Focus on Forests, 1997 Summer CANTANK

Conference Summary


Introduction 2

Keynote--David Ford of Forest Product Buyers Group 3

Field Trips--Horse-logging and Solar Kiln Site Visits 4

Value-Adding Wood Products 5

Marketing Certified Wood Products 6

Non-Timber Forest Products--Issues and Opportunities 7

State of the Forest and Stewardship Strategies 9

Internet as a Tool for Regional Collaboration and Marketing 10

Forest Economies Group Meeting on Regional Collaboration 11

Participant Evaluation Summary 11

Participant List 12

Sponsored by

Central Appalachian Network and the CAN Sustainable Forest Economies Group

Hosted by

Clinch-Powell Sustainable Development Initiative (CPSDI)

Organized by

CPSDI and Rural Action


CAN Focus on Forests--Sustainable Forest Economies for Central Appalachia

August 15-16, 1997

Abingdon, VA

On August 15th and 16th participants in the Central Appalachian Network met in Abingdon Virginia at the CAN Focus on Forests conference hosted by Clinch-Powell Sustainable Development Initiative (CPSDI). This conference, Co-organized by Rural Action and CPSDI brought together over 40 representatives from community development NGO's, businesses, state, local and federal agencies, and environmental advocacy organizations from 6 states to learn more about regional sustainable forestry efforts, and to identify ways to improve communication and collaboration.

In February of 1997, participants in the Sustainable Forest Economies working group decided to expand the Summer CANTANK into a 2-day conference to allow for more in-depth discussion of complex issues, and provide greater networking opportunity. CANTANK meetings are quarterly gatherings of CAN participants and other interested groups centered around presentations by speakers otherwise unavailable to most individual CAN groups.

The conference was developed to:

Explore as a group the issues involved in certification and value-adding

Make available resource persons directly involved with certified wood, value-adding and NTFPs

Introduce CAN and the Forest Economies group to other groups working on related projects

Provide an access point for businesses and government agencies to become more involved with CAN

Demonstrate and provide hands-on training in the use of Internet to improve regional communication and collaboration

Network otherwise isolated groups working on research and development of sustainable non-timber forest products (NTFP)

Wood-related issues and NTFP's ran through the conference during simultaneous sessions. Wood issues included certification, value-adding, horse logging and solar kilns, and marketing. The NTFP discussions foci included research on, education about, and marketing of special forest products such as mushrooms and medicinal herbs.



KEYNOTE David Ford - Forest Products Buyers Group "Certification and Secondary Manufacturing as a Strategy for Sustainable Rural Development"

Summary of David Ford's Presentation:

The Forest Products Buyers Group (FPBG) is a national organization based in Portland, Oregon. The purpose of the organization is to create the demand for certified sustainably-harvested wood products. It is a private non-profit effort but is supported by foundations and private industry. Its mission: To promote the purchase, use, and sale of independently certified forest products; support verifiable third party certification. The only group that meets that standard today is the Forest Stewardship Council. FSC has two roles, to establish standards, and accredit certifiers.

The FPBG will be merging with the Good Wood Alliance, which has worked mainly on supply side. The FPBG has focused on the market or buyers side. Some of the services the merged organization will provide:

(1) A directory for people who want to buy certified wood. And a interactive data base that can be used by potential buyers such as architects.

(2) Training and Education: provide education to companies, manufacturers, potential buyers, etc. Most people don't know what certified wood is about. In Europe, especially England, 25% of wood is now certified. 80 significant companies advocating for this activity.

The buyers group is a voluntary business initiative, trying to convince buyers of wood--often business with a socially responsible mission--to buy certified wood. FPBG has a strong connection to environmental groups such as the World Wildlife Fund, and the Environmental Defense Fund.

The link between the industry and new markets changes the character of the debate. The solution takes into consideration all interests and finds a new path--having reasonable prices for wood products that help maintain rural economies. The issue is the structure of fiber, and its location in the world. Other governments are subsidizing their forest industry and moving their wood products to North America, the largest consumer. This makes it hard for the US commodity wood industry to compete. Certification can help us to maintain market share and help values to remain high. In the US, if we move toward certification, we can create a niche in the world market place.

The buyers group is working primarily with businesses who can have an impact on the long-term marketplace through their visibility and leadership: the Gap; Warner Bros. set construction; the Banana Republic which has certified wood floors in some locations. The group is also working with environmental groups planning a public campaign which will use significant names and regional marketplaces to educate consumers about certified wood. [TOC]

Field Trips

Question: How does this fit in with the Sustainable Forestry Initiative of the American Forest and Paper Association

Answer: AFPA has a set of principles, not a certification process, and there is no third party review. While the FPBG is happy to see the industry take a step forward, FSC is more of the gold standard--trying to pull a small group up quickly. There is also a Canadian CSA certification standard, and ISO 14001, which are environmental management standards.

