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forest products laboratory

Research in Energy Security Helps Lead to Food Security in West Africa

Research shows the majority of people in Africa depend on biomass to meet their energy needs, with approximately 80 percent relying on wood energy. Such high dependency makes families vulnerable to unexpected and sudden changes, including extreme weather and socio-political events. Researching and developing ways to diversify energy sources is crucial for a more sustainable, food secure future.

A project funded through the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Cochran Fellowship Program on “Biofuels for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods,” hosted by the University of Missouri (MU) College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources International Programs, set out to address this very issue. The research and training program was organized for West African Cochran Fellows to learn how different uses of biofuels can help support sustainable livelihoods in their communities. The two-week-long program consisted of workshops, field visits and interactive discussions in cooperation with the USDA Forest Products Laboratory, the MU Center for Agroforestry, Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture and Envest Microfinance.

Conservation versus Preservation?

Have you ever wondered why your favorite National Park is surrounded by a National Forest? Well, it didn’t happen by accident or guesswork. The fact is, it was all started over 100 years ago by two men I like to refer to as the founding fathers of America’s public lands.

Back at the turn of the 20th Century Gifford Pinchot and John Muir had radically contrasting views of how to manage America’s wild lands and they worked tirelessly lobbying Congress and convincing Presidents to agree with them to start protecting open space.

Muir promoted preservation and Pinchot advocated for conservation.

Sustainable Land Management can Provide Building Materials for Post-Disaster Recovery

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that several million earthquakes occur in the world each year. Some, such as the devastating earthquake in Nepal and the series of earthquakes that destroyed infrastructure, homes and communities in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2011, capture global attention.

After natural disasters such as these, rebuilding a city needs to be efficient and cost-effective, with an eye towards resilience in the face of future disasters. Engineered wood building systems like glulam and cross laminated timber, also known as CLT, are well suited to meet these needs as they are often prefabricated offsite and can be quickly installed. That helps communities bounce back from disaster in a shorter time frame while minimizing waste. Furthermore, just as trees flex in high winds, timber structures flex in earthquakes, placing wood construction systems at the forefront of seismic design for resilience.

U.S. Forest Service Harvests 2014 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree in Minnesota

On a cold afternoon in late October, about 500 people, including local area third graders who had made ornaments for it, gathered to witness the cutting of the 88-foot, 13,000-pound 2014 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree on the Chippewa National Forest in north central Minnesota.

To help stay warm and nourished, attendees were offered hot chocolate or coffee, a wild rice dish, fruit, sandwich wraps and cookies, all courtesy of the Leech Land Band of Ojibwe. The official festivities began with Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Spiritual Advisor Larry Aitken blessing the Tree, distinguished guests sharing their congratulations, and poignant drumming performances by two groups of tribal youth; one group was accompanied by young tribal dancers in full regalia.

Announcing the U.S. Tall Wood Building Prize Competition to Innovate Building Construction

Cross-posted from the White House Rural Council:

As part of the Obama administration's commitment to mitigate climate change, USDA, in partnership with the Softwood Lumber Board and the Binational Softwood Lumber Council, is announcing the U.S. Tall Wood Building Prize Competition. This competitive prize, open to teams of architects, engineers, and developers, will showcase the architectural and commercial viability of advanced wood products like Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) in tall buildings.

Advanced wood products are becoming the latest innovation in tall building construction. Products like CLT are flexible, strong, and fire resistant. In construction, wood products can be used as a successful and sustainable alternative to concrete, masonry, and steel. Using wood also reduces greenhouse gas emissions by storing carbon and simultaneously offsetting emissions from conventional building materials. By some estimates, the near term use of CLT and other emerging wood technologies in buildings 7-15 stories could have the same emissions control affect as taking more than 2 million cars off the road for one year.

SBIR Grants Help Increase Company Growth, Decrease Forest Waste

With Mother Nature providing the raw material, a company based in Madison, Wisconsin, saw a chance to grow its business, help the local economy, and promote a sustainable environment all at the same time.

WholeTrees Architecture and Structures is a small, woman-owned business that has successfully leveraged four Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants into a business opportunity that has increased local revenue and grown the company from six employees and gross income of $150,000 in 2009 to 17 employees and gross income of about $1 million in 2013.  The company projects revenue increasing to $4 million by 2016.  USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) administered the SBIR grants.

A Wisconsin TV Crew Sees How Dairy Farmers May Soon Turn Manure into Money

A film crew from Discover Wisconsin, a television program showcasing the many treasures of the Badger State, recently visited the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wis., as part of their America’s Dairyland series. This series takes a look at Wisconsin’s largest and most important industry.

So, what does this have to do with forest products?

Secretary's Column: Supporting Innovation for Stronger Rural Communities

American innovation is one of our most special traditions, fueling our nation to new heights over the course of our history. Innovation is critically important in rural America, where research is helping to grow American agriculture, create new homegrown products, generate advanced renewable energy and more.

Continued research has the capacity to lead the way to economic opportunity and new job creation in rural areas – and USDA has been hard at work to carry out these efforts.  But we need Congress to get its work done and provide a new Farm Bill that recommits our nation to innovation in the years to come.

Play Ball! Forest Service Research Cracks Major League Baseball Problem

Rate of shattered maple bats down 50 percent.

In 2008, Major League Baseball (MLB) came to the U.S. Forest Service, asking our Forest Products Laboratory to investigate why baseball bats were increasingly shattering into multiple pieces on contact.

The Forest Service team, led by David Kretschmann, dug in, swung for the fences and scored big time!

Forest Service Innovation is Helping Make the Forever Stamp Stick, Well, Forever

Twenty years have passed since the U.S. Postal Service first started transitioning from lickable stamps to the peel-and-stick squares used today, thanks to the research by the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wis.

The two agencies first research collaboration focused on developing the peel-and-stick – or pressure-sensitive adhesives – that didn’t gum up the equipment used to recycle paper. By using this adhesive an additional 20 million tons of waste paper can be recycled annually.