Researchers find economic opportunity in dead Alaska cedar

By / Peter Segall, Juneau Empire

The grey “ghost” trees visible on North Kupreanof Island are dead yellow-cedar stands. (Courtesy photo | Allison Bidlack)

As warming temperatures in Southeast Alaska continue to kill off more and more yellow cedar, a group of researchers see an opportunity for logging the dead wood.

new study from the Alaska Coastal Rainforest Center and the University of Alaska Southeast looked into the viability of harvesting the growing numbers of dead yellow cedar trees.

“We went into this project because we know there were these stands of dead wood,” said Allison Bidlack, director of the ACRC. “If you wait much later, you get past 30, 40 years, the wood properties start to degrade.”

Bidlack and her team wanted to look at whether harvesting these dead trees could be a profitable enterprise for small mill operators in Southeast Alaska.

The answer, according to the study, is a highly qualified yes. Dead cedar can still be a high enough quality to bring to market, but the main problem is accessing it, the study says.

“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 says.

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