Vicki Christiansen, new head of the U.S. Forest Service was one of the opening speakers at our Mass Timber Conference. This makes perfect sense.
Sustainable if from sustainable sources
Building with mass timber makes sense only if that timber comes from sustainably managed forests. The forests is the beginning of the good cycle.
She said all the right things and I was very impressed. Ms. Christiansen has a background in fire management, which has become the big issue.
She talked about the need to thin our national forests and to increase profitable timber harvests, while expanding the use of fire as a management tool.
It was a rare case for a speaker when I agreed with everything I heard.
At breakfast just before the general session, I sat with a couple guys who made the mistake of asking me about forestry. I gave them my usual ideas about fire and thinning. They claimed to be interested and asked questions. I ran into them after the session. They jokes that I must have been planted to prime them for the morning talk.
Anyway, I have great respect for the U.S. Forest Service and I am encouraged by the leadership, at least what I heard at the general session. Of course, it is hard to make ideas into facts on the ground, given the budget and other challenges.
Moving beyond my expertise
I doubt I will go to the next Mass Timber Conference. This is no disrespect to the conference, but it has moved beyond me.
It is a problem of success. Mass timber is becoming more mainstream, as I hoped. In doing so, however, a generalist like me is increasingly out of place.
The talks today were very interesting, but some, many, were technical. I remember stuff like this from my operations research class. I was not good at it then and I am not good at it now.
I was – and remain – an advocate for the wider use of mass timber. I think that this is the way to build in environmentally responsible ways. But as mass timber becomes more commonly accepted, the skills are different.
The other success of the mass timber conference is the numbers. Last year, there were about 600 attendees. This year there is twice as many. I figure next year they will need to raise the prices, both to raise money and to limit the numbers. I won a free admission this year, but I am unlikely to do so again. So…I think this is my last time. I am content that things are working out better than I would have anticipated.