Forest Guild releases harvesting guidelines

By Lisa Gibson
Posted June 3, 2010, at 2:57 p.m. CST

The Forest Guild has created the first biomass harvesting guidelines that include managing forest carbon in the concept of sustainability. "Biomass Retention and Harvesting Guidelines for the Northeast" takes into account factors such as different types of forests, abandoning the belief that all forest biomass emits the same amount of carbon.

The guidelines acknowledge that carbon accounting systems must differentiate emissions from forest biomass based on the type of forest harvested, harvesting method, management approach and ecological guidelines that are followed, according to the Forest Guild. The new guidelines represent the first regional targets to guard forests against the removal of too much biomass.

"Not all forest biomass is created equal," said report co-author and Forest Guild regional director Bob Perschel. "It can be damaging or supportive of ecological values; it can be beneficial to climate change mitigation or make things worse. The new Forest Guild science-based guidelines identify measureable and verifiable targets for trees, limbs and woody material that must be left in the forest to assure forest health." They offer a consistent approach across state boundaries by covering the major forest types for New England and New York and have applicability in other states as well, according to the Forest Guild.

The guidelines provide definitions of sustainability, biomass and downed woody material; set specific targets for retention of critical forest structures such as tops and limbs; provide guidelines for water quality, riparian zones, harvesting and operations; and outline approaches for determining the carbon impact of biomass harvesting. The new work is supported by two Forest Guild reports: "Ecology of Deadwood in the Northeast" and "Revised Assessment of Biomass Harvesting and Retention Guidelines".

Not only do the guidelines serve the needs of the Northeast, but their release is perfectly timed for consideration in climate and energy legislation such as the American Power Act currently being discussed in Congress, according to Mike DeBonis, Forest Guild executive director. They are intended to assist a variety of audiences including field foresters, loggers, state-based policy makers developing biomass guidelines and standards, biomass facilities, third-party certifiers and members of the public interested in sustainable forest management.

"They certainly seem very well thought out," said Eric Kingsley, vice president of Portland, Maine-based Innovative Natural Resource Solutions, LLC. "It's more than anything else a formalization of what is going on in the woods." Many of the recommendations, such as hiring a forester and sensitivity to sensitive areas are practices most forest owners in the Northeast have been employing for more than 20 years, he said. "It's always good to see those in writing. This offers some specific suggestions…but in many ways, it's close to what most responsible foresters have been doing in this region."