Forest Products Laboratory Featured in America’s Forests with Chuck Leavell

Chuck Leavell – Courtesy of America’s Forests with Chuck Leavell

On October 21st, 2020, Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) director, Tony Ferguson, represented FPL in a panel discussion for the premier of the most recent episodes of America’s Forests with Chuck Leavell (AFCL). FPL was featured in a segment showcasing its long history of forest products research, testing, and innovation.

Tony Ferguson
FPL Director

Director Ferguson articulated that FPL has had a long history of being a champion in innovative land and forest use. The FPL segment of AFCL captured this message and the spirit of its history in a tantalizing, bite-sized featurette.  

The two 25-minute episodes, Wisconsin North and South, covered the scope and interconnected nature of Wisconsin’s forests and conservation work while giving a nod to FPL’s connection to it all.

And the timing of the Wisconsin focus arose from an earlier FPL connection with the AFCL team.

Brian Brashaw
Forest Products Marketing Unit
Program Manager

FPL Forest Products Marketing Unit Program Manager, Brian Brashaw, met the America’s Forests production team during their first premiere when cross-laminated timber (CLT) was a major story line in their Oregon episode. CLT is a forest product that FPL is hugely invested in researching.

After participating in the Oregon episode, Brashaw absolutely knew FPL and the state of Wisconsin needed to be a part of AFCL—and making it happen was deeply personal. “I felt that Wisconsin should have an episode and feature FPL. I grew up in northern Wisconsin and got the connection between forest products and forests from an early age. My Dad worked for Connor Forest Products in Laona, and family friends were in the Forest Service. This influenced my career path in forestry and forest products research and market development,” said Brashaw.

Brashaw set his mind to it and got to work. He was able to secure seed funds for the producer and made lots of introductions to key Wisconsin partners that allowed the producer to secure the remaining funding.

FPL was featured in the Wisconsin South episode. AFCL created an FPL kaleidoscope of past and present accomplishments, truly exhibiting the extraordinary contributions the lab has made to wood products innovation and forest conservation since 1910. Viewers were introduced to research botanist Alex Wiedenhoeft’s work combating global illegal logging to save endangered species through his machine-learning, computer-vision based system called the Xylotron.

Alex C. Wiedenhoeft, Ph.D.
Center for Wood Anatomy Research
Research Botanist and Team Leader

From the global to the infinitesimal, AFCL revealed FPL’s research as scientifically diverse and groundbreaking. Nanocellulose, a material that is being pioneered by FPL’s research materials engineers, is wood broken down to microscopic fibers and has the potential to change how products from plastic to concrete are made for a sustainably greener future.

Dwight McDonald
Engineering Mechanics and Remote Sensing Laboratory
Forest Products Technologist

Leavell also got the opportunity to visit one of the most exciting and entertaining rooms in the Forest Products Laboratory, the Engineering Mechanics and Remote Sensing Laboratory. FPL’s forest products technologist, Dwight McDonald, introduced Chuck to the thrills of testing timber strength and durability in the lab. Testing products to their absolute structural limit often results in bursts of splinters and wowed enthusiasm.   

Chuck Leavell – Courtesy of America’s Forests with Chuck Leavell

With over 17 million acres of public and private forests in Wisconsin, there is more to discover in the new AFCL episodes besides FPL.

Forests transform lives.

AFCL took the time to introduce viewers to a beloved member of Wisconsin history. There is no better an example of how Wisconsin forests can affect lives than Aldo Leopold who once wrote, “Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land. By land is meant all the things on, over, or in the earth.” Leopold, a former FPL Associate Director, was a private landowner and forester in the Baraboo Hills. He is also one of the most influential and well-known conservationists in the world. His work and vision set the stage for Wisconsin’s mindset and forestry network today. 

Wisconsin is a state and a people deeply invested in and shaped by its forests. From the successful Menominee practice of sustainable forest management (the seventh generation philosophy with a healthy focus on the future as a guide to forest management) to the Urban Forest Movement (which is working to save 4 billion board feet a year of usable timber from landfills) to the Forest Service Job Corps program (focused on training underserved youth for meaningful careers), AFCL explores how Wisconsin’s forests and forestry communities are like any ecosystem, resiliently and irrevocably interconnected.

Hilary Markin
Public Affairs Officer
Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest

Hilary Markin, public affairs officer for the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, emphasizes the connection between forests and people with an eye on transforming young lives for the better, “Job Corps mission is helping young people improve the quality of their lives through career technical and academic training, in particular hands-on learning, by helping them connect with natural resources and Caring for the Land and Serving the People. Hopefully the connection that is created through these experiences leads them to a career in natural resources.”

Children need forests in their lives. With that in mind, AFCL takes viewers into the Wisconsin Log a Load for Kids program. It’s a charity focused on bringing forestry education (from logging to milling to conservation) to school aged children while raising millions of dollars for Wisconsin children’s hospitals.

Through each vignette, AFCL exemplifies this powerful and reciprocal connection, trees need people and people need trees.

Brashaw truly sums up the heart of the AFCL Wisconsin episodes, “Forests make our lives better. Forest products are essential in people’s lives. Innovations are essential, and we need to keep moving forward with both research and market development to support the connection to healthy, resilient forests. Forestry should be celebrated, and it is in Wisconsin. It was very special having Chuck Leavell share Wisconsin’s forestry story.”

Watch the Wisconsin episodes at North: & South (includes FPL):

The AFCL panel discussion can be watched at

To view other episodes of this series, please visit America’s Forests with Chuck Leavell at

Want to learn more about the amazing advancements our scientists are making? Visit the Forest Products Laboratory at