Minnesota forests provide opportunity for biomass thermal

By Chris Hanson | May 01, 2013

Forrest Boe, director of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry, said the state presents challenges and opportunities for thermal biomass utilization at the second annual Heating the Midwest Conference and Expo on April 25.

Boe said one of the greatest challenges currently facing forest managers not only in Minnesota, but nationally, is the restoration and maintenance of the forest ecosystems. He explained that severe weather swings caused by climate change are occurring more frequently and cause problems with drought, blow downs, insect infestations and invasive species.

Mill closures have also impacted the ability to utilize commercial harvesting as a management tool, he added. Low harvest levels and declining natural resource management budgets add to the challenge, Boe continued.

“But with those great challenges come great opportunities,” Boe said. With the low harvest levels, came larger supplies of biomass material. According to Boe, Minnesota did a generic environmental impact statement (GEIS) in 1994 and found the upper level of sustainable harvest was 5.5 million cords. He added current harvest levels are roughly 2.6 million cords across all types of land ownership.

In addition to abundant resources, Boe said built in safeguard gives Minnesota an advantage for implementing responsible bioenergy practices. These safeguards include dual third-party certification, the first national biomass harvesting guidelines, and a master logger program that ensures practices are upheld on private lands. In a later interview, Boe said having the forests certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and Sustainable Forestry Initiative demonstrates long-term sustainability of forest resources. “Having a third party come in and certify you are doing all the right things certainly helps with your credibility,” Boe said.

Minnesota communities and local harvesters also serve as a growing opportunity for the biomass industry. According to Boe, foresters from the Department of Natural Resources are already working with Minnesota communities located off the natural gas grid, such as Grand Marais, Ely and Bemidji, to explore thermal biomass options.

Boe represented during the opening session of the Heating the Midwest with Renewable Biomass Conference and Expo. The wood materials and manufacturing program at the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Natural Resources Research Institute organized the meeting. 



4 Responses

  1. Jim Ace



    Forests certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) are not environmentally responsible. The SFI program is an industry-sponsored, financed, and governed operation that is not independent. The SFI standard is weak, so weak that it results in all sorts of environmental harms. Using SFI to put a “green” stamp on forest destruction is shameful.

  2. Craig



    @ Jim Ace: As the article states, MNDNR Forestry lands are certified by BOTH FSC and SFI. So even if your assertion were true (it is not), it would be moot since FSC would trump SFI. I am a forester in Minnesota, though I do not work for MNDNR, and I can tell you the DNR does a very good job of managing their lands under increasing pressure from multiple sources, declining budgets, and poor timber markets.

  3. Bob



    Craig- I would would wager that Jim Ace is an unethical ForestEthics troll that is on a mission to snipe at any article that mentions SFI in a positive light. The two programs have been coming closer together on requirements and outcomes with minor differences. So now it's about money and smearing your competitor and harassing end users into using FSC or we smear you also.

  4. Monique Hanis



    Correcting Jim's misinformation: The Sustainable Forestry Initiative is governed by an independent three-chamber board of directors representing environmental, social and economic sectors equally. SFI addresses local needs through a unique grassroots network of 35 local and regional SFI Implementation Committees (SICs). The SFI External Review Panel, which is an independent group of 15 distinguished volunteers, monitors the SFI Standard review process to ensure it is open and fair. The SFI Standard, launched in 1994 and revised every five years, is science-based and tough including 115 performance indicators developed by professional foresters, conservation and social groups, academics and scientists. Our standard is based on principles that promote sustainable forest management, including measures to protect water quality, biodiversity, wildlife habitat, species at risk, and Forests with Exceptional Conservation Value. Certification to the SFI Standard requires approval by an independent third-party auditor. Get the facts about SFI:


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