Fostering Innovations in the Use of Wood

Vicki Christiansen, Forest Service Chief
Timber Innovation Day Celebration
Washington, DC
— October 22, 2019

Good afternoon! It’s a pleasure to be here, and I welcome the opportunity to say a few words during National Forest Products Week. This is a time to celebrate the successes of the past year and to recognize how much forest products contribute to our nation.

First, a little context. Our mission at the Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. We have direct responsibility for managing about 20 percent of the nation’s forests on the National Forest System. We also support forest management by the states and by private landowners, and we have the world’s largest forest research organization.

A national priority for the Forest Service is improving the condition of our nation’s forests and grasslands. To do this, we need to use every tool and authority we have.

One tool is supporting a strong forest products market. A strong market helps us remove excess vegetation that would otherwise fuel catastrophic wildfires. A strong market supports a sustainable building sector, meeting people’s need for wood, a renewable resource. A strong market creates more jobs through a sustainable flow of forest products. This is especially important in rural communities, where other sources of income might be few.

I am proud to say that we are making progress. In fiscal year 2018, the Forest Service sold 3.2 billion board feet of timber—the most in 21 years.

But we need to do more. The materials we remove often have little value, so we are hard at work finding new uses for wood at our Forest Products Lab and elsewhere across the Forest Service. Again, we are making progress, and we are here to celebrate National Forest Products Week and Timber Innovation Day to recognize how far we have come.

The first major success to celebrate is the Timber Innovation Act in the Farm Bill—a big “thank you” to Congress for making it happen! These new provisions will help us support the wood products market and also contribute to a stronger mass timber sector.

The second major success is the inclusion of mass timber in the new version of the International Building Code. The new code allows for tallwood buildings up to 18 stories high! Three states have already pre-adopted these provisions, and some cities are close to pre-adoption as well.

Beautiful mass timber buildings are going up across the country, and the number of mass timber manufacturing facilities is going up as well. We have a visitor with us today from Colville, Washington, who will be speaking about his new facility … Russ Vaagen! We are so pleased he is here to share his experience.

I am also delighted to announce that our 2020 Wood Innovations Grants are now officially open. Through this grant program, we invest in projects that boost local economies while creating new uses for wood as building materials, as a renewable energy source, and more.

On behalf of the Forest Service, I thank everyone in the room for contributing to our success in sustaining our nation’s forests. Congratulations to everyone in the room for a stellar year!

National Forest, National Grassland, or other National Area