Southern Research Station: Increasing Our Knowledge Of Woody Biomass Harvesting

U.S. Forest Service research helped the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests move forward in implementing a new forest plan by setting up studies to address stakeholder concerns about the effects of harvesting for biomass feedstocks. The Lower Cowpasture Restoration and Management Project proposed for the Warm Springs Ranger District and the George Washington and […]

U.S. Forest Service research helped the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests move forward in implementing a new forest plan by setting up studies to address stakeholder concerns about the effects of harvesting for biomass feedstocks.

The Lower Cowpasture Restoration and Management Project proposed for the Warm Springs Ranger District and the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests has involved multiple public meetings and field trips over the last 18 months.

During this period, stakeholders representing the West Rock mill in nearby Covington, Virginia, suggested that some of the timber sales planned for the large-scale, multi-resource project include additional biomass removals to help fuel a state-of-the-art biomass boiler installed at the mill in 2013 to supply its energy needs.

As the plan moved forward through the comment period, some members of the public expressed concerns about the possible effects of removing additional biomass from harvest areas. This led to the proposal to set up research studies to evaluate the effects of biomass removal. Specific concerns included possible impacts on soil productivity, water quality, and plant and animal ecology.

Dana Mitchell, project leader of the Forest Service Southern Research Station Forest Operations Research unit, responded by setting up research studies to address concerns about biomass harvesting effects. “This newly available market for biomass provides an opportunity to study biomass harvesting as part of the ‘shelterwood with reserves’ treatment proposed in the Lower Cowpasture Project,” said Mitchell. “There’s a need to understand both the operational costs and environmental impacts of biomass harvesting in this project area and others.”

From the USFS Southern Research Station: http://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/compass/2015/11/19/increasing-our-knowledge-of-small-woody-biomass-harvesting/

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