Report assesses wood harvesting guidelines

By Ron Kotrba
Web exclusive posted Jan. 14, 2009, at 10:18 a.m. CST

In its latest report, "An Assessment of Biomass Harvesting Guidelines" released Jan. 8, the Forest Guild reviewed the growing number of state biomass harvesting guidelines that advise how much woody biomass to remove and how much should be left to promote the healthy longevity of watersheds, wildlife habitat and long-term forest productivity.

The Forest Guild stated that, while new forest practice guidelines are beginning to incorporate information on woody biomass removal, those developed years ago never spoke to the removal of logging slash, small-diameter trees, tops and limbs because there was no interest and, furthermore, no anticipation of any future interest in removing these materials from forests.

The report also noted the importance that dead wood plays in the health of a forest, and when waste wood is removed from the forest, dead wood content is significantly reduced. "Dead wood plays an important role in the ecosystem by providing wildlife habitat, cycling nutrients, aiding plant regeneration, decreasing erosion, and storing carbon," the Forest Guild stated.

The organization stated the reduction of dead wood and its impact on forests should be a focal point in future guidelines. "Guidelines should make clear and specific recommendations to retain standing dead trees [or snags], existing course woody material, harvest-generated coarse woody material, fine woody material, and the forest floor and litter layer," the guild recommended.

Other recommendations in the report include considering the full range of potential impacts from biomass removal when developing guidelines; incorporating public input and collaboration into the guideline development process; clearly and appropriately defining terms such as "woody biomass."

"New interest in woody biomass is a double-edged sword," said Zander Evans, Forest Guild research director and author of the report. "If harvested sustainably, biomass can meet some of our energy needs and leave our forests healthier than they are now. However, without appropriate guidance, biomass harvests can seriously degrade our forests."

The report is available online at: