Sustainable Forests, Sustainable Biomass

By Rob Davis – President, Forest Energy Corp. – July 31, 2014

Renewable resources provide us the ability to create a sustainable world. Wind, sun and the heat of the earth are provided to us anew each day: the wind blows, the sun shines and the earth’s core is warm without any effort on our part. Biomass, too, is truly renewable, if it is managed well. Today a great majority of our biomass comes from trees, from our forests—private forests, public forests, large tracts and what’s left of the smaller family forests.

The wise use of this renewable resource can provide us not just products and energy, but a great variety of benefits for the long term. Forests are of key importance for our water, clean air, recreation, wildlife, watersheds and fishing, camping and hiking—all benefiting the public either directly or indirectly. Well-managed forests are one of the largest, most consistent renewable resources in the world. But, this doesn’t happen naturally.

And, this constant management of our forest lands in a sustainable manner doesn’t just happen. We have to perform the sustainable management. Without it, we don’t have clean water or wildlife or lumber or biomass. Without sustainable multipurpose management and policy that requires that, we won’t have many of the benefits that are possible. We will lose much of the value that this renewable resource can provide in dollars and in all other benefits.

So, we advocate for the forests. We advocate for sustainable forest management and maximizing the benefits available from the forests. Proper management can also provide a major carbon sink, and through energy production, displace fossil fuel, as well as create long-term carbon emission reduction.
Nonmanagement can lead to uncontrollable wildfires, insects and disease and the waste of renewable resources, more carbon in the atmosphere and loss of jobs—from lumber production to tourism. Either end of the spectrum—from management just for products to no cut at all—will ultimately lead to deterioration of our forests. A large number of these forests, especially in the West, are public lands and the responsibility of the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the Park Service. These forests are the property of the public—that is you and me and every other citizen of the country. We have the right and the obligation to assure that they are used for the benefit of the public and are managed in a prudent manner to maximize the benefits the forest has to offer.

Private lands provide the same benefits. Water and air and recreation are all impacted by these forests. But on private lands, the ability to create valuable products from a sustainably managed forest allows owners to let the land remain as a forest instead of having to subdivide and, in some instances, sell off parcels in order to pay their taxes.

Management doesn’t mean exclusively harvesting or exclusively not harvesting. Managing effectively means creating and implementing a plan that best provides all potential forest benefits while assuring the sustainability and resiliency of the forest.

Forests are our resources, but a fine balance must be maintained. Overuse and underuse are equally problematic.

So we advocate for the forests. We advocate for sustainable forests and policy providing sound management practices that will continue to improve and sustain these forests and all of the benefits that can be derived from them. Many groups, including the Pellet Fuels Institute and others in Washington, along with state-based organizations, are already doing just that. I invite you to join our effort.

Although the sun will be here tomorrow, it is not assured that the forests will be. And it is not assured that biomass from the forest will be available for energy or products whose revenues help us manage the forests. We must all do our part to ensure that forests are managed in a sustainable manner and that policies are in place that do not cause this renewable resource to diminish or to be wasted.