Eastern Oregon's federally-managed forests are at risk of drought, disease and wildfires, but Governor-elect John Kitzhaber thinks biomass could be the solution.
Kitzhaber's team wants to clean up the forests and sell the wood to biomass companies for renewable energy, creating jobs in the process.
Many stakeholders agree that something should be done to restore the health of Eastern Oregon forests, but combining that effort with the biomass industry could be tricky, according to forester Scott Ferguson of Trout Mountain Forestry. While he agrees that forests need fuel breaks, or thinned areas, every site is different and needs to be analyzed for best management practices, he said. Constructing biomass plants dependent on waste from forest thinning could also lead to excessive thinning, Ferguson said.
“There needs to be balance between the negative effects of disturbing an area during thinning and the positive effects of more natural fire cycles,” Ferguson said. “The worry with biomass is you get plants dependent on these wood fuels and we’ll start overdoing it. It has to be scaled right. You can’t have big plants that require a lot of biomass to keep them going.”
Read more at the Daily Journal of Commerce.