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Wood prices fluctuate; sustainable management practices available

By Ron Kotrba
During the third quarter of 2008, the cost of wood fiber fell for the first time in years because of two main factors: a strengthening U.S. dollar and a reduced demand from pulpwood, according to Wood Resources Quarterly.

The average global softwood pulp price fell 2 percent during the third quarter of 2008 to $110.43 per bone-dry metric ton (BDMT). During the same time, the average hardwood fiber cost was up almost $2, reaching a record high of $110.71 per BDMT, marking the third time in 20 years that the global average hardwood price was higher than the softwood price.

Sawlog prices fell 5 percent to 12 percent worldwide in the third quarter of 2008, according to WRQ. This was due to the reduced consumption of lumber in North America and Europe. The largest declines in log prices occurred in western Canada, Sweden, Germany, the Baltic States and New Zealand. U.S. prices were down approximately 5 percent from the second quarter of 2008, while log costs in Brazil and Chile remained stable.

The growing renewable energy industry continues to keep an eye on various wood prices. It may also be interested in a new report released by the Atlantica BioEnergy Task Force and compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Available at www.atlanticabioenergy.com, it recommends 15 actions that should be taken to implement renewable energy technologies in the Atlantica region's forest products industry, which consists of the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and the U.S. state of Maine. The 15 recommendations include implementing sustainable forest management strategies, improving the transportation infrastructure and drafting biomass removal guidelines without delay.

In regard to sustainable forest management strategies, the Forest Guild released an unrelated report in early January, titled "An Assessment of Biomass Harvesting Guidelines."

This document reviews the growing number of state biomass harvesting guidelines that advise how much woody biomass can be removed, and how much should be left in the forest to promote the health of watersheds, wildlife habitat and long-term forest productivity. The organization acknowledged that forest management guidelines developed years ago never addressed the removal of logging slash, small-diameter trees, tops and limbs because there was no interest. "New interest in woody biomass is a double-edged sword,"
said Zander Evans, Forest Guild research director and author of the report. "If harvested sustainably, biomass can meet some of our energy needs and leave our forests healthier than they are now. However, without appropriate guidance, biomass harvests can seriously degrade our forests." The report can be found at www.forestguild.org.
 

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