Wyoming task force report includes bioenergy recommendations

By Erin Voegele | January 26, 2015

In Wyoming, the Governor’s Task Force on Forests has issued a report featuring its recommendations for proactively managing the state’s forests. Several of the recommendations relate to bioenergy development.

The report presents 12 major recommendations along with 53 sub-recommendations for Gov. Matthew Mead’s consideration. The recommendations fall under three primary themes, including fire and other disturbance, resource management, and economic opportunities and innovation.

“The Task Force on Forests has worked hard and its proposals are realistic and measurable,” Mead said. “I asked for a plan that fit Wyoming - the Task Force got it right."

To attract and develop a biomass industry in Wyoming, the task force recommends the governor work directly with the state legislature to diversify state energy sources to include woody biomass. The task force also suggests the governor ask the University of Wyoming to develop a bioenergy research program. Additional recommendations call for the governor to convene a bioenergy summit to entice entrepreneurs to engage in the discussion, provide construction loans, guarantees, tax credits or other mechanisms to support economic development in the bioenergy sector, and promote small application biofuel energy production for heating and cogeneration production.

Additional recommendations encourage the governor to use the state’s business ready community program to assist in the establishment of wood product industries and work with the Western Governor’s Association to seek federal legislation that would allow woody biomass from federal lands to be eligible for renewable identification numbers (RINs).

In addition, the task force suggests that the governor create a professional or contracted position, with expertise in forest products and biomass utilization who can work with entrepreneurs and government agencies to expedite forest products and biomass development.

“Developing biomass energy facilities in Wyoming would create opportunities to use timber byproducts that are not currently utilized (limbs, tops, small diameter, cull, etc.),” said the task force in the report. “A biomass industry could complement existing forest products companies by providing alternative outlets and markets for such by-products, which would increase employment and economic benefits.” The task force goes on to explain that an effective approach to developing a biomass utilization industry in Wyoming would be to create a market by legislating specific biomass targets based on annual consumption.

The report also features recommendations related to the formation of local working groups; wildfire prevention; issues with invasive plants, wildlife and insects; collaboration with forest managers; the importance of grazing to forest management; vegetation management; resource management; tourism and outdoor recreation; and forestry, natural resource and environmental education programs.

A full copy of the report can be downloaded from the University of Wyoming website.