While touring Finland on the Seenig the Forest AND the Trees productivity tour, UPM’s Jim Marshall posted “Marshall’s Musings” to the VFVC Blog. Peter Bundy read the post and asked Jim, “What exactly is “Finnish forest cluster” and what silvicultural practices did you observe that we should be implementing here in MN? ”

Jim has penned responses to Peter’s good questions. Here they are:

1. What exactly is Finnish forest cluster?

Looking at the Finnish Forest Industries Federation website, I found this definition, which is good. One can also look at the link to see more.

The Finnish definition of forest cluster is broad covering all the important actors networking with each other, and this is where its strength lies. The forest, chemical and technology industries as well as the media and packaging sectors together with forest-owners

2. What silvicultural practices did you observe that we should be implementing here in MN?

a) I would love to see us do more pre-commercial thinning (spacing) and cleaning in our young forests (both mixed species and pure balsam fir, jack pine). Resulting acceleration of growth to merchantable size is amazing, versus doing nothing. The opportunity is large; conceivably 50,000+ acres every year, if we consider the mixed-wood aspen/hardwood/conifer stands that arise following typical Minnesota harvests.

b) More commercial thinning–this covers a broad array from high-value hardwood management (oak system is different from maple/basswood) to spruce and pine plantations, to aspen and other mixed species. The concept is to capture the mortality and invigorate the remaining trees for more healthy growth. INTERMEDIATE TREATMENTS is one of the five focus areas that emerged from the Blandin Foundation VFVC group learning trips. This team wants to develop a white paper on the benefits of release, pre-commercial thinning, and commercial thinning that would address not only timber benefits but other benefits such as wildlife, I & D, and biodiversity. They also recommend continuing the Ecosystem Management Course, and they propose future research on the ecological and economic issues associated with intermediate treatments.

c) Finally, I would suggest, we need to adopt the most sophisticated modeling possible, depending on landowner capacity to use these tools, as a defensible means of harvesting more of our forests when they become mature, vs. waiting till they are way past biological and economic maturity. Time after time, when we evaluate public and private timber for possible purchase of stumpage, we have to reject parcels based on the very poor wood quality (primarily aspen and balsam fir rot). When walking through blow-down balsam, I often think, “this should have been sold 10 or 15 years
ago!” With proper modeling, fewer of these stands would slip through the cracks in large land owning organizations.

As an illustration of the problem in (2c), please see these photographs of an 80+ year old aspen/birch/balsam/spruce stand in Itasca County.


Thanks for the questions, Peter!

Jim Marshall

Productivity Tour participants Bud Stone, Jim Hoolihan, Abel Ponce de Leon, Stefan Bergmann and Jim Bowyer at the Metla Institute, Joensuu, Finland

Productivity Tour participants Bud Stone, Jim Hoolihan, Abel Ponce de Leon, Stefan Bergmann and Jim Bowyer at the Metla Institute, Joensuu, Finland

Productivity Tour staffer Allison Rajala sends along this post after one very long and content-rich day that started in Finland and ended in Sweden.

We were warned from Day One that Thursday would be intense — and it was!

It began at dawn with a traditional Finnish breakfast of bread, cheese, porridge and coffee at the Mekrijarvi Research Station. Just like the University of Joensuu students and researchers stationed there, the night before we enjoyed a late night of traditional “smoke” saunas, very cold swims and swapping stories in the dorms, reminiscent of younger days.

Despite a drizzly day, typical for October in Finland, UPM’s Finnish foresters generously escorted our hardy band through the deep woods of eastern Finland. Among our stops, we observed new technology developed by UPM field staff to clear brush around four-year-old planted spruce, how they thin to improve genetics and maximize value, and how they are researching the emerging practice of harvesting stumps–quite different from Minnesota and generating quite a buzz.

Policy researcher and sociologist for the Finnish Environment Institute, Dr. Taru Peltola, helped us to experience forest community life. She introduced us to the staff of a local district heating facility–typical for rural Finland. These small, distributed heating facilities convert woody debris and roundwood to energy and symbolize the value of thriving forests to the rural landscape. Biomass energy is alive and well in Karjelia.

Metla Institute in Joensuu was quite a place. Their top researchers shared breaking news surrounding global warming, the effects of Russian tariffs, wood technology and much more. One of the finest forest research institutions in the world, Metla also is home to one of the world’s most beautiful examples of architecture utilizing local wood resources.

Two bus rides and two airplane rides later, we arrived safely at midnight in Stockholm’s historic old town for some much needed sleep after an 18-hour day. Wow!

Thanks to UPM Blandin Paper Co’s Jim Marshall for sharing his musings from the Seeing the Forest AND the Tress Productivity Tour with VFVC Blog readers.

As we flew over Finland’s famous Lake Saimaa on the way north from Helsinki, I knew our group was enjoying the spectacular view of water, autumn colors and the generous mix of forests and small farms below. I reflected on all the things our group had already accomplished in meetings with counterparts from the Finnish forestry sector, at the US Embassy in Helsinki, and in small informal discussions amongst ourselves.

As the bus pulled away from the Joensuu airport, remarkably, we saw commercial thinning going on right out the bus windows. I began to get excited all over again, knowing that soon we would be out into the forest together, learning from local University experts about social and ecological aspects of the Finnish Forest “cluster” as well as hearing from my UPM colleague Matti Ylanne about the company’s methods for improving biodiversity on its forest harvest sites.

Tomorrow we will be stopping to view mechanized cleaning, manual pre-commercial thinning, energy wood harvesting, and commercial thinning—an ambitious program for the morning drive on our way back to Joensuu. It is important for us to see and understand what is possible using intensive forestry methods. Here in Finland, we learned today, the history and culture drive landowners toward intensive silviculture (see Bernadine’s post below). The results are that a lot of timber is grown and harvested, fueling one of the worlds’ most impressive forest based economies. I’m looking forward to hearing what my fellow travelers see and think tomorrow.

Productivity Tour Participants in the Patvinsuo Forest

Productivity Tour Participants in the Patvinsuo Forest

Today, Oct. 1, we found ourselves deep in the Patvinsuo forest exploring management tools, including fire, for productive forest systems. It struck me, more than ever, what a diverse range of perspectives, skills and experiences are represented among our hardy Minnesota band — it makes the learning that much more rich.

Our Finnish hosts, including sociologists, economists and ecologists, led far ranging discussions on the variety of impacts of forest management practices and ownership structures on all three “baskets” of forest values – social, cultural, and ecological. They pointed out that the mechanization of forestry over the past four decades — which saw ten chain-saw-wielding loggers replaced with a single machine operator — has had profound impact on employment and lifestyles in these remote rural communities. They also described the historical and cultural factors that have contributed to Finnish private land ownership patterns and attitudes.

Half-way through our time here in Scandinavia, the learning is really beginning to gel around the learning themes we developed a year ago while touring the forests of Minnesota’s Aitkin County.

Tomorrow we arrive in Sweden for yet another comparison. Then it’s time to pull it all together.