SCFC releases guidelines for bioenergy feedstock harvests

By Erin Voegele | May 09, 2013

The South Carolina Forestry Commission has released guidelines for the harvest of woody biomass used to generate energy. According to the SCFS, recommendations it has developed aim to protect water quality, plant and animal diversity, soil nutrition and quality, and productivity near harvesting operations.

The guidelines build upon existing best management practices (BMP) used by timber harvesters in state of South Carolina. The supplemental recommendations are not an alternative to the BMP guidelines, which apply to all forestry operations.

Regarding water quality, SCFC states that the supplemental recommendations address potential water quality impacts that may occur with the addition of biomass harvesting. For example, the guidelines note that understory or other biomass should not be removed from the primary streamside management zones or intermittent streams, other than trees, tops and limbs allowed under existing BMPs.

Guidelines related to harvesting include avoiding the removal of stumps, roots and leaf litter for biomass. In addition, those harvesting biomass are directed to ensure piles of chips or other fine material are not placed in areas where they might enter wetlands or water bodies. The recommendations also call for limiting biomass removal on slopes, where it could lead to erosion.

The guidelines also address a variety of non-water quality issues, including productivity and soil nutrients. The SCFC recommends that biomass harvests are done in conjunction with normal logging whenever possible to limit the frequency of disturbance, and limiting biomass removal in areas with shallow, sandy, or low-fertility soils. The commission also notes that retaining leaves, needles and branches can reduce nutrient loss.

Some additional recommendations made by the SCFC include avoiding biomass harvest in sensitive ecological areas. Where appropriate, the commission also notes that biomass harvesting can be used as a means of vegetation control to enhance habitat for rare, threatened and endangered species. In addition, downed woody debris in various sizes should be left on the ground to accommodate different habitat needs.

The full list of supplemental recommendations can be downloaded from the SCFC website