Question: The FSC process favors larger landholders?

Answer: One plan is to certify foresters who will go out and work on co-op certification of small landowners. FSC is still working on the problem of mixed ownership and small plots. However, there is potential on non-industry owned land because owners are not just driven by quarterly profits, but are interested in ethical use. Also, pension funds are buying land and are in it for the longer term, not just quarterly profits.

Question: Shouldn't we be trying to reduce consumption:

Answer: By raising awareness and building high-quality, lasting products, that is one way to reduce consumption.


FIELD TRIP Horse Logging And Solar Kiln Tour

Conference participants took a field trip to a local horse logging operation and a solar dry kiln that is part of the Clinch Powell Sustainable Development Initiative's sustainable forestry program. With horse logging, logs are pulled out on small tracks that are repaired at the conclusion of the operation. Chad Miano, the owner of the horse logging operation that participants visited, demonstrated directional felling techniques, extraction methods, and sustainable selection practices that make his horse logging business more environmentally sensitive than traditional logging with heavy machinery. The solar dry kiln demonstrated CPSDI's work on value-adding in the region. Hardwoods dried in the kiln bring four to five times the price of the same hardwood as green boards.


Value-Adding Wood Products


Value-adding How-To

Resource people:

Harry Groot, Manufacturing Technology Center. The Manufacturing Technology provides services to manufacturers In 17 counties in SW VA to enhance manufacturing competitiveness. Through various projects, the Groot has identified a gross lack of drying capabilities in region and developed a business plan for a dry kiln. Groot also has a farm in Montgomery Co., evolving permaculture design.

Ron Highsmith, Full-Cycle Woodworks. Highsmith's company works with wood from harvesting to completed project. He utilizes a wood miser, a dehumidifying dry kiln and a solar kiln in his manufacturing process. His firm does total local manufacturing--from cutting trees to installing and finishing flooring. Works very closely with customers.

Discussion Summary:

Niche Markets--sustainable, certified, underutilized species:

Flooring is a good market. Market is growing for flooring made of underutilized species. Market for hardwood flooring is growing in general. Soft (like red) maple will make good flooring and beautiful paneling. Hickory and beech also make beautiful floors.

Homeowners have to educate their architects. Higher end consumers want to participate consciously in what they are doing. The homeowners are bringing their contractors to the companies to show the possibilities of underutilized species and sustainably harvested products. Ron works with local press to get word out, then casts out widely as marketing materials. Have to get consumers over the "oak floor" mindset.

Ron indicated that sustainability is about item number 4 for his customers. They are first concerned with cost, quality, service--then environmental issues.

Harry stressed that small businesses have to be close to markets. Can't compete with big businesses on the same level. Relationships are important for small firms--local communities.

Solar Kilns:

Solar kilns were discussed as a means of value adding. Technical barriers were pointed outs, such as humidity control problems. However, solar kilns have appeal because they are low impact. Groot has a design that answers some of the concerns about controlling humidity. The design has a fan controlled by a humidistat and another fan controlled by a thermostat. He is building this kiln and will sell the lumber. The humidistat blows air into the kiln. Vents let air out. He will know some results in six months[TOC]

Marketing Certified Wood

Resource People:

Larry Spinks, LoftBed Store. Spinks is a small business owner and wood craftsman making high-end handcrafted furniture. He became involved with certification because of his interest in where the wood he was buying came from and how it was harvested.

David Ford, Forest Products Buyers Group.

Discussion Summary:

Certified wood niches and promising products--What products lend themselves to certification over others? What are the markets most open to certified products?

Product lines that currently lend themselves to certification are those that are visible, i.e. hardwood--flooring, cabinets, furniture. People can relate to these products --they are conversation pieces--rather than building materials, commodity markets; also, visible hardwood products are more profitable items than commodity products like building studs. However, may be a niche for things like certified pallets. Also crafted/artistic products.

Trends in niche markets--more than retail customers. a) Wood users--manufacturers who use wood, looking for sustainable; b) echo-friendly retail stores, i.e. the Gap, Banana Republic, using certified wood in their stores; c) environmental groups, looking for sustainably/harvested wood for their offices, catalogs etc. Women are a niche market. Research shows that they make decisions on products for home--more environmentally aware.

Establishing relationships with buyers: Will Forest Products Buyers Group help connect users to product?

