As you may have seen in the local hardware store or heard on the news, lumber prices are at an all time high. Turns out it is more than just our local demand post-flood that has skyrocketed these prices but a mountain pine beetle in Canada. According to an article from Quartz, a global economy news source, called “The US wood shortage can be traced to a decades-old beetle infestation in Canada.”
Journalist Samantha Subramanian from Quartz spoke with Kevin Mason from the ERA Forest Products Research in Canada who explained mild winters in the 1990’s allowed the mountain pine beetle to do significant damage. Dead trees have a time limit before they become too brittle, so British Columbia government acted quickly to incentivize harvesters to cut. This increase lasted until 2015 and now we wait for the forest to regrow, prompting many sawmills to shut down due to lowered production.
Fast forward to 2020, sawmill activity was halted but with steadfast demand lumber supplies diminished and left companies behind schedule. Sawmills opened again but regulating COVID cases within staff added hurdles when trying catch up. There are basic economics at play here - low supply and high demand drives the cost up. Mason predicts prices will remain “volatile” for the next 3-5 years. He sees an opportunity for the US to import wood from Europe as they had a similar issue with spruce trees and a bark beetle leaving them currently in surplus. Although as Michigan residents, we are all too aware of the dangers of importing wood products. Major steps should be taken to avoid introducing new invasive beetles to our forests. Just look at the Emerald Ash Borer that was introduced to Michigan in 2002 and spread to 35 states according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
Michigan trees are being attacked from all directions. Beech Bark Disease, Oak Wilt and Hemlock Wooly Adelgid are currently in the state. Foresters are on high alert for the Asian long-horned beetle and spotted lantern fly which are currently in nearby states. Roughly 60% of Michigan forest land is privately owned and Little Forks wants to use this as an opportunity to encourage all landowners to learn how to maintain a heathy forest. Now is a good time to learn about the warning signs and identification of pests so they can be caught early and hopefully treated.
For more information on tree diseases and other care tips check out our 2020 Stewardship Series - Caring for your Trees. You can also contact Sara Huetteman our preserve and volunteer manager to learn more or to find local resources
available in our community.