State DNR and U.S. Forest Service partnering on forest biomass supply study
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State DNR and U.S. Forest Service partnering on forest biomass supply study 
 


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
                                                                                                         
July 20, 2010

State DNR and U.S. Forest Service partnering on forest biomass supply study
Sound science will drive forest biomass energy development on state lands

OLYMPIA – The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has earned a $1 million grant from the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to complete a statewide forest biomass supply study, Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark and USFS Pacific Northwest Regional Forester Mary Wagner announced today. The study will help assess forest biomass availability and sustainability considerations throughout Washington State.

The grant – part of a new U.S. Forest Service initiative to help build and strengthen markets for forest products – will provide funding for a supply study as well as test methods for making forest biomass material available for use across broad areas that include diverse land owners.

“Existing studies of biomass availability need refinement and improved detail if we are to achieve the goal of creating new businesses and jobs without causing unwanted environmental consequences,” Goldmark said. “I am very grateful to the Forest Service for their willingness to partner in this effort.”

“DNR-managed lands are a reliable and significant source of forest biomass to help get new businesses started,” said Wagner. “This study will help meet DNR’s needs, and the National Forests will in turn benefit from increased ability to reduce wildfire hazards and improve forest health.”

Sound science needed on forest biomass supply
Washington’s forests have an abundant, renewable supply of woody biomass. Ensuring that biomass removal happens in ecologically sustainable ways is a priority shared among DNR, the U.S. Forest Service, and many others.

Using some of this forest biomass for liquid transportation fuel, heating, and electrical power generation will play an important role in Washington’s emerging green economy and help to address climate change.

Forest biomass markets can also provide income for forest landowners while removing small trees and brush that are currently not valuable materials, and are often left behind adding to wildfire danger. Improving forest health, creating jobs in rural parts of the state, and reducing wildfire risk and greenhouse gas emissions are all benefits of forest biomass utilization.

Where previous biomass supply analyses have mostly examined coarse-scale factors like total forest growth, the study funded by this grant will refine and improve upon existing estimates using finer-scale data. Essential considerations like individual land managers’ objectives, physical and economic factors for biomass availability, and environmental sustainability will also be built into a range of supply figures projected over time. These added refinements and considerations will also help inform decisions by biomass investors, for instance, regarding prospective facility size and location.

DNR will partner with state and federal research institutions and agencies to conduct the study. A transparent public process will be part of its development. A competitive Request for Proposals will be issued this summer for qualified firms and organizations to bid on completing the study.

Restoring forest health in Eastern Washington
Severe wildfires, and tree-killing insects and diseases do not respect property boundaries. A big challenge in restoring forests to healthier conditions is to find ways of coordinating actions among multiple forest land managers.

The grant’s second task will be to test approaches for “all-lands” actions that restore forest health landscape-wide across ownership boundaries and make the resulting biomass available for use by emerging businesses.

Both DNR and the USFS have identified “all-lands” efforts as a central need in their respective strategies to address forest health. Two examples are the Washington State forest health law (Chapter 76.06 RCW), and the policy goals articulated by U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in his speech in Seattle of August 2009.

Media Contact: Aaron Toso, Director of Communications & Outreach, 360-902-1023, aaron.toso@dnr.wa.gov  

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