ASU study reveals economic benefits of forest thinning

April 9, 2014

From 2002 to 2011, Arizona lost a quarter of its forests to wildfires, drought and bark beetle infestation. Decreased public funding for forest thinning and the low economic value of small diameter wood has made the state’s forests especially vulnerable to devastating fires and drought.

Arizona State University’s Sustainability Solutions Services (S3) and The Nature Conservancy have published a report indicating forest thinning could return Arizona’s forests to a healthy condition, making them more resistant to environmental extremes, and at the same time, strengthening rural economies. green ponderosa pine trees in northern Arizona meadow Download Full Image

The report, called “Modeling the Economic Viability of Restorative Thinning,” provides an assessment of possible wood processors and consumers, or “business clusters,” if small diameter wood from northern Arizona was sustainably harvested.

“The Nature Conservancy proposed the study because there was uncertainty about how to attract more business investment to accelerate ecologically sound forest thinning before it’s too late,” said Pat Graham, state director of The Nature Conservancy in Arizona. “These results give us hope that we can once again have healthy forests and communities.”

The services surveyed existing businesses, reviewed current and emerging technologies, and toured forest thinning and small diameter wood product operations in Arizona. A generalized model of a forest product supply chain based on small diameter wood was used to investigate industry scenarios in a variety of forested landscapes.

“Our analysis shows that it is possible to make small diameter wood harvesting economically viable,” said Dan O’Neill, general manager of S3, a consulting service offered by ASU’s Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives. “There’s survivability and economic reasons to restore our forests. The market can drive solutions that help rural economies and reduce the need for government subsidies.”

These proposed business clusters would build upon existing investments to accelerate the harvest of small diameter wood to be used in sawmills, which would in turn provide lumber product. Processed wood chips and sawdust would be sold as animal bedding or compressed logs. Slash biomass would become fuel to produce electricity and heat, creating a local source for energy. New businesses would take the government’s place in funding thinning projects.

As Arizona’s forests return to a healthier state, the risk of large, catastrophic fires, erosion and sedimentation of downstream reservoirs will be reduced. Wildlife habitat will be improved, and recreational opportunities will be protected. Healthy forests also produce more water for our rivers and communities.

This is a win-win approach. While Arizona’s economy would grow, the state’s forests would simultaneously become healthier.

Media contact:
Jason Franz,

ASU Polytechnic campus a hub of innovation, excellence

April 9, 2014

With more than 11,000 students enrolled in more than 40 degree programs, the Arizona State University Polytechnic campus reaffirms the university’s commitment to excellence, access and impact. Opened in 1996 with approximately 1,000 students enrolled in eight degree programs, ASU Polytechnic campus’ meteoric rise is underpinned by the key role it has played in boosting the economic, social and cultural vitality of the East Valley.

The Polytechnic campus is home to programs in engineering, business education, math, science, technology and aviation, complemented by arts, humanities and social sciences curricula. As a polytechnic-focused campus, the emphasis is on professional and technical programs that prepare students in a hands-on, project and team-based learning environment that is constantly evolving. ASU Polytechnic campus Download Full Image

“The ASU Polytechnic campus continues to attract increasing numbers of amazing students,” said Aaron Krasnow, dean of students at the Polytechnic campus. “Immediately upon arrival, students are immersed in a culture of innovation and solutions. Every environment, from lab spaces to residence halls to recreation facilities, was designed with input by students in order to meet their needs. In doing so, we have created the optimal environment for success."

The vision for the Polytechnic campus includes serving 15,000 to 20,000 students in the near future. To prepare for the growth in the number of students and academic programs, ASU has invested millions into new construction on the 600-acre campus in recent years, focusing on expanding student residence, as well as research spaces to provide a dynamic living and learning environment. Opening of the Century Residence Hall, along with the Citrus Dining Pavilion and the ASU Polytechnic Sun Devil Fitness Center within the last two years underline ASU’s commitment to student and faculty success.

True to the New American University model of higher education, ASU’s Polytechnic campus is promoting excellence in its research and among its students, faculty and staff, increasing access to its educational resources, and working with communities to positively impact social and economic development.

“I’m continually impressed with what our students create, how significant their inventions are, and the applicability in the real world,” said Krasnow. “I’m totally confident that our students will create solutions to the big issues; many already have.”

Director of Strategic Marketing and Communications, ASU Local