AP NEWS

Researchers find economic opportunity in dead Alaska cedar

January 6, 2020 GMT

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Researchers have produced a study of the viability of logging yellow cedar trees that have been killed by warming temperatures in Southeast Alaska.

The study by the Alaska Coastal Rainforest Center and the University of Alaska Southeast examined whether harvesting the dead trees could be profitable for small lumber mill operators, The Juneau Empire reported Saturday.

The researchers worked with the U.S. Forest Service and five mills in Southeast Alaska.

They found dead cedar retains a level of quality that allows the wood to be brought to market, while the main problem is getting to the trees.

“Yellow-cedar usually represents a small percentage of a timber stand’s total volume, many stands that look promising for salvage at first glance are actually made up of widely scattered trees and are not practical sites for efficient harvesting,” the study said

Other impediments to harvesting cedar include equipment and mill processing, but the researchers concluded the wood presents an economic opportunity.

“They were or already had been working with dead yellow cedar,” said Allison Bidlack, the rainforest center director. “They had had varying experience. The longer the tree’s been dead, the more difficult it can be to work with it. Most of them would like to work with it because it’s valuable.”

Wes Tyler, co-owner of Icy Straits Lumber in Hoonah, said the resilience of yellow cedar extends its potential use.

“It’s attractive to people in general because it’s so resistant to rot. You can use it for outdoor structures, picnic tables, posts,” Tyler said.

He agreed with the study’s conclusion that reaching the wood was the most difficult aspect of harvesting.

“All that stuff (the trees) is very heavy, and requires expensive equipment,” Tyler said.

Owen Graham of the Alaska Foresters Association said his experience of harvesting dead cedars was not profitable. He sold the wood locally but his international customers did not want to buy it.

“I wouldn’t be interested,” Graham said.