May 2, 2013-- New Report Assesses Appoaches to Expand Community-Scale Clusters of Wood-to-Energy Facilities to Enhance Renewable energy and Forest Health
The production of energy using a renewable material such as wood can have positive impacts on all three legs of the sustainability stool - society, the economy, and the environment. So finds a report released today by the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (Endowment). The report, “Financing Woody Biomass Clusters: Barriers, Opportunities, and Potential Models for the Western U.S.” looks specifically at how community-scale wood-fueled facilities could aid in addressing burgeoning forest health issues and expanding losses due to wildfires.
“Biomass energy development has the potential to foster economic development, address wildfires and associated risks and costs, and reduce dependence on fossil fuels,” says Jeff Howe, President of Dovetail Partners and a report contributing author. “There are critical strategic, organizational, and financial issues that need to be addressed in order to realize the considerable potential of biomass energy. First and foremost, biomass energy needs to become an attractive and financially viable investment alternative. This can be aided by strategically applying a wide array of market-based, as well as incentive- and grant-based financial tools.”
The report is part of a series of works produced by the Endowment in a collaborative effort with the USDA Forest Service to assess the potential of markets for low-value wood to enhance forest health while advancing energy security.
April 25, 2013-- Wood For Energy Use in Schools, Hospitals and Other Facilities Growing
The State of Institutional Woody Biomass Facilities in the United States, a report just released by the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (the Endowment), is available at www.usendowment.org. This report, based on research by Katie Premo, Endowment intern, and Kate MacFarland, USDA Forest Service (USFS) staff, fills the gap and points to the growth in use of woody biomass for energy in community facilities, such as schools, hospitals and more.
When the right technology is matched with the right setting, woody biomass can offset the costs of other fuel sources, especially fuel oil and propane. As of January 2013, 297 institutional facilities have been identified as operational. Since concluding the study the number of systems has continued to grow reflecting the dynamic changes occurring in this arena. More than two-thirds are in the Northeastern U.S. Fifty-nine percent are secondary schools. The remaining facilities are predominantly higher education buildings.
“Wood was the first energy fuel used by mankind,” says Endowment President Carlton Owen. “Still more than one-half of the people on Earth depend on wood for their basic heating and cooking needs. Yet, in developed economies wood isn’t just for subsistence, advanced wood combustion systems are part of stabilizing and even saving on energy costs while doing so using a locally-sourced, renewable fuel.”
The report is another result of the Woody Biomass Joint-Venture, a partnership between the Endowment and the USDA Forest Service. Information generated is being added to the most comprehensive wood-to-energy database in North America – www.Wood2Energy.org – which is also a product of the joint venture. Users of the database are asked to submit additions to keep it current.
April 15, 2013 -- New Chief Financial Officer Joins Endowment
The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (the Endowment) today announced the addition of Signe Cann as Chief Financial Officer (CFO). “We are indeed fortunate to find someone with such rich experience, but perhaps more importantly, one who shares the passion for our mission as well,” said Endowment President Carlton Owen.
In her role with the Endowment, Cann will be responsible for the Endowment’s finances and organizational efficiency. Cann has served in various CFO and financial consulting roles. Prior to joining in the full-time capacity she had been conducting a short-term consulting project on ways to enhance the Endowment's financial systems when she accepted the call to step in as Interim CFO in early January. She brings wide-ranging experience and commitment to non-profits –especially those working with natural resources.
Cann holds a Masters in Accountancy from the University of South Carolina as well as a B.A. in English Literature from Duke University. She begins her tenure with the Endowment immediately.
April 5, 2013 -- Woody Biomass Energy Database Upgraded and Expanded
In 2010, the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (Endowment) announced creation of a one-of-a-kind database of industrial and selected community-scale users of wood-to-energy facilities across North America. Today the Endowment is unveiling major improvements in the database. The site -- www.wood2energy.org -- is a searchable database open to anyone with interest in the state of wood-to-energy conversion at a national, state/provincial or local operating level.
Through the Woody Biomass Joint Venture– a partnership between the USDA Forest Service and the Endowment – recent updates to the Wood2Energy database ensure that it serves as the most comprehensive and up-to-date source of users and processors of wood for energy, e.g., electric facilities, thermal installations, pellet mills, etc.
Partners though out the biomass industry as well as state and federal agencies have worked to improve the usability and accuracy of the database and recently began including thermal installations, such as schools and government offices.
The University of Tennessee Office of Bioenergy Programs created and currently houses the system with original funding from the Endowment, US Forest Service, American Forest and Paper Association, Canadian Forest Service of Natural Resources Canada, Forest Products Association of Canada, and many others.
Wood2Energy Project Manager Mladen Grbovic, commented, “We now have reviewed and updated for accuracy more than half of the existing U.S. facilities. The systems will only get better as people share information and their experience with accessing the system.”
Carlton Owen, the Endowment President, noted, “This type of information is vital to making sound planning and business decisions for expansion of wood as an energy source while protecting sustainability of North America’s rich forested estate.”
Biomass consultant, Eric Kingsley of Innovative Natural Resource Solutions in Maine, worked with the University of Tennessee team to improve the accessibility of the site and the quality and accuracy of information across fourteen northeastern states. He added, “The new user interface is much easier to work with.”
March 28, 2013 -- Partners Launch the Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention Program
Two sites in the Carolinas have been selected as pilots for the launch of a collaborative $1.2 million grant program to help stem the loss of African American owned forests. The program is a joint venture of the U. S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (the Endowment), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the USDA Forest Service (Forest Service).
During a March 26, 2013 speech at Voorhees College in Denmark, South Carolina, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack called on the nation’s foundations “to invest a percentage of their portfolio in rural businesses to enlarge social capital.” As an example, Vilsack pointed to the partnership between USDA and the Endowment by saying, “The U.S. Endowment challenged us last year. They pledged $1 million to help African Americans to maintain sustainable forestry practices. The folks at NRCS and our U.S. Forest Service are assisting with $100,000 each to help African American forest owners develop sustainable practices and make sure they can hang on to forest areas. This is the kind of partnership you are going to see more of.”
Vilsack painted a vivid picture of rural America and why it can no longer be ignored and forgotten if America is to be an economic success going forward. The Endowment is answering the call to action. “Rural America is the place where most of our food and water comes from to make us a food secure nation. It is the place where most of our power, electricity and fuel come from – including the bio fuels of the future. It is the place where families send a disproportionate number of children to the military. It is a place often ignored, while battling persistent poverty,” said Vilsack.
The Secretary used his South Carolina visit to announce the expansion of USDA’s Strike Force Program to South Carolina, North Carolina and eight other states. Strike Force targets USDA resources to rural persistent poverty counties. South Carolina 6th District South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn joined Secretary Vilsack in emphasizing the importance of restoring a healthy rural economy. “Our poor, rural areas pose a national problem,” cautioned Clyburn. “We must make sure that rural communities are treated with equity – not equally, but according to needs.”
The Endowment-led Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention Program announced by Secretary Vilsack willrestore and conserve threatened, African American forestland in the southern U. S. by increasing forest-owner income and land asset value. Loss of historic Black family land is endemic in the region where past discrimination and economic factors have diminished the value and productivity of Black-owned forests. The project will introduce new forestry technologies, create trusted, comprehensive, and replicable systems of landowner outreach and support, and develop income streams by connecting forest owners to traditional and emerging forest products markets.
Recipients and project leads are the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation in Charleston, South Carolina and the Roanoke Electrical Cooperative/Roanoke Center in Ahoskie, North Carolina. Each project will receive direct grants totaling $425,000 over thirty (30) months and significant technical and program support from NRCS and Forest Service field staff. Additional funds will be raised locally and regionally to support each project. Separate grants will support baseline research on the conditions and income potential of African American-owned forests and specialized forestry services for landowners.
In responding to the grant announcement, Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation Executive Director Jennie Stephens said, “This Sustainable Forestry Program will allow the Center to further its mission by establishing a network of partners who will provide the tools for these landowners to generate income from their land while maintaining ownership for many generations to come.”
On March 27th in Ahoskie, NC, First District North Carolina Congressman G. K. Butterfield, NRCS Eastern Regional Conservationist Leonard Jordan, the Forest Service’s Outreach Liaison Amadou Diop, and the Endowment’s Senior Vice President Peter Stangel, announced the grant to the Roanoke Electrical Cooperative.
As a long-time champion of efforts to stop the loss of rural family land, Congressman Butterfield was particularly qualified to announce the North Carolina project. Congressman Butterfield said, “As the CEO of the Roanoke Cooperative, Curtis Wynn and his staff are a leading force for economic development in the region. Through this partnership with the Endowment, NRCS, and the Forest Service, we will invest in a stronger economy and healthy forests in the region. By doing so, we will make it easier for families to hang on to their land.”
