Forest Products Laboratory and Northern Research Station Welcome New Director

Forest Service Chief Victoria Christiansen on Monday named Dr. Cynthia “Cindi” West Director of the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) and Northern Research Station (NRS).

Dr. West replaces Tony Ferguson who retired from the Forest Service this past December after serving as Lab and Station Director for nearly four years. She officially starts her new job on Monday, February 15.

Dr. Cynthia West
Incoming FPL and NRS Station Director

“My career has been focused on creating a sustainable future for our children and grandchildren. The Forest Products Lab and Northern Research Station will play an important role in that future. I am excited to work with FPL and NRS employees, partners, and stakeholders to deliver the knowledge and technology to reach this vision,” explained West when asked about her transition to FPL and NRS.

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Throwback Thursday : Pine Posts Preserved Despite Surrounding Soil

An aerial view of FPL from the 1970s with its signature light posts clearly visible.

Recently, the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) said goodbye to several hard-working members of a team that has posted silent guard over the parking lots since the late 1960s.


A light post awaits removal and replacement in front of FPL.

The distinctively curved, brown, wood-laminated, light posts were unceremoniously removed from FPL’s parking lots amid fears of waning structural integrity. For nearly five decades, these lights have greeted employees and visitors, but have lost the battle of time to the relentless forces of wind, water, and heat — at least above ground.

Though flaking paint and rusting metal fasteners may be what these sentinels are remembered for, below ground, they remained remarkably well preserved.

They will soon be replaced with newer, safer, metal counterparts — and although they no longer stand at FPL, they will forever stand as examples of the incredible durability and longevity of wood products.

Beneath the ground, the light posts remained in remarkable condition.

Be Good to Your Christmas Tree And it will be good to you ...


Each year over 30 million Christmas trees will be sold in the U.S. Mother Nature’s kind. The real, beautiful, ever-green, ever-aromatic centerpiece of our holiday season. They will dress up our houses and maybe most important, will be the landing point for all manner of goodies when Santa pays his annual visit — assuming, of course, we were good this year.

Which is why it is vitally important to take good care of your tree, because a tree that goes unloved and uncared for can be deadly. We don’t want to throw water on the celebration, but facts are facts. Actually, maybe we do want to throw water on the celebration, or at least at the tree.

Simply keeping your tree properly watered significantly decreases the chances of a catastrophic fire in your home. Not convinced? Take a few seconds to watch this eye-opening video courtesy of the National Fire Protection Association. Wow.

While you’re at it, try to spend a few more minutes looking through these excellent basic tips for proper tree care brought to you by Purdue University.

If you don’t have a few minutes the easy-to-follow instructions below could mean the difference between a joyous holiday season and a really, really bad one.

  • Find a tree with pliable needles that stay on the branches.
  • Cut 1/2 inch from the end of the trunk, and use a tree stand that can hold plenty of cool water.
  • Water often. Be sure to keep the water level above the tree base, otherwise the end of the tree will seal, preventing additional water from entering the tree.
  • Keep the tree at least 3 feet away from any heat source and don’t let it block any exits.
  • And it goes without saying that candles should never be used on or near the tree.

And stop by our website for more information about past and present fire safety research at FPL.

Be safe and enjoy your tree!

Nano work at FPL inspires public-private venture USDA Sec. Vilsack announces partnership: "We believe in the potential of wood- based nanotechnology ..."

Supervisory Research Chemist Alan Rudie tours Secretary Vilsack through FPL’s new Nanocellulose Pilot Plant and shows nanocellulose samples.

Supervisory Research Chemist Alan Rudie tours Secretary Vilsack through FPL’s new Nanocellulose Pilot Plant and shows nanocellulose samples.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday announced a public-private partnership to rapidly advance the development of the first U.S. commercial facility producing cellulosic nanomaterial, wood fiber broken down to the nanoscale. The partnership is between the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (Endowment) and the U.S. Forest Service.

“We believe in the potential of wood- based nanotechnology to strengthen rural America by creating sustainable jobs and adding timber value while also creating conservation opportunities in working forests,” said Vilsack. “This public- private partnership will develop high-tech outputs from the forest products sector, and promote the invention of renewable products that have substantial environmental benefits.”

The three-year partnership will promote cellulosic nanomaterial as a commercially viable enterprise by building on work done here at the Forest Products Laboratory. The partnership seeks to overcome technical barriers to large-scale wood-based nanotechnology processing, while filling gaps in the science and technology that are needed for commercialization. Initial funding comes from the Endowment and the Forest Service. The partnership is currently seeking additional public and private sector funding.

USDA, the Endowment, and the Forest Service have previously collaborated on numerous ventures: the potential of biotechnology to address forest health; technical advice given to African American forest landowners; and wood-to-energy projects that support the growth of jobs in rural America.

Together with partners, this new venture will:

  • Emphasize the potential of wood- based nanotechnology for the economy and the environment.
  • Overcome technical barriers to commercialization of wood- based nanotechnology.
  • Demonstrate commitment to creating high paying jobs in rural America through value- added manufacturing and high value products.
  • Showcase the commitment of USDA and the Forest Service to innovation.


FPL Assistant Director Honored with Hall of Fame Induction

Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) Assistant Director Ted Wegner has been selected for induction into the Paper Industry International Hall of Fame for his contributions and leadership impacts in research and technology development.

FPL Assistant Director Ted Wegner

FPL Assistant Director Ted Wegner

Wegner’s 36-year career with FPL has focused on a wide range of efforts, including bioenergy, recycling, forest biorefinery, and nanotechnology. He attributes this honor to the support he’s had along the way, both within the Forest Service and the paper industry as a whole.

“I am extremely honored to be selected as an inductee into the Paper Industry International Hall of Fame and to be among those considered as having made noteworthy contributions,” says Wegner. “This is only possible because of the many dedicated and competent men and women within our broad paper industry community I have had the privilege to work with.  I thank the USDA Forest Service for giving me the freedom to focus my efforts on forward-looking scientific and technology developments, and I thank the industry for embracing new ideas.”

Wegner has served as Assistant Director at FPL for 24 years, during which he worked tirelessly to promote the image of the forest products industry as a critical contributor and major partner in improving the health and well-being of America’s forests.  He provided leadership in tackling important problems and opportunities facing the pulp and paper industry and creatively showed how solving such problems is of critical importance to the Forest Service in sustainably managing healthy and diverse forests.

“Ted Wegner has been a visionary leader in the world of pulp and paper research and beyond,” says FPL Acting Director Michael Rains. “Ted is truly a benchmark for public service, his contributions impacting countless lives and setting a shining example for the Forest Service family. His induction into the Paper Industry International Hall of Fame is a well-deserved testament to his extraordinary dedication.”

The Paper Industry International Hall of Fame is a non-profit organization that recognizes people who have made preeminent contributions to the paper industry worldwide. The induction ceremony will be held Oct. 3, 2013 in Appleton, Wis.