We provide the data and plans to grow your timberland business.

The FBRI Service Provider can produce a wall-to-wall comprehensive inventory to include a tree-list for every polygon on your entire ownership.  It is now feasible and efficient to replace traditional forest timber mapping and cruising with satellite-facilitated stratification and stand tree-list generation. The operational, working forest costs are approximately one-half, or less, than traditional inventory development and updating.

High-precision satellite data is used to measure almost every tree.  Calibration plots are installed to confirm the satellite data. Then FPS (FBRI software) compiles the results. Forestland owners and managers are delivered a complete ownership inventory at a stand-level basis.

The Service Provider can also create a site index across your ownership, localize your silviculture treatments and develop a harvest scheduling plan based on your constraints and inventory data. Every stand is quantified, your stands are grown specific to your silviculture methods, a productivity map covers your full ownership . . . all resulting in an economically-sound harvest plan completely customized to your constraints.

FBRI Enterprise Services Advantages
  • All data generated by the FBRI Service Provider is owned by the client and stored at their premises. Reports can be run by clients without Service Provider interaction.
  • Service Provider activities can be customized to augment in-house staff or populate existing owner defined polygons.
  • A wall-to-wall inventory is delivered in significantly less time and with greatly reduced expense than compared to a standard cruise of the entire ownership over 10 years.
  • The satellite-facilitated inventory may be merged with, or augment, an existing traditional forest inventory.
  • An annual update and refreshing of your inventory can be easily accomplished thru satellite-facilitated stratification. Major depletions due to fires can be quickly mapped and quantified.
  • The Service Provider inventory is a measure of almost every tree versus the standard measure from an annual 7% cruising sample. Every polygon has a tree-list.
  • An FBRI staff PhD biometrician is assigned to each client for guidance, advice and consultation throughout the entire process.
  • The wall-to-wall inventory can be applied at any scale from smaller ownerships to state or region-wide assessments.
  • The Service Provider inventory can quickly and accurately replace an inefficient or problem in-house system without a major rework, downtime or additional staff.
  • Landowners can use the FBRI Service Provider without a working knowledge of FPS inventory methods and tools.
We have done the research . . . now you benefit.

Each organization may participate in the FBRI Service Provider for any combination
of the four technical support products (inventory, site grid, localization and forest plan). Each service product will be provided for a fee depending on size of ownership and degree of intensity. A localized forest-wide, stand-based inventory with site grid requires less than nine months from start to final delivery.  The Service Provider assistance is only available to FBRI supporting organizations.  The annual supporting organization assessment is separate from any Service Provider fees.

The Evolution of Forest Inventory and Management Protocols

James D. Arney, PhD – Forest Biometrics Research Institute (FBRI) 

The most appropriate, robust and defensible approaches to building and managing a working forest inventory are evolving rapidly.  This pace of change has accelerated since about 1990 when LandSat remote vegetation mapping began to be considered an operational alternative to photo-typing by a human interpreter (after driving around the forest ownership to calibrate his/her eye).

Major points of consideration (visualize a 200,000 working forest ownership):

  1. Trees are large and diverse as demonstrated in many spatial and temporal factors. Forests are spatially expansive, usually draped over highly variable terrain, soils and climate.  Tree growth rates are highly variable by species, growing space, local site productivity and health (vigor).
  2. These conditions (Item (a) have resulted in a history and applications of inventory sampling rather than enumeration when attempting to characterize a forest inventory across a large ownership.
  3. Economically favorable harvesting of forest resources (timber) is more like “mining” than “agriculture” due to the size and access limitations involved in extracting products. As a direct result, each working forest manager must invest significant effort in determining the appropriate spatial and temporal combination of factors when identifying which stand to be harvested next.
  4. These conditions (space and time) require a robust stand-specific forest inventory tightly integrated with a species, site and silviculturally robust growth model. The growth model must provide details sufficient to evaluate future alternative cash flows resulting from alternative silvicultural approaches to managing each working forest.

