Biomass harvesting guidelines for Southeast U.S. released

By Luke Geiver | March 02, 2012

The Forest Guild has released its report, “Forest Biomass Retention and Harvesting Guidelines for the Southeast,” identifying how expanding markets for forest bioenergy can enhance forests, while meeting the social and economic needs of society. The guidelines are also meant to fill the gap between state-level biomass guidelines and existing best management practices.

The guidelines are meant for four major forest types in the Southeast: Southern Appalachian hardwoods, upland hardwoods and mixed pine, bottomland hardwoods and piedmont, and coastal plain pinelands. All four types can be found, however, from New Jersey to Florida and into West Texas, according to the report.

The report includes several recommendations. First, biomass harvesting in critically imperiled or imperiled forest types should be avoided, unless the biomass harvest is used to perpetuate the type. In sensitive areas, biomass harvesting may be appropriate to control invasive species, enhance critical habitat or reduce wildfire risk, according to the report. But harvesting activity in such places should be led by ecological goals and not for biomass supply. For old growth forests, biomass harvest should be minimized or non-existent.

For downed woody material (DWM) retention, the guidelines list several suggestions for a best practice method. For an existing DWM site, a third of harvest slash should remain on-site and the DWM material should remain varied, including coarse woody material, fine woody material and downed logs, all of which should be distributed evenly across a site.

For the retention of forest structures for wildlife and biodiversity, the Forest Guild says leave and protect roots, stumps and large downed wood material when possible, and to leave and protect live cavity trees, den trees, other live decaying trees and snags.

The guidelines also provide an estimated goal each forest type should try to achieve when maintaining tree snags per acre.

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

To view the full set of Forest Guild guidelines, click here.

(Note: This story first appeared on Biomass Power and Thermal magazine.)