.

Also, wind turbines are not as bad as people make them out to be. People say they produce a lot of noise, look bad, and hunters say they scare deer out of the area. I disagree with every one of these statements. I live in a little town that recently just put up wind turbines. Now yes, there were some minor problems at first. That’s everyone’s first reaction to something new and different.  Now, after having them up for a couple months they are actually an attraction. As for me personally, I think they are pretty incredible. I know for a fact that they also do not scare the animals around them. I hunt relatively close to these wind turbines and every year I manage to shoot a deer. As for the noise, yes they produce a noise. This noise however can only really be heard when you’re really close to them or just about under them. And the last thing, they do not look bad or cause a lot of damage to build them. I actually think they are pretty to neat to watch them blowing. You can actually see the whole blade spin to catch the wind. So based on what everyone says, it is not necessarily true. If you ever get a chance to see these wind turbines, stop and take a few seconds to admire them instead of just listening to what everyone says about them.





Friday, May 1, 2015

Voices of the Future (5) - Fuel From Poo? I think YES!

By David Snook
Forest Science Major, Graduating August, 2015
snook1190@gmail.com

According to the U.S EPA there are over 2.2 million farms in the United States. Face it; the majority of farmers out there aren’t doing if for fun. Most of these farmers either raise beef, dairy, swine or and/or poultry to create either all or some of their income.

Either way… that is a lot of poop! What do these farmers do with all this manure? You may be familiar with driving through the obvious aromas of manure while farmers are spreading it on their fields.

There are many regulations to how farmers use their manure. I know from my own experience living on our family farm, that my father has to document the amount of manure every time we clean out our barns and when we spread it. For chicken and turkey farmers, they must store the manure in a building that is built simply for that purpose.

Ask yourself this. Is there anything else that farmers can do other than spread it on their fields? The answer is yes! Use it for energy! There are two ways that farmers can utilize manure for energy. They can either dry it to below 20% moisture content to burn for cooking or heating, or they can make a nice sloppy mixture of manure and water, and let it ferment in an air tight tank to create methane gas and carbon dioxide, which is then used as fuel for electricity and heating. What is even more amazing is that if the farmers don’t just burn it, they can use the byproducts of manure from the fermenter to spread on their fields with the same nutrients as before they fermented it. IT’S THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS!

Even though this seems like an amazing combination of poo and energy, there are only about 150 farms reported to have digesters capable of converting manure to energy. WHY?? Because this is an expensive operation! On average it costs $18,000 – $30,000 to get one of these up and running. Now that’s some expensive gas! There aren’t too many farmers that I know of that would spend that kind of money on one of these systems. The government needs to assist farmers in building these digester/fermenters to convert manure to energy. You may be wondering why the government should fork out money to help pay for these? The more people who use these fermenters, the better off the environment is. Besides, the government spends a ton of money on a ton of other less important things right? How can this be?

There are many benefits of having a fermenter!

-Decrease methane gas to the atmosphere
-Decreased smell of manure
- It is a renewable resource (cows are always pooping!!)
- Farmers can still use manure as fertilizer
- It will help farmers greatly decrease or completely get rid of their heating & electricity bills
- Can also provide energy for others

As you can see, there are many benefits of converting manure to energy. The government should be encouraging farmers to build digesters (they should help with the bill!) to better the environment and help with the fight against global warming with harmful methane gas. With more fermenters across the country and around the world it will make a big difference!

Videos for your viewing pleasure!







Thursday, April 30, 2015

Voices of the Future (4) - Invasive Plants in Pennsylvania

by Zachary Byers
Forestry major, graduating December, 2016
zrb5057@psu.edu

Our nation’s lands hold a wealth of diversity, impacted by the lifestyles and cultures of the people occupying it. While many of these additions have allowed America to grow and prosper, throughout the years there have always been a number of missteps. One of the clearest representations of this is the number of aggressive exotic plant species that continue to threaten and cause problems within our native landscape, known as invasive plants. The vast majority of these species, such as Garlic Mustard or Japanese Barberry, were introduced to the land on purpose. The reasons for doing so very greatly, from being ornamental to being a quick source of nutrition or even in hopes of preserving soil or water quality.

