Plenary session, June 12 | 11:15 am
Plenary speaker: Dr. Jim Bowyer
Over vast areas of the world, forests were viewed as inexhaustible through much of history – with abundant wood supplies often providing the foundation of wealth and prosperity for growing civilizations. Wanton use of wood eventually led to realization that forest bounty was not unlimited. Nonetheless, for centuries, this awareness led societies to simply search farther afield for wood. It was not until the 19th century in Europe, and the early 20th century in North America, that forest depletion began to stimulate serious interest in protecting and nurturing forests and exercising greater care in use of wood removed.
Establishment of forestry as a profession brought with it innovation in forest harvest systems, regeneration, and movement of logs from stump to forest, and then for more efficient conversion of logs to lumber and timbers. Attention then turned to development of new products to utilize what previously had been wood waste in lumber production. Modern paper and later particleboard and fiber panel products were among the new products that resulted. Meanwhile, efficiency gains in all aspects of wood conversion continued to be realized.
The mid-20th century brought an explosion of creativity of innovation to the forest sector. In forestry, mechanized logging and log sort systems underwent rapid development. Forest genetics, genetic improvement of trees, and plantation forestry became a specialty within forestry. And forest products innovation proceeded rapidly along wood saving and wood extending pathways, with the advent of computers playing a major role toward the end of the century. Beginning in the 1970s, research activity turned to engineered composite products that not only increased the yield of product from a given quantity of logs, but which opened new opportunities for use of wood.
Innovation is now directed toward the chemistry of wood and the potential for new products of all kinds from wood and other forms of biomass. It is the dawn of what some refer to as a new bioeconomy. It is an exciting time to be involved in forest sector.
Jim Bowyer is Professor Emeritus at the University of Minnesota, Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, and an Elected Fellow of the International Academy of Wood Science. He is also President of Bowyer & Associates, Inc., an environmental consulting firm, and Director of the Responsible Materials Program of Dovetail Partners, Inc., Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Bowyer has served as President of the Forest Products Society (1993-94) and of the Society of Wood Science and Technology (1987-88), Vice President of the Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials (1992-2003) – an association of fourteen major North American Universities organized for the purpose of conducting life cycle assessments of renewable materials and products, and Board Member (1994-2008) and Chairman (2006-2008) of the Tropical Forest Foundation – an organization with major operations in Brazil, Guyana, Indonesia, and Gabon. He was Head of the University of Minnesota’s Department of Wood & Paper Science from 1984 to 1994, and Founder and Director of the Forest Products Management Development Institute at the University of Minnesota (an organization dedicated to education and development of industry professionals) from 1994-2003. He currently serves on a number of editorial boards and national committees with a focus on carbon issues and forest carbon dynamics.
He is co-author of Forest Products and Wood Science, 1st through 5th editions, six book chapters, and over 400 scientific articles. He has published widely on the topics of wood and fiber science, bioenergy, life cycle assessment, green building standards, global raw material trends, and environmental policy and is a frequent speaker nationally and internationally on these topics.