Report: Producing renewable energy in the Southeast while protecting forest health

Producing Renewable Energy in the Southeast while Protecting Forest HealthThe Forest Guild’s new guidelines for sustainable harvest of forest biomass in the Southeast details how to produce renewable energy from the region’s forests while still protecting them for future generations.

“The Forest Guild guidelines show a much needed middle path. We don’t have to forfeit environmental protection to produce renewable energy and create jobs,” explained Mike DeBonis, Forest Guild Executive Director.

Developing domestic, renewable sources of energy is a national priority, and in the Southeast, forest biomass is a potential source of renewable energy and fuel that also supports local economies.

Already, the Southeast is exporting thousands of tons of forest biomass to Europe in the form of wood pellets to be burned instead of coal. Forecasts for forest bioenergy suggest harvesting levels could more than double by 2050. While a number of other states already have biomass harvesting guidelines, the Forest Guild’s guidelines definitely fill a void for the Southeast states.

“The Forest Guild relied on the professional judgment of on-the-ground foresters and also involved scientists from universities and agencies across the South to develop these regional guidelines,” said Dr. Zander Evans, Forest Guild Research Director. Together the working group identified biomass harvesting practices that ensure the forest can support wildlife, maintain biodiversity, provide clean water, sequester carbon, protect soil productivity, and continue to produce income for local landowners over the long term.

“Regional guidelines have to be specific enough for the forest certifiers, land owners, and the public to know whether biomass harvests will impact future recreation, hunting, or timber harvests. At the same time, the targets have to be practical and flexible enough to be economical. These guidelines accomplish both goals,” said Ken Smith, professor at the University of the South and a member of the Forest Guild working group.