It’s not that these invasives are inherently bad; they simply cause too much stress in an environment where it can impact other species. The idea can be very straightforward, and even be explained in no more than two minutes like in the video below:



One of the greatest misconceptions that are often found when dealing with invasive species is that many still confuse them with ‘exotic’ species. An exotic plant species is any plant that does not natively originate from our area. An invasive plant species goes another step beyond, as a plant that was not only brought to our land from somewhere else, but also poses a threat to our lands or our other existing native species. For most agencies and legislative policies dealing with invasive plants, their management is typically similar. They are to be removed or controlled depending on how much of a threat they present on the other species in the area. Total systematic removal of invasive species on most federal and state lands is relatively uncommon, species being suppressed by various land management techniques as they are seen to pose a potential threat.

One of the most essential tasks in making sure that invasive species are well understood is being able to explain why they’re considered ‘invasive’ in the first place. At first glance, many invasive species may seem completely harmless, and could even have some degree of biological and aesthetic value within an ecosystem. There are several exotic species that exist within our lands now that aren’t considered invasive, and they are allowed to live in our ecosystems for precisely this reason. Unlike typical exotic species, invasives can cause a great deal of stress on our existing native species. They occupy living space, can take up resources needed to grow and develop, compete for natural roles within the ecosystem, and some even create secondary plant compounds which actively act to displace other species within reach.

The issue that’s most commonly dealt with by certain areas is not over whether or not invasive species should be controlled or even eradicated in a general sense, so much as whether or not some species are truly invasive. This means that invasives have to be handled more on a species to species basis, rather than taking the same action for any plant with the same designation. Multiflora rose, for example, is a species that has been established within our state from Asia and was spread for the sake of soil conservation and to provide ‘living barriers’. Since its establishment it’s been valued further as cover for small game, aesthetic beauty and a source of forage. The issue lies in the plant’s heartiness, far exceeding American native roses while netting into large shrubby masses which can act as barriers and prove very difficult to remove once established.

With similar differing qualities in mind it isn’t uncommon to find two individuals who differ greatly on the value of an ‘invasive’ plant in their ecosystem. This indecision often leads to difficulty agreeing on how to properly manage the plants beyond continual suppression, and makes the possibility for wide-scale eradication highly unlikely.

Of course, on the topic of large-scale eradication…would such a thing even be possible? Most invasive species still exist within our lands today because they’re so resilient against both man and nature’s attempts to remove them. In fact, you could go onto just about and piece of state or federal land with a checklist of invasive species, and spend hours ticking off examples dotted here and there. While in a perfect situation it would be great to pluck every threatening bush, stump or blade of grass from an area, it’s just not feasible.

But, there is one promising method that has started to make a comeback within our state. After many long years of suppressing fire from our natural environment, the practice of prescribed burning has been allowed and is slowly but surely becoming more frequent in our forests. Regardless of what opinions people may have on the use of fire, it is easily one of the most promising methods we have towards stemming the impact of invasive plants. Our native species have not yet lost their predisposition towards handling and recovering from low-intensity burns, and many invasive species have little to no tolerance from fire even in their native ranges. It’s true, running the entire state’s understory under a cleansing blaze would still not be a total end-all solution to our invasive plant problems. It will, however, provide us with an extremely valuable way to bring highly-damaged regions back into our control.

In a way, invasive plant species are likely to be our environment’s “criminals” forever, murdering native species and stealing valuable resources. If we were to leave the lands to follow nature’s course, then over time evolution would probably equalize these invasives until they were a part of our native ecological balance…but allowing this would cost us a great deal of the species that we cherish so deeply. In my opinion ‘policing’ invasive plant species as we have for years truly is our only option. We are more conscientious about the presence of hazardous life in our ecosystems now than we have been in the past. These invasive species are not strangers to us now. We know what they are, and we have the tools we need to keep them in line. All that’s left for us is to stay mindful, and do all we can to keep that long list of invasive plants from getting any longer.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Voices of the Future (3) - The Plight of the Muskrats

by Dylan Bakner
Wildlife and Fisheries Science major, graduating May, 2016
dlb5567@psu.edu

The muskrat, a native species to North America, is a medium-sized rodent that inhabits a variety of aquatic ecosystems. This semi-aquatic mammal’s diet is largely based on vegetation that can be found within their habitat. The breeding season lasts from March through August. Females can have up to four litters, bearing an average of six kits per litter. Trapping season for muskrats in Pennsylvania lasts from the middle of November to the middle of January.