As a result:

  • Each working forest manager invests substantial effort into maintaining a current inventory database. This effort typically requires annual updates for harvest depletions and status of newly developing stands (post-harvest).  This typically requires at least one full-time professional inventory forester.
  • Traditional coarse forest-wide stratifications of vegetation types requires annual sampling of stands not previously measured and re-measurement of stands not visited for a significant period of years (more than 15 – 20 years). This typically requires about 6 – 8 percent of the ownership stands being cruised each year by a dedicated (or contracted) field crew.
  • Professional analyses of alternative silvicultural approaches, regulatory restrictions (wildlife, riparian and green-up factors), operating costs and changing log values must be re-evaluated frequently (usually annually). This typically requires at least a part-time involvement (20 – 40% annual involvement) by a professional forest planner knowledgeable with management packages such as the Forest Projection & Planning System (FPS).

To understand these levels of investment, FBRI and WFCA have conducted Silvicultural Cost Surveys in 2013, 2016 and 2019 across six western States and all types of ownership categories.  Using traditional approaches, such as outlined and detailed in the FPS Forester’s Guidebook, the initial stand-based working forest inventory costs about $1.50 per acre to build.  This assumes an inventory database where a minimum of 20 percent of all strata have been field sampled.  To maintain a current inventory database reflecting growth and harvest depletions requires about $0.50 per acre per year.  This assumes (Item 2) that about seven percent of the ownership is being field sampled (cruised) annually.

Through these surveys, responses to technical support requests and 16 years of on-site visits to a broad array of working forest ownerships, FBRI has observed that the essential expectations for in-house professional forestry teams (inventory, silviculture and planning) have been declining over the past two decades.  This trend is expected to continue.  (See Endnote on Institutional Knowledge)

Recent advances in Forest Inventory Approaches

Outside of forestry, technological advances in other sciences over the past twenty years are providing options for working forest methods, tools and services not previously available or expected.  Some of these developments in satellite imagery and remote sampling are providing pivotal shifts in how to maintain and manage a working forest inventory.

While these developments are potentially extremely significant, their applications require a very strong analytical team.  Such a team and support services do not currently exist in most in-house forest management staff configurations.  This situation is not expected to change in a positive direction in the foreseeable future.[1]

New (or recently discovered) technologies in other disciplines have been pivotal in FBRI’s unique R&D developments over the past two decades, including:

  1. Nonparametric regression models for tree taper, site and growth dynamics;
  2. The 10-meter site index method from soils, climate and topography;
  3. The CASH Card method for calibrating early silvicultural response to treatments;
  4. The FPS Enterprise Services for building and updating working forest inventories.

As these new technologies have been incorporated into FPS, documented and presented in workshop environments, it is becoming increasingly visible that there is a significant disconnect between skill-sets of recent university forestry graduates and essential knowledge for full implementation of these FBRI technologies.  In spite of every effort through technical support and on-site visits, these technologies are not getting fully and completely invoked.

Therefore, how will the forestry profession maintain itself and find an avenue to incorporate and invoke these evolving technologies?  This is a situation which each working forest ownership team must recognize and address in order to remain viable.

In response, FBRI now has the methods and tools to create (or update) a forest ownership-wide stand-based inventory in one year using satellite spectral bands and a specifically-designed sample of calibration plots (120 – 360 at pre-stratified locations).  This design and structure allows for a robust forest inventory to be annually maintained with only two percent of the forest being re-sampled each year (as opposed to 7 percent).  Harvest depletions and extensive wildfires may be mapped and incorporated annually.  Tree lists within stand polygons are fully populated with species, size and density structures, including degrees of clumpiness.  Operational costs of maintaining an inventory and developing annual harvest scheduling plans are cut to less than one-half of traditional budgets.

The FBRI Enterprise Services Approach

Given the situation on institutional knowledge and expected trends, FBRI has sought out a viable approach to allow these technologies to be fully invoked within each working forest enterprise.  Instead of handing out the FPS textbook, software and training workshops, FBRI will provide a team service to all FBRI-contributing organizations.

