WASHINGTON - Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., introduced bipartisan legislation Wednesday they said would allow the use of biomass from certain federal lands needing ecological restoration in the making of renewable fuels to promote healthier forests, more carbon sequestration, cleaner transportation fuels and strong protections for old-growth forests.
Current law does not allow the use of federal biomass in the making of renewable fuels as defined by the Renewable Fuel Standard. Wyden and Merkley’s bill eliminates that exclusion and:
- makes it financially feasible for private landowners to remove low-value brush that impact wildlife habitats and pose fire risks;
- ensures that all mill residuals—like sawdust and shavings—can be used for biofuels;
- helps pay for projects to reduce dead and dying trees that fuel catastrophic wildfires and to thin out unhealthy second-growth forests;
- requires biomass materials harvested from federal lands to be done so in accordance with all federal laws, regulations, and land-use plans and designations; and
- explicitly restricts the types of biomass materials that can be harvested from federal lands so that old-growth trees and stands are protected.
“Oregonians have a strong interest in using biomass as a source of renewable energy. Not only is there an opportunity for cleaner transportation fuel, this is also important for forest management and wildfire prevention,” said Wyden. “Our aim is to balance sound energy policy with sound environmental policy to ensure less carbon in the atmosphere and healthier forests.”
“Oregonians have experienced how severe wildfires compromise the health and economies of our communities,” said Merkley. “We must be proactive in making sure we are doing everything we can to manage our forests responsibly and reduce the risk of these catastrophic fires. This legislation is a step forward in supporting the long-term health of our forests, while also protecting old growth forests, safeguarding against clearcutting, and creating jobs.”
In addition to Wyden and Merkley, the legislation is cosponsored by Sens. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, Angus King, I-Maine, Mike Crapo, R-Idaho and Susan Collins, R-Maine.
A one-pager of this bill is available here.
The text of this bill is available here.
“We strongly support this legislation which opens up new markets for wood – an abundant, renewable, and domestic natural resource,” said Dave Tenny, founding president and CEO of the National Alliance of Forest Owners. “Healthy markets are the key to keeping our forests as forests – when forest owners can realize a return on their investment, they can replant trees, make investments to keep their forests healthy and resilient, and keep their forests intact. Healthy markets ensure that working forests can continue to provide clean air and water, abundant habitat for wildlife, and good jobs in rural communities that need them.”
“We commend Senator Wyden for proposing this thoughtful and pragmatic legislation," said Dylan Kruse, Director of Government Affairs at Sustainable Northwest. “This bill creates much needed parity to support improved forest health and new markets for wood products and clean energy, while maintaining strong environmental protections on public lands.”
“We want to voice support for Senator Wyden’s bill,” said Nick Johnson, Executive Director of Lake County Resources Initiative. “Allowing the use of forest biomass strikes the necessary balance between responsible natural resources use and promoting the development in new industries. This bill also acknowledges that ecological restoration provides a new avenue for increasing the pace and scale of the work that needs to be done.”
“We heartily thank Senator Wyden for advancing this legislation,” said Mark R. Webb, Executive Director of Blue Mountains Forest Partners. “Timely and responsible, it will create new market opportunities that facilitate ecologically appropriate treatments on public lands, help diversify and strengthen our wood products industry, and help address the social and ecological needs of rural communities in Oregon's fire adapted landscape.”
“Biomass energy holds great promise for rural communities that are looking for opportunities to support sustainable economic development for themselves. Supporting ecosystem restoration and community economics is a win-win. We thank Senator Wyden for his important work on this issue,” said Scott Aycock, Manager of Community and Economic Development at Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council.