The muskrat population has been on a steady decline since the early 1980s. During the trapping season that spanned 2010 and 2011, Tom Hardisky, a furbearer biologist for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, conducted a study looking at the juvenile-to-adult ratio of muskrats in the state. After accounting for 8,924 muskrat pelts, he found eight juveniles for every three adults. This study disproved the popular notion that disease was causing the population decline. Despite ruling out disease, Hardisky was unable to arrive at the underlying problem. Hardisky believes that runoff from farms, which used to provide muskrat’s vegetation with rich nutrients, is no longer reaching their habitats.  This argument is backed up by a Penn State study conducted by Jeffery Everett.  Aside from this, riprap is being put into the banks of streams as a measure of preventing erosion.  Before the installation of this riprap, muskrats were able to burrow into the existing sandy banks of streams. The riprap similarly affects vegetation in the areas inhabited by muskrats, thus making their effects two-fold. Future studies could increase chances of sustaining the muskrat population.

Speaking from the personal experience of someone who has trapped muskrats since childhood, the installation of riprap has caused a visible decline.  On a larger scale, my father, who has trapped for forty years, has noticed an increase in predators of the muskrat, as well as a loss of habitat.  The muskrats in South Central Pennsylvania are adapting to the lack of vegetation by resorting to less favorable food sources such as clams and fish, according to Paul Errington’s book “Muskrats and Marsh Management.”

Following is a graph of my personal recordings of muskrat pelt harvest over the past seven years. Included in the graph are three separate locations, along with their respective statistics of harvest.  The three locations used to provide my father with forty to fifty muskrats each.



The amount of vegetation at location 1 (from the graph above) 15 years ago.

The amount of vegetation at location 1 (from the graph above) today.

Reasons why sustenance of muskrats is important:

Muskrats provide a healthy food chain for hawks, owls, mink, raccoon, fox and many other species.
Revenue from hunting and trapping licenses goes to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, which in turn uses it to help maintain all wildlife in Pennsylvania.
Muskrat lodges built in open water can be used for nesting sites for waterfowl, frogs, snakes, turtles and more.

Some of my youngest childhood memories include trapping muskrat, along with my father, brother and grandfather. It has become a family tradition for my family and I to set our first muskrat traps of the year on Thanksgiving Day. As a young child, my brother and I were always excited to go trap our local waterways for muskrat, raccoon, and mink. I’m thankful for having such a patient father to take us trapping with him because most of the time we ended up falling into the frigid cold water. To this day, I still manage to fall into the water along with my older brother; however, now we have upgraded to wearing chest waders rather than hip boots, so we don’t get as wet.

I’ve never had the ability to not fall in the water! Still to this day I end up falling!

Muskrats are fascinating and magnificent creatures in my eyes. Muskrat trapping is hard work. The years I’ve spent trapping them have made a great influence on my life. The trap line has taught me to have a strong work ethic. There is no other place I would rather spend my time in the fall months, than being out on the muskrat line.

My brother (on the right) and I in 2002, with a hard earned muskrat.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Voices of the Future (1) - The Use of Prescribed Fires on Pennsylvania Private Lands

FIRE – Not Such a Bad Thing After All          

by Coby Salmon
Forest Science major, graduating May, 2016
cms6332@psu.edu

History

To best understand how our forests in Pennsylvania work, you must know and understand their history.

The mixed-oak forest type dominated the Pennsylvania forests through the middle of the 20th century. Burned often by the Native Americans and then the settlers, the forests of Pennsylvania favored fire-adapted species. Heavily fire-adapted mixed-oak forest types need fires to maintain their dominance. The anti-fire regime started around 1911 with the implementation of the Weeks Act that established state fire wardens. The Clarke-McNary Act further expanded the anti-fire regime by improving the federal-state partnership for fighting fires.  Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal Program provided an ample amount of manpower to be used to fight fires which led to the 10 a.m. Policy to further suppress fires.  The Smokey Bear campaign worked fantastically to bring people’s awareness about forest fires and how to prevent them. 

