Colo. biomass developer awarded access to national forestland

By Luke Geiver | June 08, 2012

A Colorado program aimed at forest fire reduction and biomass utilization for power production has been finalized.

The U.S. Forest Service has chosen Pagosa Land Co. to remove woody biomass from national forestland in Pagosa County. Through the Pagosa Area Biomass Long-Term Stewardship Contract, a project developed to restore the region’s forest while reducing fire risk through a 10-year contract, J.R. Ford, president of Pagosa Land Co., and his team will have access to the national forest to harvest woody biomass.

The contract work will include the removal of saw timber products other than logs, as well as limbs and tops of trees found in ponderosa pine, mixed conifer or aspen stands, according to the USFS. The contract will also allow Ford and his team to perform road maintenance and other associated activities. Roughly 1,000 to 2,000 acres of forest will be treated each year.

Ford is involved in a number of forest health, restoration, or biomass-related ventures. During a recent presentation before the Colorado House of Representatives, Ford testified about his projects, including Renewable Forest Energy LLC, which will run a gasification system to produce 5 MW from woody biomass taken from the region. “The process for removal of biomass from the forest is at its prime,” he said. “New European equipment options provide point of harvest mobile tree chipping at a fraction of traditional costs.”

Mark Stiles, San Juan National Forest supervisor, is excited about the potential for similar projects that create better forest health on public lands to spread across the west. “We have been working on this for several years and appreciate the support of the community,” Stiles said in a statement on the Pagosa Area Biomass Long-Term Stewardship Contract.

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., also expressed his support for the project. “This is an excellent example of local businesses improving forest health, creating jobs and saving taxpayers money,” he said. “It’s a commonsense program with the potential to be a model for the restoration of forests in Colorado.”

The project regions are within a 50-mile radius of Pagosa Springs and were identified by USFS as areas needing restoration, and by Pagosa County as areas that pose wildfire risk adjacent to private lands. Ford plans to use the biomass harvested on the project land for the Renewable Forest Energy LLC power project.