This enterprise service includes these components:

  1. Build (or update) a forest-wide, stand-based inventory for the entire tree farm, forest or reservation. This is based on a current update of satellite spectral bands and a pre-designed distribution of calibration plots.
  2. Build (or update) a forest-wide Site Grid GIS inventory for the entire landscape.
  3. Assist the local forester in calibrating the core set of CASH Card parameters based on the local kinds and responses of early silvicultural treatments being invoked.
  4. Review and define the suite of wildlife, riparian and mission-based restrictions for forest management planning on this ownership.
  5. Provide an annual long-term harvest schedule analysis highlighting stands targeted for silvicultural treatment (harvest) in the next five-year period. This assumes direct feedback from the in-house forestry team on past treatments and harvests.
  6. Recommend which stands to be included in the current two percent cruising cycle.
  7. Provide on-site periodic presentations of FBRI-assisted inventory and planning analyses upon request from senior management within each organization.

These Service Provider support activities, methods and tools are only offered and provided to FBRI-supporting organizations. The expected annual budget for this FBRI Service Provider support structure is approximately one-half of traditional operational budgets for managing a forest inventory with active forest harvest planning included.  Most of the technical skills reside within FBRI to ensure a robust and ongoing forest management support work flow.

FBRI will open this service beginning in January 2020.  Some projects are already underway.

Unique details for matching FBRI support services to each organization begin with reference to the Figures comparing conventional methods to the FBRI Enterprise Services method in the Appendix to this announcement.

The FBRI “Enterprise Services” approach means that each inventory or site mapping project is conducted across a contiguous block of forest at least 400,000 acres in size.  This provides a more robust analytical result as well as a significantly reduced cost to each of the landowners within this block.  FBRI initiates and manages each consortium so that each ownership within the geographic block receives full benefit in quality and cost of all outputs (unique inventory, site, silviculture and planning per ownership).

End Note:  What is Institutional Knowledge?

Whether a company’s employee turnover is above or below average, your workforce becomes at least temporarily less efficient every time someone leaves. In our research[2], we found that on average, 42% of the skills and expertise required to capably perform in a given position will be known only by the person currently in that position. In other words, should that person leave, their remaining colleagues won’t be able to do 42% of their work, and someone hired into that role will need to learn 42% of it from scratch.

That has real consequences. The average new hire will spend almost 200 hours working inefficiently (asking colleagues for information and waiting for responses, forging ahead by trial and error, and/or “reinventing the wheel” to duplicate the work of his or her predecessor). “These inefficiencies lead to employee frustration, unnecessary delays in work products, and an overall loss of productivity that can significantly impact a company’s bottom line.”  HR Daily Advisor, July 18, 2018.

By the year 2018, many employers may see as many as five generations working side by side. This is due to many factors including the shaky economy and healthier, more active seniors. Multiple generations working side by side in the workplace not only affects the make-up of an organization, but also how these same organizations address engagement, values, sustainment, tenure, and build towards the retention and transfer of institutional knowledge. Today, as Baby Boomers prepare for retirement, some Gen. X’ers and many Millennials are not remaining employed in one organization long enough to learn from their older colleagues. As a result, the institutional knowledge, history, and business continuity possessed by the veterans and Boomers might vanish with little or no knowledge being retained by the Gen. X’ers and Millennials. The failure to retain and transfer institutional knowledge could result in a steady increase in employee turnover and further loss of institutional knowledge, translating into higher costs and lower institutional efficiency.

“It’s one of those sleeping giants most people don’t think about.  If you don’t do something proactively today, you’re going to be stuck with employees who know basic tasks but don’t have that institutional knowledge.”[3]

Institutional knowledge is the combination of experiences, processes, data, expertise, values, and information possessed by company employees. It can span decades and comprise crucial trends, projects, perspectives and that define a company’s history.

