Congress fuels Forest Service waste wood removal

By Kris Bevill
Web exclusive posted Oct. 15, 2008 at 4:16 p.m. CST

A bill signed into law by U.S. President George W. Bush on Sept. 30 could offer potential benefits to biomass companies working with waste wood.

Chapter six of The Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act of 2009 includes an allowance of $175 million for the U.S. Forest Service to use in removing wood determined to be "hazardous fuel" in areas of the country that are prone to wildfires.

The issue of waste wood removal from federal lands, and specifically from national forests, has been an issue of contention among members of Congress since the passage of the 2008 Farm Bill which included language disallowing the removal of such wood. In August, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., held a senate energy subcommittee hearing to discuss the matter, focusing on the removal of woody biomass in the Black Hills National Forest of South Dakota. Forestry experts who testified at the hearing contradicted the language of the farm bill, stating that not removing waste wood posed more risk to the health of a forest than if such debris was removed.

Thune had introduced a bill amending language in the farm bill to include waste wood in national forests as "woody biomass." It now appears that the issue has at least been partially rectified by the allowance of money to fuel the Forest Service's removal of waste wood from federal properties.