The two grantee organizations will lead networks of private and public agencies to deliver comprehensive services to forest owners. The networks include state and federal agencies, academic institutions, nonprofits, legal services organizations, loan funds, forestry consultants, and forest products companies.
“For complex historical and economic reasons, minority-owned forests in the South are often not managed for optimum forest health and income,” said Endowment President, Carlton Owen. “However, recent policy and program focus within USDA and state forestry agencies along with growing interest by minority landowners, creates opportunity to support landowners by accelerating sound forestry practices, increased forestry income, and retention of historic family land.”
March 8, 2013-- Floodplain Forest's Contribution to Gulf Water Quality to be Studied: New Research Seeks to Quantify Impacts in the Mississippi River Basin
The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (the Endowment) has awarded a $42,000 grant to two USDA Forest Service scientists to synthesize existing research about the impacts of floodplain reforestation and forest management practices on water quality and flood attenuation. Dr. Ying Ouyang, a research hydrologist for the USDA Center for Bottomland Hardwoods Research at Mississippi State University, and Dr. Theodor Leininger, project leader of the USDA Center for Bottomland Hardwoods Research in Stoneville, MS, received the award. Their research will address two key subject areas:
The impact of forest management practices and reforestation programs on the addition of nutrients and sediment to watersheds; and,
The effect of forest management practices and reforestation programs on flood attenuation.
The focus of the review is the Mississippi River and rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico.
“Forests have multiple impacts on water quality and flood attenuation in headwaters, floodplains, and coastal zones” said Carlton Owen, President & CEO of the Endowment. “It is widely believed that forests play an important role in reducing agricultural nutrients and run-off from reaching rivers. This research is an important step in better documenting and quantifying those impacts, particularly for reforestation and other forest management practices in watersheds connected to the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico.”
The Ouyang-Leininger team will conduct a literature review regarding the relationship between forests and soils with a focus on erosion control, sediment dynamics, nutrient fluxes, and soil biogeochemistry. They will summarize what is known and identify knowledge gaps to be answered with new research. They will also do some modeling to evaluate the functions of future reforestation on reducing water yields and mitigating nutrient and sediment loads into streams and rivers and ultimately the Gulf. One desirable outcome from the research would be a metric or “predictor” that can be used by state natural resource agencies, counties, and communities to estimate potential water quality improvements or flood attenuation impacts from future reforestation and forest management efforts such as the conversion of frequently flooded cropland to bottomland hardwood forests.
Information and analysis from this project is likely to have a substantial impact on current reforestation and forestry Best Management Practices efforts for mitigating water resource risks and enhancing flood attenuation in the Mississippi River Basin and adjacent Gulf of Mexico Watersheds.
March 7, 2013-- Endowment Partner Pursues Phone App to Track Forest Health Threats
The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (the Endowment) today made its first foray into engaging citizen scientists by putting its support behind a planned mobile phone application, developed by the Institute of Forest Biotechnology, designed to aid scientist in tracking forest disease and pest outbreaks around the globe.
“For more than three years the Endowment has been working with the USDA Forest Service, Duke Energy and a host of others to explore the potential of modern biotechnology to address burgeoning forest health challenges being driven by globalization and climate change,” said Endowment President Carlton Owen. “The Institute of Forest Biotechnology has been among our core partners in that important work. When they announced plans to ‘crowdsource’ funds for a first-of-its-kind smartphone application to aid scientists in identifying the rapid spread of pests and diseases, we knew that we wanted to participate.”
TreeTaggrTM will use the camera and geolocation functions of a smartphone to “tag” unhealthy trees. The app is the first tool to leverage the availability and connectivity of smartphones for forest health data collection.
The first version of TreeTaggr for an Android device will cost about $20,000. Funding is being sought by another technological and social innovation – crowdfunding (where individuals and organizations pledge to support the capital needs of an initiative via the Internet). To learn more and to make a tax-deductible contribution to the project one need only visit TreeTaggr.org/go.
More than 60 million acres – an area equal to all of the forests in the State of Georgia – are experiencing impacts from pests and diseases that fall outside of historical norms. The pace of impact in the U.S. is accelerating, with a three-fold increase over the last decade.