California’s national forests face another dry year, continued tree mortality and high potential for more wildfires, so people in the timber business welcomed a recent announcement by the U.S. Forest Service that the agency expects the 2018 timber harvest to be the largest in 20 years, says a report in the California AgAlert Newspaper.

Steve Brink, vice president of public resources for the California Forestry Association, said the additional harvest would benefit the timber sector, fuels reduction and local economies.

“It appears that the timber target by the Forest Service this year is the highest it has been in two decades,” Brink said. “That’s going in the right direction, there’s no doubt about it.”

In 1998, he said, the sold volume was 2.95 billion board-feet, nationwide. This year’s target is 3.4 billion board-feet, the highest since then.

Santa Cruz County forester David Van Lennep, chairman of the California Farm Bureau Federation Forestry, Fish and Wildlife and Public Lands Committee, said the Forest Service decision to increase its cut of timber would not directly affect coastal timber operations such as his. But for many timber operators and small businesses in the Sierra Nevada, he said, “the Forest Service’s commitment to stepping up harvest, fuel treatment and overall management on federal lands is a positive thing.”

“The Forest Service increasing their cut is an increase in work that could be bid on, such as log-hauling jobs for truck drivers and added raw product for sawmills. It could have a profound impact in available jobs, timber to saw and related work that goes along with the industry,” Van Lennep said.

Last year, the USFS Pacific Southwest Region 5 sold 250 million board-feet. This year that is expected to increase to 370 million board-feet, Brink said. He called that good news because it increases the wood supply and means more acres of fuels reduction.

With continued dry conditions and California wildfires burning hotter and becoming more destructive, forestry leaders said reducing the fuel load in the national forests is critical.

“A lot of the federal lands have been neglected and are in a condition of very hazardous fire conditions,” Van Lennep said. “With millions of dead trees, that is a consistent fire hazard at a catastrophic level throughout the state.”

Even with a ramped-up pace of fuels-reduction projects, Brink said, to return millions of acres of forestland to a resilient condition of 20 to 100 trees per acre will be a challenge.

See full report Here.