U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell recently announced over $8.3 million to substantially expand and accelerate wood products and wood energy markets. Federal funds will leverage almost $37 million in matching funds from 36 business, university, nonprofit, and tribal partners in 19 states for a total investment of over $45 million. The public-private partnerships leveraged with these grants will lead to the removal of hazardous fuels from forests while spurring the economic development of rural communities, according to Biomass Magazine.
The awarded funds will stimulate the removal of hazardous fuels from national forests and other forest lands to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires and promote forest health.
“The Wood Innovations Grant Program helps create jobs in rural communities and keeps our forests healthy,” Tidwell said. “By investing in strong markets for forest products, we can incentivize sustainable forest management and sustain our rural communities".
This year the Forest Service received 114 proposals, highlighting the expanding interest in using wood as an innovative building material and renewable energy source. Since 2005 more than 230 grants have been awarded to small businesses, nonprofits, tribes, states, and local governments to improve forest health while creating jobs, renewable energy, and healthy communities.
Of the 38 projects funded, 26 focus upon expanding wood products markets, and 12 increase wood energy markets. Projects address a wide range of issues that include increasing capacity at mass timber manufacturing facilities, testing the resiliency of cross-laminated timber (CLT) structures against explosives, establishing biomass district energy systems, and examining the use of biochar in restoring water quality.