US Forest Service Woody Biomass Utilization

Woody Biomass Utilization

Benefits of Woody Biomass Utilization

Woody biomass utilization provides both direct and indirect benefits. Direct and indirect benefits are intricately woven throughout the guiding principles, creating opportunities for social, ecological, and economic improvements. Because these benefits are key factors in the decision making process to increase woody biomass utilization, they need to be clearly quantified and communicated to agency employees, agency partners, businesses, interest groups, and the public. Today’s financial markets for goods and services do not always reflect these benefits. Financial markets currently exist for air pollution offsets, renewable energy credits, and carbon sequestration credits. Carbon life cycle analysis and full consideration of no action or alternative fate of woody biomass will help improve understanding of costs and benefits  Successful implementation of this strategy will result in the following benefits of woody biomass utilization.

Woody biomass provides important ecological functions such as soil organic matter, nutrient cycling, hydrological functioning, and coarse debris for wildlife habitat. These ecological factors must be considered when deciding what biomass is surplus and can be removed. This strategy is not intended to address all of the important considerations in deciding what to leave behind and what to remove to accomplish land management planning objectives.

This Woody Biomass Utilization Strategy helps the Forest Service implement the Climate Change Framework and Ecological Restoration goals.

Social Benefits

  • Reduce the threat and impact of wildfires on communities;
  • Improve recreation/scenic opportunities by thinning overcrowded forests;
  • Improve human health through better air quality and reduced wildfire and prescribed fires emissions;
  • Provide rural community vitality though the provision of sustainable environments and economies over the long term;
  • Provide increase societal awareness by using forest restoration activities as a learning tool to promote wise forest management; and,
  • Lower treatment costs by finding new markets for removed residue.

Ecological and Environmental Benefits

  • Decrease insect and disease outbreaks toward endemic levels;
  • Decrease unnaturally severe wildland fires within forests and grasslands;
  • Facilitate the removal of invasive woody species;
  • Increase ability to protect and restore critical wildlife habitat;
  • Provide clean air through decreased wildfires size and severity;
  • Increase the longevity of landfills which reduces the amount of land that needs to be converted into new landfills;
  • Improved vigor of remaining trees;
  • Reduce fire related erosion and maintain healthy watersheds;
  • Improved forest health;
  • Reduced dependence on fossil fuels;
  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions; and,
  • Reduce atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases through substitution of fossil fuels and provision of “carbon neutral” energy when woody biomass is regrown.

Economic Benefits

  • Provide new jobs and income through new woody biomass industries;
  • Decrease energy costs by substituting woody biomass for other fuels;
  • Provide private land owners opportunities for carbon market income by growing short rotation woody crops for energy;
  • Lessen the potential of wildfire near communities;
  • Reduced cost of treatment for land managers;
  • Provide employment and economic stability to rural, forest-dependent communities;
  • Attract investments in new industry and markets and stabilize existing markets including tourism;
  • Complement traditional utilization of higher values wood products;
  • Avoid fire suppression and resource damage costs of wildfires; and,
  • Increase capacity to pursue new management incentives/opportunities such as carbon trading and/or emission reduction credits in energy production.

US Forest Service
Woody Biomass Utilization Team
Sidney R.Yates Federal Building
3rd Floor Southwest
201 14th Street, S.W. at Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20250

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Last modified: Monday, 14-Aug-2017 15:15:03 CDT