U.S. Forest Service highlights accomplishments of CFLRP

By Erin Voegele | April 09, 2015

The U.S. Forest Service has published a five-year report on its Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program, noting the program has made 2.1 million green tons of biomass available for energy production. The fiscal year 2015 goal is set at 2.4 million tons, with a lifetime goal of 12.2 million tons.

The CFLRP was authorized for 10 years through the 2009 Omnibus Public Land Management Act. The program was created to emphasize partnership between government and local forest workers, sawmill owners, conservationists, businesses, sportsmen, outdoor recreationists and others to improve forest health and promote the well-being of local communities. According to the Forest Service, 1.45 million acres of America’s forests and watersheds are healthier as a result of the program.

"Collaboration is working. CFLRP demonstrates that we can bring together forest industry, environmentalists, local communities and others to produce healthier forests while producing a sustainable timber supply for local mills," said Agriculture Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie. "This long-term investment gives our partners the confidence to fully engage in restoration activities. The collaboratives expand Forest Service resources – generating over $76.1 million in matching funding from partners in the past five years, and with continued support we expect this number to grow over the next five years."

"The Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program is a groundbreaking approach to improving our nation's forests, making communities safer and bolstering local economies," said Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. "The Forest Service is anchoring projects across the country with more than 200 local partners to restore our forests and support our local economies."

According to the Forest Service, since 2010 the CFLRP has improved forest conditions across 23 high-priority project sites. As a result of the program, more than 1.45 million acres of forest are more resilient to the effects of catastrophic forest fires and more than 1.33 million acres of wildlife habitat have been improved. In addition, more than 84,570 acres of forest lands have been treated through timber sales while more than 73,600 acres have been treated for noxious weeds and invasive plants. The Forest Service also indicated the program has supported 4,360 jobs in local communities each year.

Regarding energy, the five-year report notes the 23 projects have generated more than 2.1 million green tons of woody biomass from hazardous fuel reduction and restoration treatments on federal land made available for bioenergy projection. However, due to external factors, such as low natural gas prices and the unanticipated impacts of the 2008 economic downturn on the timber market, many of the cogeneration and milling facilities that were planned in project areas are on hold or have shut down. According to the report, the projects continue to find innovative ways of addressing this issue. For example, the Burney Hat project in California plans to make use of the Biomass Crop Assistance Program. Even so, the Forest Service said without a significant change in demand for biomass and associated development of processing infrastructure, it will be challenging for the projects to meet the proposed lifetime goals for biomass utilization.