FPBG is developing a database of certified wood suppliers for architects, etc. Will go to trade shows. Will participate in the National Assn. of Home Builders conference.

Also looking at educational institutions (i.e. colleges) and religious institutions as potential buyers of certified wood products. Working with a tool kit to communicate with universities. Larry Spinks working with Duke Univ. on how they can get certified wood dorm furniture.

One answer to the issue of certification and the small woodlot owner is looking at co-op certification using service foresters. Using it in the west.

Need to develop/find specific markets to encourage small landowners into certification--show economic benefit.

Need to bring in non-timber if service foresters will be certifying small landowners.

Could there be a "transition" category? I.E. not yet certified, but sustainably harvesting? This would help small landowners in Appalachia. Would there be a market for that?

Collins Pine as example of FSC approved certification. The company used cream of the crop foresters, at first resistant to idea of learning anything; Now happy with process, learned a lot more about their land base and non-timber productsHow does ISO 14,001 relate to FSC to certification?

ISO 14,001 is complementary to FSC certification.; one is a process and one relates to a specific situation on the ground.


Non-Timber Forest Products

The first session on non-timber forest products (NTFPs) was primarily a networking opportunity. Participants described their experience and interest in NTFPs and generated topics/questions for further discussion. At the beginning of the conference, Deborah Hill presented a slide show that she uses to educate small landowners and service foresters regarding non-timber forest products such as shiitake mushrooms, medicinal plants, and Christmas tree cultivation.

Themes/topics that were discussed in this session include:

Need for ongoing research on harvesting, i.e. who is harvesting, how much is being harvested, what is pressure on resource. What is "sustainable" harvest of different NTFPs. Look at indigenous knowledge about sustainable harvesting.

Training/economic incentives for harvesters and buyers of NTFPs to look at sustainable harvesting. Look at models in the west where they are using permitting systems, etc. Issue of getting information to harvesters, who do not want to attend meetings or training sessions. Also need to work with landowners to educate them. Use means such as noonday market reports to reach landowners and harvesters.

Training for foresters so that they will be more knowledgeable of NTFPs.

Value adding could be done with NTFP- sorting, grading, making pellets, teas, grinding, etc.

Marketing sustainably harvested NTFPs. Working with brokers. For instance, create economic incentives for sustainable harvesting by paying more for older roots.

Look at options for managing wild stocks, such as wildlife model--permit to dig just as there is permit to hunt wildlife. States invest that money in planting programs.

Look at ShoreTrust as model- training program to train wildcrafters. Offer 30 year permits. They bring in national design experts for wreathes, harvesters, etc. together- came up with a product line

Look at diversifying NTFP sales. For instance, ornamental plant market can be developed in Central Appalachia. Non-Timber Forest Products: Ensuring Sustainability

At the second non-timber forest products session, the participants divided into 3 groups based on areas of interest. The three groups were: 1) Research 2) Education 3) Marketing. Each group developed a list of the biggest issues and discussed what needs to be done.

Research subgroup--biggest issues:

Calendar of NTFP harvest dates

Alternative crops/diversification to take pressure off of ginseng, goldenseal

Cultivation of non-ginseng, best practices on ginseng (planting density, etc)

Floral products--local sales

Research into old pharmacology journals for historical uses

What is not known? Lots unknown about basic biology of these species in the wild. Lots not known about who harvests and distribution systems.

Education/Conservation subgroup--biggest issues:

Accessing resources/tools to educate people. How do we identify, create and share tools

Deborah Hill has slide show, videos, illustrated "how-to" books.

Outreach to mainstream foresters, forestry students, and others involved with forestry

Outreach to harvesters

Community groups are access point to grass-roots for agencies and academia

Drawing from indigenous knowledge about sustainable harvesting, and uses

How do we create incentives for sustainable harvesting?

Issues to Educate about:

Understanding plants and ecosystem relationships

Calendar of harvesting

Guidelines for collection and processing-get info from national brokers and distribute

Standards for sustainable harvesting

Cultivation practices

Sustainable harvest standards

Conservation awareness

mind-set of enjoying the work,

Market trends and opportunities

Marketing options

Maintenance of viable populations

Possible projects:

Cooperation with mills to salvage bark (cherry, slippery elm)

Cooperation with loggers--stump inoculation

Cooperation with USFS--Education, brochures, etc. Policy.

Cooperation with Society of American Foresters; AFSEE, State Foresters Assn. on general education about

Seeds, pinecones, grapevines, underutilized species

Trainings for harvesters, foresters, landowners, etc.

Networking to share project results and educational resources

Marketing Subgroup--biggest issues:

Imported vs. locally made

Specialization issues; what markets are out there?