Flaws of the Policies

Forest fire prevention and suppression caused an excess of fuels in the west and a decrease of fuels in the east.  Many ecosystems of the West require regular fires to keep the fuel loads low and reduce ladder fuels, thus preventing catastrophic crown fires.  Eastern ecosystems require fires to maintain the mixed-oak forest type and suppress fire-intolerant species.  Fire-intolerant species include maples, birch, and many other mesophytic hardwoods that thrive in the absence of fire because they have thin bark and epigeal germination.  Oaks thrive with fire because they have fire adaptive characteristics including thick bark and hypogeal germination.  Hypogeal germination means that the oaks put more effort into establishing roots than establishing a tall shoot.  The extensive root systems of oak saplings allow oaks to survive forest fires even though other regeneration dies.  This allows them to out-compete regeneration of fire-intolerant species that either died from the fire or lost most of their energy.  The absence of fire allows the mesophytic hardwoods to suppress oaks.  Furthermore, less flammable mesophytic leaves lay flat on the forest floor which traps moisture.  The more moisture in fuels, the less likely fires will spread; the less likely fires will spread, the more mesophytic hardwoods thrive.  The absence of fires not only allows fire-intolerant species to flourish, it changes the composition of the forests through this process called mesophication.  Oaks, on the other hand, produce leaves that curl when dropped which allows more air flow around them.  This allows for the leaves to dry out more quickly.  Drier fuels allow for fires to spread; the more fires spread, the more oaks out-compete mesophytic hardwoods.

How it applies to Landowners

Working hard to use prescribed fires, the federal and state governments know and understand the legacies of the previous fire laws.  The management of fuel loads in the west and regeneration of oaks in the east have become the primary uses of prescribed fires.  In 2009, Governor Ed Rendell signed a law into effect that eliminated the possibility of criminal charges against prescribed burns that went awry.  This new law allowed land management agencies like the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation of Natural Resources (DCNR) to use prescribed fires for habitat management and forest regeneration projects.  

What about the private land owner?  The PGC and DCNR can only burn on their public lands.  Out of the 16.7 million acres of forestland in just Pennsylvania alone, private land owners possess 11,857,000 acres, an impressive 71% of the total forest land in Pennsylvania.  The DCNR’s Pennsylvania Prescribe Fire Standard briefly mentions private land owners.  Private landowners cannot prescribe burn their own property to regenerate their forests in the favor of oaks by themselves.  Private land owners need to have a state recognized prescribed burn manager (burn boss) to be able to manage their prescribed burns.   Burn bosses are hard to come by which means prescribed burns on private property are rare.

The Proposed Course of Action

1. Establish a multi-step program to educate private landowners on:
  • The benefits of prescribed fires.
  • How to apply prescribed fires to their own land.
2. Hire more service foresters for the sole purpose of aiding in the planning and application of private prescribed burns.

3. Establish strict guidelines, specific to forest landowners, for the planning and implementation of the prescribed burn.
  • They must provide the manpower that possess both the certifications and physical requirements for Type II Firefighter
  • If they cannot provide the manpower, they must pay for the use of State employees who meet the requirements. The cost will be subsidized so as not to over burden the landowner with costs.
4. Establish policies preventing insurance companies for penalizing landowners for properly conducting prescribed burns.

5. Budget more money for each district to purchase more firefighting equipment for the use on private lands.

6. Aid in the establishment of prescribed burn associations throughout the state.

Prescribed burns done by private landowners can and do work as long as the proper protocol is in place and followed.  Check out this video.




Why I Care

Blessed with 286 acres in a little valley near Chambersburg, PA, my family developed a love and passion for the outdoors and a desire to manage it properly.  My love of the outdoors inspired me to earn my Associate’s in Forest Technology and pursue my Bachelors of Science in Forest Science.  I know the benefits of prescribed burns in our forests and want desperately to manage my family’s property with fire.  In 2005 my father and uncle decided to implement a fifty-five acre timber stand improvement harvest.  The harvest ended up turning into a shelterwood harvest and produced an impressive amount of oak regeneration.  Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum), black birch (Betula lenta), red maple (Acer rubrum), blackberry (Rubus allegheniensis), and black raspberry (R. occidentalis) grow alongside the oak regeneration in the stand.  Aside from the blackberry and black raspberry, these species inhibit the ability for the oaks to thrive.  A prescribed burn will top kill tree regeneration including the oaks.  The oaks will be able to bounce back and flourish, suppressing the mesophytic hardwoods.  Unfortunately, I have yet to find a burn boss to be able to burn my land.  The course of action I proposed will not only allow me to burn my land but provide the 738,000 private landowners the opportunity to do the same with their lands.

Only you can change forest policy.  Call your representative today.




Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Voices of the Future

Tomorrow, I'm going to start a new feature on Go Wood. It will be called "Voices of the Future", and it will feature guest posts by young people involved in the world of wood- and natural resource-related issues.

The first posts in the series will be contributions from this year's class of Penn State students taking Forest Policy 480. The students were assigned a term project for a significant portion of their semester grade, with that project being a blog post related to a forest policy issue of their choosing. They have been given the opportunity to share their posts on Go Wood, or not, and most have opted in.

