Here's a nice video brought to my attention by Lew McCreery of the Forest Service. It tells the tale of a hybrid poplar plantation out in eastern Oregon, one of the driest places in the country. I used to drive by this plantation on my way out to LP mills in northern Idaho and Montana. (Pleasant memory: sawmills in Sandpoint and Moyie Springs, Idaho...two of my very favorite places in the world. From the slasher deck in Moyie Springs you gaze out for hundreds of miles over the Canadian Rockies. I told the operator there I thought he had the best job in the world, and he agreed with me. I hope those mills are still running.)
Back to the tree farm. It's impressive...about 10 minutes wide at interstate speeds, if I remember correctly. Seemed longer. And growing in the middle of the Eastern Oregon desert, it looked even bigger. I used to wonder about the economics of planting, watering, and harvesting all these trees for pulpwood...didn't seem possible, I thought at the time.
My doubts have been confirmed. The trees never made it to the pulp mill. But since they continued to grow, they eventually became something of value...hardwood sawlogs that can be proven to have been grown sustainably.
The video tells the tale of the companies that recognized the market potential, and how they are taking advantage of it. Enjoy, and appreciate the companies that made it work, after all.
Those of you who've never seen veneer peeled from a rotary lathe, you'll see it in the video. Hardwood veneer produced for cabinet-grade plywood is sliced from the log in a different process, a process I'll cover another time. The rotary process shown here is used for thicker veneer used in structural plywood and other engineered wood products.
If you're wondering about water for the plantation, note that the trees are separated from the mighty Columbia River only by Interstate 84. I assumed they had a way to pump water from the river to a drip irrigation system, but I'm not really sure. Maybe one of you western readers can help us out...please comment!