Celebrating Sustainable Forest Management
ArborGen recently celebrated the planting of its 10 billionth tree seedling. To celebrate, the company planted a ceremonial tree at its new headquarters, which is being constructed in Summerville, S.C.
This is further proof that the use of woody biomass resources to produce energy isn’t about clear-cutting forests. It’s about using the forest residuals from trees that are already being harvested for other products, replacing what’s being used with new trees and utilizing purpose-grown trees.
It’s frustrating to read studies where the first assumption the researchers make is that bioenergy producers are going to increase the amount of wood that is already being used.
That assumption is repeatedly challenged by National Alliance of Forest Owners President and CEO Dave Tenny. In October, he told the U.S. EPA’s Biogenic Carbon Emissions Panel, which is reviewing the carbon impacts of using wood and other biomass for energy, to look to the marketplace for clues as to how biomass energy will affect carbon in the atmosphere. “During the unprecedented expansion in demand for forest products over the past 50 years, total forest stocks in the U.S. have increased by 51 percent and current net forest growth exceeds 450 million tons per year,” Tenny said. “The most likely outcome of emerging energy markets is an increase in overall forest growth. This translates into more net carbon removed from the atmosphere.”
Tenny knows that landowners are more likely to sustainably manage their forestlands if there is a market for their resource.
Furthermore, biomass proponents continually stress the fire prevention and pest infestation benefits of harvesting woody biomass and thinning forests. A good example of this appeared in a blog by Zoë Hoyle of the U.S. Forest Service. Hoyle wrote about a forest landowner in the Richmond, Va., area who wanted his 16 acres of loblolly pine thinned to prevent an infestation by southern pine beetles.
Because this is an especially difficult time for the wood products industry with the struggling economy, the downturn in housing construction, the depressed market for timber and high fuel costs, the landowner wasn’t able to pay any local loggers enough to do the work.
Fortunately the Virginia Department of Forestry has a program that offers incentives to loggers to thin private forests and to make them less susceptible to pest infestations.
In this case, the situation worked out for the best, but what happens in states where programs like this aren’t available? And, what if programs like this have to be scrapped due to budget cuts?
Wouldn’t it be nice if market conditions improved so it would be profitable for loggers to thin these forestlands and prevent them from being decimated by insect infestation?
Not to mention, a robust woody biomass market would be able to put unemployed people in the forestry and pulp and paper industry back to work.
A CBC news story posted on Nov. 8 reported that the crisis in the pulp mill industry in Nova Scotia, Canada, was starting to affect sawmills and private woodlot owners. “Woodchips and other byproducts are being stockpiled because no paper mill is buying,” the article said. “Northern Pulp in Abercrombie is no longer accepting deliveries, NewPage Port Hawkesbury is closed and in the next two weeks Bowater Mersey in Liverpool will be shut down,” the article said.
Companies like ArborGen know the value of trees and are helping to make sure that native forests are saved.
In a press release regarding its milestone, ArborGen put the planting of its 10 billionth tree into perspective:
- Planting 20 million acres of trees, which would be enough to fill every square inch of the land area of South Carolina.
- Sequestering 875 million tons of carbon (estimate based on 10 billion loblolly pine seedlings grown to 25 years of age).
- Or, it would be enough to offset the pollution of all the cars in Los Angeles for 20 years (approximately 26 million cars).
I think this is something bioenergy producers and environmentalists can celebrate and support.