The posts will be very much their own thoughts, in their own words and style. We discussed a list of possible topics during the semester, and many were presented to them through the course content and by the several excellent guest lecturers* in the course this year. But they were on their own to choose one of those topics or any other of their own choosing. They were offered the option of having me doing a rough-draft review of their post, and if they choose to do so, I look them over and give them a few suggestions. However, I have not attempted in any way to influence their thoughts or policy proposals, nor to improve their grammar. I've only offered suggestions on presentation of ideas and of questions the typical reader might have on reading the post. In other words, what you'll be reading are the thoughts of students graduating from the modern university. And those are the thoughts that will be shaping tomorrow's future.

The series begins tomorrow, and will continue with only occasional interruptions from me until all the students posts have gone up. I think you'll enjoy the range of topics covered and diversity of opinions and policies offered. In return, they and I are hoping that you will comment on the posts, either publicly or to the return email address provided, so that they can experience "real world feedback" to their ideas.

Tune in tomorrow...





* Thank you, Andy Blazewicz, Mike Barton, Lara Fowler, and Jim Finley!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Vacationing with Wood People

You've done the cruise thing. Disney, Hawaii, Paris. Check, check, check. Nice weather, good food, bad water, big crowds. Sensory overload with a hefty price.

This year, you want to get away from all those places that promise to get you away from it all, and herd you in with everyone else seeking to get away from it all.

Well this year, I can promise you, there is a place you can do it. There will not be massive crowds...no jacked-up tourist prices...and the water is great.

And the few, normal, well-adjusted folks that you'll be sharing the week with are...wood nuts.

That's because, this summer, Penn State, the International Wood Collector's Society, and the International Association of Wood Anatomists, are inviting you, the Go Wood reader, to an event so unusual, so laid-back, so educational, and so woody, that news outlets around the world are totally ignoring it.

That event is World of Wood 2015.

But please, don't tell anyone...we want to keep this thing quiet.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Pondering a Future without Wood...while Watching the Games

Some of my overzealous colleagues over in Engineering are predicting that future technologies such as 3D printing will eliminate the need for wood harvesting and production completely. As you can imagine, I'm a bit dubious of their claim...I've been unable to envision how that might happen.

Well, I'm still dubious...but now, at least, I can envision their concept.



I know, it looks a bit slow and expensive, but so were the first horseless carriages. Still, I wish he'd print a full-size bat and get Aroldis Chapman to fling a ball at him. That would be a thing to watch...if he could ever hit one.

Well, if they're not going to go back to wood for hockey sticks, maybe they could try this stuff. Those carbon-fiber sticks they're using these days break so often the players are learning how to fake out the goalies with "broken stick shots."



No need to break into cold sweats, yet, Wood Guys...just enjoy the games and Go Wood while you still can.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Why the Buildings of the Future will be Shaped by...You

Many of you have written to express your continuing interest in the wooden building series here on Go Wood. Today I have something a slightly bit different. In another of the thought-provoking TED-talk series, architect Marc Kushner provides us with a brief but interesting recent history of large building architecture, and shows how our cities were shaped in the past versus a completely different paradigm that is shaping our cities today. Coincidentally, it occurred to me as I watched his presentation that the social technology forces of which he is speaking are precisely the reason that wooden buildings are once again gaining traction.

Enjoy.


Friday, April 10, 2015

Great Designs in Wood (64) - Wooden Sunglasses

Occasionally, as part of my maintenance of this blog site, I have to visit the statistics page that the Blogger service provides me. On it, I can see things like how many times, total, any GoWood page has been "viewed" (514,359 times, so far), what sites are directing traffic to the blog, and basic information like what search terms are being used by people who find the site, and what country they are from. On that last point, no surprise that Americans are by far the biggest number of readers, and Canadians are a distant second. The rest of the list is somewhat surprising, though...


Who knew Go Wood had such a strong following in France? Merci beaucoup, vous tous, citoyens de la terre de liberté, d'égalité et de beaux bois!

One of the things that most web site managers do is try to figure out how to increase the amount of traffic that comes to their website. That's not really my forte...I just publish my posts and then let the internet do its thing. One of the things the statistics tell me is that some percentage of the readers find Go Wood via a Google search. Now how they do that is a deep, dark mystery by which Google controls the world. I can't figure it out, and if I did, they'd bump me off before I could share it with you.

