Creating forest landscapes that are resilient to the damaging effects of wildfires is a daunting task. The CWS framework brings together state, local, federal stakeholders in an all lands-all hands approach to ensure coordinated planning and effective implementation. In Oregon, the CWS framework also brings the power of biomass markets to help foster landscape resiliency.
Biomass utilization can help advance fuels reduction and forest restoration by finding valuable end uses for the by-products of these treatments. Whether it is brush and small trees from the wildland urban interface or shaded fuel breaks on backcountry ridges, treatment costs are always high. When we establish local markets for the material from active forest management, we can stretch scarce state and federal dollars and help protect more of the landscape from wildfire.
Biomass thermal projects, such as using wood chips to heat a school or local hospital, create valuable markets for forest residuals, provide significant energy savings, and decrease the use of expensive fossil fuels.
The Blue Mountain CWS Demonstration Project is fostering demand for biomass by investing in the feasibility, design, and engineering of potentially viable biomass users and manufacturers. The Oregon Department of Forestry has awarded $68,000 in grant funds to four entities to assess the feasibility of switching from a fossil fuel heating system to one that uses locally sourced woody biomass. One local business, Integrated Biomass Resources, used ODF’s investment to secure a $3.4 mil loan for new biomass processing equipment. With the new equipment they increasing their workforce from 15 to 30 and escalating their feedstock needs to 70,000 green tons per year.
ODF biomass investments yield strong returns for Oregon communities and forests.
Small investments by the Oregon Department of Forestry bring significant returns for rural communities and Oregon’s forests. The northeast Oregon Cohesive Wildfire Strategy aims to help communities live with wildfire by reducing fuel and supporting innovative businesses. Oregon spent over $150 million fighting wildfires over the last three years. Strategies like this one that incorporates actively managing all forests to some degree could help reduce the number of costly fires.
Heritage Sustainable Resources located their firewood operation in North Powder and confirmed the strategy works. Heritage owners wanted access to biomass from the East Face Forest Landscape Restoration Project, which uses a collaborative “all lands” approach to managing forests to lower wildfire risk across private, state and federal lands. Heritage uses 12,000 green tons of biomass per year for making its products and will also lower the cost of reducing fuel – brush and other quick-starting forest material) on over 1,000 acres per year.
Some returns on the Cohesive Wildfire Strategy investment include:
- 20 new jobs created
- $6.1 million in new construction capital leveraged
- Demand created for 62,000 tons of biomass
- Grants totaling $167,000 delivered to help develop long-term biomass businesses