Multiple generations working side by side in the work place not only affect the make-up of an organization, but also how these same organizations address engagement, values, sustainment, tenure and build toward the retention and transfer of institutional knowledge.

Today, as boomers prepare for retirement, some Gen-Xers and many millennials are not remaining employed long enough to learn from their older generational colleagues. As a result, the institutional knowledge, history, and business continuity possessed by the veterans and boomers might vanish with little or no knowledge being retained by the Gen-Xers and millennials. We’re reminded that the inability to retain and transfer institutional knowledge could result in a steady increase in employee turnover and further loss and of institutional knowledge, translating into higher costs and lower institutional efficiency.

You must remember this: Institutional knowledge = business success

“Preserving your organization’s knowledge — processes, systems, standards, cultural values, and more — is critical to long-term business success”. David Gewirtz, August 19, 2016, Journalist, Computer Scientist, U.S. Policy Advisor.

Appendix:  Building (or Updating) a landscape-wide, stand-based forest inventory

Traditional Inventory Stratification (with 20% Cruise)” compared to “FBRI Satellite-based Inventory

Traditional Inventory Approach

Traditional startup requires forest-wide aerial photos at 1:12,000 or 1:15,840 on 9 x 9-inch paper format.

Traditional startup assumes a human interpreter for timber typing by major species, size and density strata.  Individual stand polygons will be drawn and strata labels defined for each polygon.  Stand polygons will be 5 or more acres in size.  At least 20 percent of the acres in each strata will be cruised to create the initial stand-based forest inventory.  Eighty percent of all acres are extrapolated from cruise averages within strata.

Traditional cruise is assuming 3 acres per plot and $7.00 per acre in cruised stands.

Figures assume annual cruising update on 7% of total forest acres at same 3 acres/plot intensity and $7.00/acre cruising costs.


FBRI Enterprise Services Approach

FBRI satellite-based inventory assuming 1/5th acre fixed-area plots for calibrating species, size & density.

The fixed-area plots provide a local satellite signature for each major species, size and density represented on the forest.

Resulting raster layers of species, size and density are the basis for an FBRI algorithm to create stand polygons using a minimum size of 2-acres.  Tree lists are populated within each polygons based on the satellite raster layers of species, size and density.  All stand polygons are loaded to an FBRI – FPS database and compiled for local stocking, volumes and values.  The FPS Growth Model may invoke any kind of silviculture and grow this forest forward on a stand-by-stand basis for any number of years.

A 100-year sustainable harvest plan is developed and provided as part of the output from building this inventory.

This FBRI design assumes annual conventional cruise on only the upcoming 5-year harvest plan acres to more closely define net defect, species, log size and understory details.

Annual cruising costs assume 3 acres/plot and $7.00/acre expense on cruised stands.

This design only requires annual cruising update on 2% of the ownership total forest acres.


Major Differences in FBRI Enterprise Services from Traditional Inventory (Figure 1)

Total inventory startup costs are less than one-half conventional inventory methods.

The initial forest inventory provides unique tree lists for every stand polygon within nine months.

Traditional startup forest inventory methods provide tree lists for only 20% of acres in first year.

Annual inventory updates traditionally assumed 7% of ownership cruised each year.  FBRI Services inventory only assumes 2% of ownership cruised each year.

Stand-alone cost for FBRI to build a forest-wide site productivity GIS layer (Figure 2).

Figure 1. Comparison of inventory costs – Conventional versus FBRI Enterprise.

The “FBRI Satellite Basis” equals “Plots” plus “Analysis” plus “Imagery” in Figure 1.

Figure 2. Cost components to build a forest-wide site productivity GIS layer.

[1] James D. Arney, SAF E-Forester, June 7, 2019.  The Hidden Trend of Fading Institutional Knowledge of Forestry.

[2] Dr. Andrew M. Peria, Human Resources assistant VP, New Mexico State University, November 18, 2013.

[3] Dr. Andrew M. Peria, July 18, 2018