Biomass for Landowners and Foresters
Economic Returns and Better Silviculture
An increase in bioenergy production will result in: 1) a higher market demand and higher value for small diameter timber; and 2) new markets for logging residues, "pre-commercial" thinning materials, and cull trees. These market improvements should make forest management more profitable, regardless of your management objectives for the forest land. As biomass markets and values increase, landowners should consider altering traditional reforestation methods. Higher tree planting densities followed by earlier thinning can achieve higher financial returns and the wildlife habitat benefits of exposing the forest floor to sunlight at an earlier time. More information on these options is available here.
More Silvicultural Options for a Better Forest
"Pre-commercial" thinning may become "commercial", or at least have a reduced cost. Site preparation for tree planting should be less costly, if cull trees are removed during harvests because they now have value. Wildlife habitat management practices that decrease tree density in the forest will be more feasible with potential economic returns. Forest health will be improved by new bioenergy facilities that will use beetle-damaged timber, understory hazard fuels, and biomass from invasive species.
Existing and Future Bioenergy Markets
Bioenergy markets include facilities within the traditional forest industry that have bioenergy systems and stand-alone bioenergy systems. While the forest industry bioenergy systems use mostly residues produced internally, some of these facilities purchase additional forest biomass from biomass suppliers. A map of operational and planned bioenergy facilities in Georgia is available for download, and a Forest Bioenergy Users List is being developed.
Forest Biomass Suppliers
Sources of forest biomass include traditional timber supply companies, timber harvesting and site preparation contractors, wood waste dealers, and forest product manufacturing companies. The Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC) has compiled a Forest Biomass Suppliers directory of companies and individuals who currently supply forest biomass, or who have stated that they will supply forest biomass to growing bioenergy markets.
Consider Biomass in Timber Sales
Landowners and foresters should consider biomass when planning timber sales. If harvesting smaller diameter trees, understory, tree tops, and branches is appropriate in accomplishing the objectives of the timber harvest; then biomass should be listed in any timber sale advertisement or prospectus. The GFC also recommends that you include biomass provisions within the timber sale contract. Here is a sample contract for Forest Products Sale Agreement for Lump Sum and for Forest Products Sale Agreement by the Unit.
Biomass Harvesting Practices
Forestry Best Management Practices for water quality should be followed during biomass harvests. In addition, landowners should be aware that any intensive forest biomass harvest may affect other management objectives including: maintaining soil productivity, wildlife habitat, and biodiversity. The GFC manages a forest water quality program and performs compliance surveys on Best Management Practices implementation.
Additional documentation may be required for access to certain bioenergy production markets. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has developed implementation rules for the production of biofuels directed by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA). These rules establish a definition of biomass that restricts forest biomass materials used for liquid transportation biofuels to logging residues, "pre-commercial" thinning materials, or any biomass originating from forest plantations established prior to December 2007. This requires biofuels producers, such as Range Fuels, to maintain records on biomass sourcing. This includes documents showing proof of plantation establishment by landowners. See Biofuels Markets Require Land Management Records (will post by September 2010) for more information.