As part of the national observance of Earth Day, the U.S. Forest Service today announced that it is seeking proposals that expand wood energy use and support responsible forest management. Also today, the Forest Service released a Wood Energy Financial App for use by community and business leaders seeking to replace fossil fuel with wood energy.
"USDA through the Forest Service is supporting development of wood energy projects that promote sound forest management, expand regional economies, and create new jobs," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "These efforts, part of the Obama Administration's 'all of the above' energy strategy, create opportunities for wood energy products to enter the marketplace."
"Building stronger markets for innovative wood products supports sustainable forestry, reduces wildfire risk, and creates energy savings for rural America," said Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.
The U.S. Forest Service published in the Federal Register the announcement of requests for proposals under the Hazardous Fuels Wood-to-Energy Grant program. The program will provide about $2.8 million to help successful applicants complete the engineering design work needed to apply for public or private loans for construction and long-term financing of wood energy facilities. In addition, the agency announced $1.7 million in funding availability under the Statewide Wood Energy Team cooperative agreement program inviting public-private teams to seek funding to advance wood energy. Activities may include workshops that provide technical, financial and environmental information, preliminary engineering assessments, and community outreach needed to support development of wood energy projects.
Since 2005, more than 150 Wood-to-Energy grants have been awarded to small businesses, non-profits, Tribes, and State and local agencies to improve forest health, while creating jobs, green energy, and healthy communities. This year, the Wood-to-Energy grant program encourages geographic or sector-based clusters, such as hospitals, prisons, or school campuses, to leverage project similarities to improve economies of scale and expand the use of woody biomass for energy.
For more information visit www.na.fs.fed.us/werc. Applicants may also submit their applications through www.grants.gov. Application deadlines are outlined in the Federal Register notice.
The Forest Service today also released an eBook which contains a Wood Energy Financial App that allows users to do a simple and quick analysis to see if wood energy is a viable alternative for their community or small business. The App, which can be accessed from the Web or an eBook, is available at www.woodenergy.umn.edu.
The App and eBook were developed through a partnership with Dr. Dennis Becker, associate professor and Dr. Steve Taft, extension economist at the University of Minnesota; Eini Lowell, wood technology specialist at the Pacific Northwest Research Station; Dan Bihn, engineer at Bihn Systems and Roy Anderson, senior consultant at The Beck Group.
In his State of the Union Address, President Obama pledged that his Administration will continue to do everything in its power to act on climate change. Today's announcements support the president's climate action plan goal of preserving the role of forests in mitigating climate change.
The mission of the Forest Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the Nation's clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.