All I know is that if I google "wood", I get 48 pages of results, and not a single one of the results is a Go Wood web page or blog post. I get lots of results of various wood companies, and several pages on how did Natalie Wood really die, and about half of the results are pages on which someone significant is named Wood. But a website that has 335 different wood-related articles? Google couldn't find it. Now if I pay them, now that would be a different story...Go Wood would probably appear at the top of the first page of results, and the page view numbers would soar. Fame does have a price, after all.

The way Google appears to direct folks to Go Wood is through more specific key search terms. So, for instance, readers have found us 109 times by typing "firewood" into their browser. And, amazingly, 86 folks have searched for "pallet art"...and wound up in the Go Wood community. But those search results don't really explain how people wind up on this site...the post entitled "Real Firewood Stacking" is the most popular post on Go Wood, and has been viewed over 18,000 times. And the post entitled "Sign of the Times - Pallet Art" has been viewed over 1,500 times. So, I assume that many, many folks are reading Go Wood posts because you, the loyal Go Wood reader, are sharing your favorite posts with your friends. So, thank you very much...or, merci beaucoup, Herzlichen Dank, Дуже дякую, Большое спасибо,  Bardzo dziękuję, 非常感謝.

Now, if a user happens to search for "go wood", then, what do you know, there we are, right at the top of the first page of results. At least it is on my computer...I don't know if you would get the same result on yours. More of that deep, dark computer-world mystery. But the problem is, how many folks, looking to browse some fine articles about the wonderful world of wood, would happen to search for "go wood"? Not many, I'm guessing.

But I did this morning, and that brings me, finally, to the subject of today's post. What do you know, there is another site out there called Go Wood! In fact, Go Wood is a Canadian company that sells wood-framed sunglasses.



Welcome to GoWood from Go Wood on Vimeo.

Now, I just have to get me some of those glasses before I hit the beach in Tahiti with a hot babe, a.k.a. "The Wife". Looks like they have a "Memphis oak" style that was inspired by Elvis. Perfect.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Kudzu in Paradise

I've been teaching a Forest Policy class this semester at Penn State, and the students and I have spent much of the semester looking not only at various policies, but the eventual, and sometimes unexpected, outcomes of those policies. One of those policies was the depression-era policy of recommending the kudzu plant, Puereria spp., to farmers for stopping the relentless soil erosion that led to the great dust bowl era of the 1930's. The kudzu is a fast-growing vine whose root systems stabilize the soil even while the numerous leaves shade the soil and slow desiccation that leads to erosion.

Well, it worked a little too well. And generations of folks in the US south have grown up used to the sight of kudzu monsters engulfing stands of pines and other species along the roadways where they were planted and continue to spread. And now, because of global warming, kudzu has spread as far north as southern Ontario, Canada.




Now, as a forestry student in East Texas, I learned intimately that kudzu was the enemy. Ever have to fight your way through a mountain of it on a timber cruise, and you'll think the same. But that last bit in the video above about goats and biofuels got me thinking that even to this scourge of the forest, there might be another side to the story.

And whaddya know...




Invasive species are rightly concerning. But I've come to consider the big picture that perhaps the native forests of today were just the invasive species of five hundred or a thousand years ago. Who knows...the filet mignon of tomorrow may very well come from a rotund, kudzu-fed goat with a kudzu jelly garnish...and you'll wash it down with a cold glass of kudzu-fed cow's milk.

And even more significantly, perhaps the Saharan desert will be reclaimed with kudzu or some other low-moisture invasive cousin. Never discount the value of the unexpected consequence.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Great Designs in Wood (63) - The Forest Sciences Centre at UBC

I had the opportunity a couple of weeks ago to travel out west to the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. They had invited me out to participate in a review of their Wood Products Processing program, one of the degree programs available in their "Faculty of Forestry", as they call it. Based on the preliminary material I reviewed, I expected to see good things...but how good, I didn't even come close to imagining.

As I entered the building, a world of stunning timber construction opened up...and I felt right at home.







The Centre was built in 1998, I believe, a decade or so before our modern era of the wooden-framed tall buildings, so much of its structural core is traditional steel and concrete. However, with its engineered wood roof members and wooden cladding throughout, I have to believe that the building was the inspiration for much of the wooden building progress that has been at the forefront in British Columbia since.

The visit was not without its unique cultural memories. I had a couple of hours on the first day to stroll down to the beach opposite the dormitory in which I was staying. The place was called "Wreck Beach", and I'm guessing that in earlier times, shipwrecks on the point on which the beach sits were common. These days, the bay encircled by the beach is stock full of rafts of logs, awaiting delivery to local sawmills.


