Here’s a quick update to point to some of the follow-up underway to address the challenges and opportunities identified by participants in Vital Forests/Vital Communities-sponsored events focusing on the role of forestry in the new bioeconomy.
• An article in the summer 2008 issue of Range View gives a nice summary of last October’s conference, Seizing Opportunity: Forestry and the BioEconomy, co-hosted with Iron Range Resources.
• Participants in the April 19th BioMass Harvesting Stakeholder Forum ( suggested a number of short-term steps aimed at helping the forestry community gain a better understanding of what biomass harvesting is currently underway or planned in Minnesota. The need and opportunity to create a shared format for collecting basic harvest information also was identified. Blandin staff are conducting a series of short phone interviews with a targeted list of land owners, managers and loggers to get a start on both of these efforts. We should have something more concrete to report next month.
• Itasca Economic Development Commission recently received a grant of $50,000 from the USDA Forest Service to study using biomass-fired energy systems to help Minnesota’s forest products industry reduce fossil fuel consumption and ensure long-term viability. The grant request was co-authored by Ainsworth Engineering in conjunction with Iron Range Resources, the University of Minnesota’s Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI), Hedstrom Lumber and the Lonza Group.
• While in Thunder Bay, Ontario as part of the Seeing the Forest AND the Trees study tour, participants got to hear an operational perspective on opportunities and challenges to biomass harvesting in Canada by Mark Ryans of FPInnovations, a Canadian forest policy and research institute. Foundation staff are working on inviting Mr. Ryans to give this presentation to interested VF/VC participants via the Internet. We’ll let you know once we have a date.
• Dave Epperly reports that DNR has posted a new position for Biomass Coordinator Program Consultant. Applications are being accepted at least through the end of June. This is a great accomplishment for Dave, especially given the rough fiscal environment DNR Forestry is operating in, and really good news for Minnesota’s forestry community as well. The creation of this new position responds directly to one of the concerns expressed at the April 29th Stakeholder Forum about the need for increased coordination of this activity.
• The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy has just released a press release on a new report on the economic and silvicultural impacts of woody biomass harvesting. The report was co-authored by Don Arnosti, who was among the participants in the April 29th BioMass Harvesting Stakeholder Forum. Based on a series of test forest biomass harvests from the Superior National Forest, the report concludes that such harvests could reduce the cost of fire prevention management while providing work for loggers and fuel for renewable energy facilities.
• Thanks to Keith Jacobson for sharing news with us about an upcoming Short Rotation Crops International Conference on Biofuels, Bioenergy and Bioproducts to be held in Bloomington August 18-22. The conference aim is to initiate and provide opportunities for scientific exchange and full integration of the science and application of producing BOTH agricultural AND forest crops for biofuels, bioenergy, and bioproducts. Early bird registration deadline is July 1.
• And finally, thanks to DNR’s Biofuels Program Manager Mark Lindquist for alerting us to the following: The MN Dept. of Agriculture has released their solicitation for NextGen Energy Grant applications. $2.7 million in 2008 funding is available for feasibility studies, biomass (including woody) feedstock development, and capital cost share. Applications are due July 31.