Diversification of species utilized

Joint marketing/CO-ops; promotion--who does it?

Strategies for establishing relations with different buyers

Industrial uses

Wild crafting, wild cultivation--market differences

Socio-economic factors

Consumer awareness

Local test marketing

Technology for value added

Will work on :

1. What markets are out there

2. Joint marketing/Co-ops

3. Local test marketing


State of the Forest and Stewardship Strategies

This discussion was an opportunity to place the sustainable development discussions in the context of other efforts not focused on development. Forest health, ecosystem mapping, and the forest bank were the primary foci.

Resource People

Bill Kittrell, Nature Conservancy; Bill Damon, USFS; Than Hitt, Appalachian Restoration Campaign

Discussion Summary:

Forest Health:

The Appalachian Forest Action Project is sampling old growth forests in mixed meso. One-third of the canopy is 120 years old or more. Looked at mortality. WV was worst, with 6.0 percent annually. Ohio was second, with 2.5 percent annual mortality. Mortality lessens toward the south. Annual mortality in an unimpacted system should be 0.5%/year

Bill Damon, USFS, reported on acidification of streams and the application of crushed limestone to counteract it. He also reported on the slowing of the advance of the gypsy moth(from 12 miles/yr to 0 miles this year). Insect infestation and nitrogen deposition may be related.

Ecosystem Mapping:

One theme is a lack of bioregional planning. Currently protected lands are not the answer--long-term goal is to bring private land into the picture. Ecosystems types need to be defined and then large-scale goals developed which integrate public and private land plans. Voluntary means of protecting private lands are available from conservation easements to "forest bank". There is a need to define ecoregions and establish portfolios of reserves. Connected reserves can be far more effective than scattered small pockets.

Forest Bank

The forest bank is a for-profit organization controlled by the Nature Conservancy. A landowner "deposits" timber rights into the bank and gets a periodic dividend as with other investments. The bank owns the timber and does sustainable logging. The landowner gets an annual check, based on the value. There is also a cash-out option, but the forest continues to be managed by the bank.


The Internet as a Tool for Regional Collaboration and Marketing

Resource People:

June Holley and Steve Schnell, Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACEnet)

June Holley presented an overview of how the Internet can be utilized in the Central Appalachian region to facilitate ongoing communication and collaboration as well as to market local products. Holley showed examples of listserve that are currently being utilized by the CAN Sustainable Forest Economies Working Group in order to keep communication and collaboration going among organizations in five states. Holley and Schnell introduced conferencing software packages that are more advanced than listservs because they allow participants to see the ongoing discussion on a particular topic and respond to that. They also allow participants to initiate discussions by creating a new topics. During this conference, participants were able to sign on to the Sustainable Forest Economies conference that is housed on the Southeast Ohio Regional Freenet (SEORF).

Holley also showed web pages to illustrate examples of how the Internet is being used to market local products, including sustainably-harvested wood products. One example of marketing on the Internet is the Public Web Market, a site that markets locally-produced products from Appalachian Ohio, Hawaii and North Carolina.

Participants were encouraged to stop by the ongoing Internet and online conferencing demonstration and to connect electronically after the conference to facilitate ongoing communications.

To join the CAN Sustainable Forest Economies listserv, visit the CANFOR web site:

This is a mailing list for announcements about forest related events and opportunities. It is also a way for people to ask questions and start discussions relating to forests and forest economies.

To join the CAN Sustainable Forest Economies online conference, refer to: online conference.html



At the conclusion of the conference, the Sustainable Forest Economies Working Group of the Central Appalachian Network met to discuss follow-up activities. There was a high level of interest in reconvening as a group to continue information sharing and pursue joint projects. The group divided into two subgroups--those most interested in non-timber forest products and those most interested in wood products. The groups identified the following next steps:

Next Steps:

Wood subgroup:


An evaluation form with questions pertaining to each session was made available to participants, and they were encouraged repeatedly to fill out these evaluations. Eight evaluation forms were received.

When asked to rate sessions on a 1 to 5 scale, with 5 being the most favorable rating, the average ratings for sessions ranged from 3.8 to 5. When asked to rate on the same scale for usefulness to their organizations, respondents submitted session averages from 3.0 to 5.0.

Most respondents favored semi-annual general meetings, with sub-groups meeting as needed. The most popular suggested follow-up topic was a deeper look at the Nature Conservancy's Forest Bank idea. All respondents reported that they made new contacts that would be helpful to them in their work, with some reporting numerous new contacts.

Respondents also mentioned wanting more time to network and find out about each others projects.


Last Updated on December 15, 1997 by Colin Donohue