These logs give the beach a really unique character of its own, as many of them break free of the rafts and end up strewn along the beach, giving it a rough and tumble character.







But the biggest surprise to me was the "Naturalist" tradition of the beach, which I discovered only on the way down to the beach.


We're not in Pennsylvania any more, Toto!
So, these peaceful and fun-loving folks found thick fog, icy waters, boulders, and logs battering the beach, and thought...Nude Beach! A hardy breed, these Canucks.

I can't end this post without sharing my thoughts on the UBC Wood Products Processing program. What a great program it is. You can check out its curriculum here. The program is designed as a broad exposure to the critical components of wood products manufacturing, and with its optional minor in Commerce, students are ideally prepared for managerial positions in the forest industry the world over. The best component of the program is its optional "Co-op" program, in which students can take advantage of up to five different co-op opportunities with different companies, all coordinated with and monitored by the department. I witnessed first-hand the result of this approach...in interviews of current graduating students, I met the most mature, well-prepared, soon-to-be college graduates I've ever met. One of the department faculty members told me that the Co-op is a win, win...the faculty members are continually pushed to keep current with the techniques and technology that the students are experiencing in their time with the companies.

And as for the onsite education...the college has its own Centre for Advanced Wood Processing, which is right next door to the Forest Sciences Centre and filled with the latest in wood processing equipment, donated from their many industry partners. And best of all, the Centre was filled with students actually working at the many machine centers, a positive sign that students are getting the perfect mix of hands-on experience to go with all the theory they're learning.










Finally, the professors I interviewed were all highly professional, courteous, and open to any new ideas they could glean. They reminded me, to a person, of the best engineering and management professors I've met in my career. They were intense, but in a comfortable, confident way that inspires the same confidence in their students.

I came away from the visit thinking...if any child or grandchild of mine is someday interested in forestry or wood products, the University of British Columbia is the place I'm sending them.


 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Great Designs in Wood (62) - The Violin...and the Secrets of Stradivari

A couple of years ago now we looked at the violin, and its magnificent design, in GDiW (39) and GDiW (43). In those posts, we naturally enough focused on the wood component of the violin, and how the species and wood specimens used impact the tone of the instrument.

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of speaking at the annual Penn State Private Forest Landowners Conference, and my presentation topic was "The Wonderful World of Wood". In it, I skimmed very lightly some of the most popular wonders of wood from around the world, and one of those topics was the marvelous design of the great Italian violins. However, I was limited to only a few minutes on the topic, as always, and predictably, I could tell the audience would have liked to know much more about these great violins.

So, for those folks, and for the rest of you Go Wood readers who love the topic, I have found a lecture by violinist Rose Mary Harbison and Professor William Fry given in 2009 at the Boston Museum of Science. Professor Fry does an excellent job of describing the physics of the violin, and how they are achieved, in a way that we non-physicists can easily understand, sort of...and Mrs. Harbison illustrates the principles as Dr. Fry explains them on several great violins.

This video is about an hour and a half long...and it seems like half that. We learn that the selection of the wood was not the only key to the violins, and perhaps not even a significant one...but that the secrets lie in the scientific artistry of the construction techniques. So, for the rest of the story, watch...




Unfortunately, Dr. Fry left us in 2011, but his legacy as a great researcher and teacher is cemented in history in this video. And what a legacy he left. From his obituary...
"During World War II he was a commissioned naval officer, stationed at the Naval Research Laboratories in Washington, D.C., where he led the research on jamming devices for guided missiles. Then on to the White Sands, New Mexico rocket site, where he was in charge of researching German V-2 rockets. Dr. Fry was Professor of Physics at the University of Wisconsin from 1952 to 1998. He was an experimental high energy physicist at the University and pioneered the astrophysics program. He also established physics programs at the University of Padova and Milan University in Italy in 1957. He was a Guggenheim Scholar and Fulbright Lecturer and served as a consultant to the International Atomic Energy Commission. He spent over four decades in violin acoustical research, uncovering the secrets of Stradivarius. His accomplishments in violin research are recognized in books and film, and are detailed in a scientific video book he completed last year. Jack was an avid historian who collected Italian manuscripts from the 12th century through the Fascist period during his extensive travels in Italy. He donated over 40,000 books and documents to the University of Wisconsin library, making the largest collection of Italian Fascist-era documents available to scholars worldwide. He was a man with an astonishing range of interests and passionate curiosity, and his many accomplishments too numerous to mention here. Jack always remained modest to a fault, and was a dignified, generous, and fine friend to all who knew him."
Thank you, Mrs. Harbison, and to the Boston Museum of Science for introducing us to the wonderful work of Dr. William (Jack) Fry, and to the Secret of the Stradivarius.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Make Wood, Not War

