Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Beetles to biomass: USDA promoting regional harvest

The mountain pine beetle is hard at work clearing centuries of overgrowth throughout the Rocky Mountain Complex, so is the western spruce budworm. But leaving dead or dying conifers on the forest produces methane, an even more dangerous greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide is.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) supports seven regional integrated Coordinated Agricultural Projects (CAPs) that develop regional systems for the sustainable production of advanced biofuels and biobased products. The regional systems focus on non-food dedicated biomass feedstocks such as perennial grasses, sorghum, energy cane, oilseed crops, and woody biomass. Specifically, goals for this aspect of the operation include benchmarking the performance of equipment used to harvest, process, and deliver beetle-killed trees, and then optimize the logistics for site conditions, specific end uses, and facility locations. [USDA blog]
Forest and land managers have learned that fuel treatments where fire is introduced after mechanical harvest helps to restore forests where emerging aspen and other hardwoods add biodiversity necessary to healthy ecosystems while sequestering carbon.

As firefighting costs strain federal budgets removal of fuels in areas where roads already exist just makes sense.

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