Biomass from Forests

The Forest Stewards Guild practices and promotes ecologically, economically, and socially responsible forestry. Biomass removals have become a key part of forestry across the country. Whether woody biomass removals are implemented for forest health, fire threat reduction, pulp production, energy needs, or timber stand improvement, the process must leave the forest healthier and help sustain forest dependent communities. The Guild is actively engaged in (1) research into successful strategies for biomass removal, (2) the development of guidelines for biomass removal that protect all forest values, and (3) projects that provide energy from low grade wood. 

Policy: Guidelines for biomass harvesting

The Forest Stewards Guild has written Forest Biomass Retention and Harvesting Guidelines for the Northeast, the Southeast, and new guidelines for the Pacific Northwest to address questions of forest sustainability in a time of increasing interest in harvesting forest biomass for energy security, climate mitigation, and economic reasons. The guidelines are based on the best available science and are a product of a six month effort by a working group of twenty one Forest Stewards Guild members. The scientific background for the guidelines is summarized in an accompanying documents titled Ecology of Dead Wood in the Northeast and Southeast. Working groups in each region also drew from existing biomass harvesting guidelines developed by states and internationally. These biomass harvesting guidelines are reviewed in the Guild's Revised Assessment of Biomass Harvesting and Retention Guidelines.

The Forest Biomass Retention and Harvesting Guidelines for the Northeastthe Southeast, and new guidelines for the Pacific Northwest are intended to augment and enhance existing Best Management Practices (BMPs) or new state-based biomass guidelines that may, in some cases, leave managers and policy makers looking for more detailed recommendations. They include guidelines and specific targets for retention of downed woody material, snags, live decaying trees, and offers data to tailor retention to unique forest types in each region. They also provide suggestions for forest harvest operations, silvicultural practice and carbon management. Following on the heels of the Forest Stewards Guild Membership and Policy Committee's unanimous approval, the professional membership has voted overwhelmingly to approve the Forest Stewards Guild Biomass Policy Statement. This statement will represent the Forest Stewards Guild policy on a variety of key issues including the promise and limitations of biomass for energy and its context in an overall energy strategy, protections for forest health, highest and best utilization of biomass, the sustainable use of biomass to mitigate climate change, biomass removals on public lands, and more. Adherence to these policies will ensure that biomass can play an important role in our energy future while sustaining ecosystem health over the long term. To read the policy statement click here. 

Research: Biomass removal case studies identifying strategies for success

The Forest Stewards Guild’s research program received a grant in September 2007 from the Joint Fire Sciences Program to undertake a year long investigation of biomass removal projects. Our goal was to uncover strategies and techniques used by managers across the country to successfully implement ecologically sound biomass projects. The investigation will be based on case studies of actual, on-the-ground projects. The Forest Stewards Guild involved partners from communities, non-profit organizations, conservation groups, private industry, and federal agencies to collect biomass removal case studies that represent the full range of projects. Case studies cover a broad range of project objectives, treatment techniques, and prescriptions. The woody biomass removals case study project report is available here.

Implementation: Community wood energy

The Forest Stewards Guild is working with communities in the northeastern and southwestern United States to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change and rising energy costs with a market-based approach that provides a local, renewable, and carbon neutral energy supply. In Vermont, the Guild is using a pilot project for a Bristol school to develop a prototype community wood energy model that can be successfully adapted across the region. The Forest Stewards Guild and its partners are identifying sources for a local, sustainably grown wood supply from forestlands being managed in ways that conserve water quality, maintain site productivity, support biodiversity, increase carbon storage capacity, and improve forest health. In New Mexico, the Forest Stewards Guild is leading a forest restoration project that will also generate fuelwood for local use. 

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