Recently, I was granted permission by the Board of Directors of the International Wood Collectors Society to re-publish in a blog format the best articles from the pre-2000 issues of their Journal, World of Wood. In late January I started that blog with the minutes of the first meeting of the Society in 1947. It's a very interesting piece of history for everyone who has ever picked up an unusual piece of wood and taken it home, just for the sake of having it or using it in some wood-working project.

This week, I shared an interesting re-print of an article entitled "My Conception of an Ideal Wood Collection", by a member named Dr. Wolfgang Mautz. Coincidentally, the speech by Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to our U.S. congress this week gave me an interesting perspective on Dr. Mautz' contribution to the early Wood Collectors Society membership. Allow me to explain the connection in my mind of these two completely non-related events given sixty-five years apart.

Dr. Mautz' article was published, in 1949, in the newsletter of a fledgling organization that had one-hundred and seven members at the time, seventy-nine of whom were Americans, twelve British, with the small remainder from the rest of the world. Two were Dutch. None at the time were Germans or from any of the countries allied with Germany in World War II. And yet, the German Dr. Mautz was invited to share his passion for wood collecting with this group of folks who, in entirety, would have considered him "the enemy" only four short years before.

As I read Dr. Mautz' article, it brought back fond memories of another German wood scientist, one that had a profound impact on my career. I met Werner in my first year in the wood industry. He was the company's residing "technical expert" on all things wood, and I and my buddies in Temple-Inland's Product Development Center soaked up as much of Werner's expertise as we could. In addition, we got some great stories about his experiences serving first on the frozen Russian front of the war, and then later waiting on the French coast for the inevitable invasion of the Allies. He had been in university, studying wood science, when he was conscripted into the German army. He ended the war sitting in an American prisoner-of-war camp, which he said was the best thing that ever happened to him, considering the alternatives. Werner completed his studies after the war, and moved to America, to begin his wood industry experience at a fiberboard plant in International Falls, Minnesota, if I remember correctly. By the time I knew him, Werner had more knowledge about wood and wood products in his pinky finger than the rest of us put together. We knew it, and respected him for it.

I was re-publishing Dr. Mautz' article the day after Mr. Netanyahu's speech to Congress. Thanks to the miracle of the internet, I was able to watch the speech live in my office. If you're not familiar with the contents of the speech, it was primarily a warning to our government that the current nuclear negotiations we are having with the government of Iran were, to the best of his knowledge, not well considered, to put it mildly. The objective of his giving the speech was to let our leaders know that Israel considered the logical outcome of the negotiations to be a direct nuclear threat to the existence of the state of Israel...and he made a pretty strong case for that conclusion. The most memorable line in the speech was, that, "in the case of ISIS and Iran, the enemy of your enemy, is your enemy."

And in this case which he is so close to, Mr. Netanyahu is probably correct. Nevertheless, as I typed Mr. Mautz' article into the computer the next day, I found myself considering the concept of the enemy. Dr. Mautz had been an enemy of the other wood collectors in 1945; by 1949 he was taken as a colleague in wood. The love of wood, in a period of time shorter than President Obama has been in office, had overcome the hatred of war, and turned an enemy into a friend.

And here I was, re-creating a wood article from a German wood scientist in 1949 on the internet, that both my Israeli and Iranian wood science colleagues, as well as most everyone else in the world, can read in their own language, thanks to the Google Translate widget on the site. I've received emails relating to wood science questions from all three countries, and hope to receive many more in the future. And I suspect that none of these folks care any more about the political agenda of their leaders than Werner did when Herr Hitler drafted him to fight for Nazism's evil cause. I know I don't.

Thus my plea in the title of today's blog. Make wood, not war. Focus on the business of living, speak out against the rhetoric of violence and destruction, and actively resist those who would lead you into hating another enemy of their making. Making bombs and launching missiles is the easy path to conflict resolution, but not the best by far. For as Dr. Mautz and Werner both stood for, at our core, we're all really interested in the same thing...how to Go Wood, and get along.