Biomass Markets: Who Will Buy Northeast’s Low-Grade Wood?

Van Webb, a logger and farmer from Sunapee, harvested from a mostly white pine lot on a 57-acre property in Unity, N.H., in 2016. Many of the pine trees he harvested were low-grade — meaning the logs could not be sawed into boards at a sawmill. Instead, he sent the wood to the biomass plant […]

Van Webb, a logger and farmer from Sunapee, harvested from a mostly white pine lot on a 57-acre property in Unity, N.H., in 2016. Many of the pine trees he harvested were low-grade — meaning the logs could not be sawed into boards at a sawmill. Instead, he sent the wood to the biomass plant in Springfield, N.H., where it was burned to create electricity. Without a local market for this low-grade material, the harvest would probably not have been possible.

“I don’t know what we’d do if the Springfield wood energy plant was gone. In this part of the state, there is no other low-grade market for pine,” Webb said. “Without that market, this landowner would not have been able to have this property harvested — or at least not in a way that removes the low-quality trees along with some of the good trees — and leave a shelterwood forest of good quality that can now regenerate naturally with new seedlings.”

On an average timber harvest in New Hampshire and the rest of the Northeast, easily 70 to 80 percent of the timber standing is comprised of low-quality trees. Harvesting the low-grade timber improves the remaining forest — the forest management goal for just about every forest owner. The low-grade wood comes from the top sections of trees that have a sawlog in the bottom. It also comes from other trees that are low-quality from top to bottom.

This low-grade timber is used for pulpwood (paper), energy wood or firewood. Because of the low price paid to the landowner for low-grade timber compared to high-grade timber, landowners harvest low-grade timber for reasons other than income, mainly to improve the quality of the remaining trees and to remove diseased and dying trees.

Another reason to harvest the low-grade timber is climate change. If left in the forest, the low-grade material will eventually die, fall to the ground and rot, giving off carbon dioxide and methane, two greenhouse gases that add to the problem of climate change.

From Treesource: https://treesource.org/news/goods-and-services/northeast-low-grade-wood/

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