News Release

Forest Service Chief applauds momentum of mass timber market while at groundbreaking for new University of Idaho arena

June 6, 2019 -

USDA Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen joined with staff of the University of Idaho today to break ground on a one-of-a-kind engineered wood arena. The 62,000-square-foot, 4,200-capacity facility will highlight Idaho’s wood products industry and will provide a unique home for the University of Idaho’s basketball programs. This unique and highly visible project is a clear example of how modern technology and traditional wood use can be combined to bring benefits to emerging new markets while supporting strong forest health, as well as contributing to local energy production. It is a win for the local community and a win for the Forest Service.

“This ground breaking comes at an exciting moment for the mass timber market in the United States,” said Chief Christiansen. “A thriving mass timber market can help reduce excess vegetation in our overstocked forests, leading to safer, more resilient communities. It can also support rural economic development and provide an opportunity for the Forest Service to contribute to a more sustainable building sector.”

Mass timber is a term that describes a group of wood products that are formed by mechanically fastening or bonding with adhesive smaller wood components (such as dimensional lumber) to form large pre-fabricated wood elements used as beams, columns, walls, floors and roofs in buildings. Examples of these products are cross-laminated timber, nail-laminated timber, glue laminated timber, mass plywood, and many others.

The Forest Service Chief also pointed to recent developments in the mass timber market, highlighting that the 2018 Farm Bill has mass timber provisions for the first time in history; the Department of Defense is now building with mass timber; and, building codes are being updated to include three new types of construction that allow the U.S. to build taller with mass timber.

“This is a major signal, a seal of approval for this technology’s legitimacy,” added Chief Christiansen. “We are at a truly unique moment in time; Never before has there been so much momentum for mass timber here in the United States.”

The Forest Service supports the market for mass timber through the work of its Wood Innovations Program.

Learn more about wood innovations

Emerging engineered wood technologies can be used in commercial building projects, such as tall buildings and skyscrapers, as well as other projects. By some estimates, a three- to five-story building made from emerging wood technologies has the same emissions as taking up to 550 cars off the road for one year. Wood-based designs have also been demonstrated to improve energy efficiency, thereby reducing energy consumption for heating and cooling. Presently, the market for wood and other related forest products supports more than one million direct jobs, many in rural America. As these markets expand, so will the economic opportunities.

Wood Innovations Grants funding supports traditional wood utilization projects, expands wood energy markets, and promotes using wood as a construction material in commercial buildings. The Forest Service supports proposals that significantly stimulate or expand wood products markets and wood energy markets that support the long-term management of National Forest System and other forest lands.

For more information about the Wood Innovations program, visit the Forest Service website