Thanks to Dennis Becker for sharing news of this report, which includes a case study from Northeast Minnesota. 

Woody BiomassA collaboration of researchers from the University of Minnesota, Michigan Technological University, University of Oregon, and the Northern Research Station of the USDA Forest Service have released a new report entitled “Conventional Wisdoms of Woody Biomass Utilization.” Using 10 case studies from across the nation, this report considers whether commonly-held beliefs about the barriers and opportunities for woody biomass utilization appear to hold sway. It evaluates conventional wisdoms regarding consistency of supply, stewardship contracting, scale of operations, the role of collaboration, agency constraints, and several others.

 This paper sheds new light on the myriad issues surrounding woody biomass utilization and serves as both a primer for those unfamiliar with the topic, as well as a source of new research for those well versed in the issues.

 The report is available at:

 For more information, contact Dennis Becker at the University of Minnesota, 612-624-7286 or

 Additionally, the Ecosystem Workforce Program at the University of Oregon has released its own latest working paper about the social
issues surrounding biomass utilization. Although the technical and economic issues of woody biomass utilization have been frequent topics of research, social concerns have received far less treatment. This new working paper delves into the current social science research in the area and suggests lessons for policy makers and managers, and identifies topics that merit further study. The working paper is available at

For more information, contact Cassandra Moseley at the University of Oregon, (541) 346-4545 or


I’m happy to pass along Dovetail Partners’ new report, “Community-Based Bioenergy and District Heating: Benefits, Challenges, Opportunities and Recommendations for Woody Biomass”.

This report specifically focuses on the thermal uses for wood as it applies to (1) district (community) heating and (2) combined heat and power (electricity) applications (cogeneration or Combined Heat and Power, CHP). District heating and CHP have enormous potential in the upper Midwest, including Minnesota. The opportunities and challenges of expanding district heating projects in the region are explored in this report. Lessons learned from around the U.S. and from other parts of the world are presented, as well as recommendations for further domestic development.

Thanks to Dave Chura from the Minnesota Logger Education Program for bringing the following opportunity to our attention.

Biomass Harvesting: Planning, Design & Implementation will provide information on – and a firsthand look at – the practical implementation of the Minnesota’s biomass harvesting guidelines including: sale design, management considerations and harvest activities. Further, this workshop will include an observation of an active sale where biomass is being harvested and processed on site. This workshop is targeted at resource managers, loggers and landowners who are interested in biomass operations and site-level implementation of Minnesota’s Biomass Harvesting Guidelines (BHGs).

Workshop Dates and Locations:
August 12- Deep Portage Conservation Reserve, Hackensack
August 26 – U of M Cloquet Forestry Center, Cloquet

Register today by clicking here.

NOTE: This is not an Introduction to Minnesota’s New Biomass Harvesting Guidelines.

FP Innovations LogoSave the date! 10 a.m., Wednesday, August 20 Mark Ryans of FPInnovations will present a webinar, “Opportunities and Challenges in Biomass Harvesting in Canada.”

Here’s a synopsis of what Mark will discuss: “The forest industry is a positive contributor to “green” energy across Canada. Moreover, it is well-positioned to take on a greater role in the emerging sector of renewable energy and chemicals from the forest. The recovery of harvest residues for bioenergy has occurred in Canada for over a decade, although until recently, there were only a limited number of operations. Compared to Nordic countries, we have some catching up to do in terms of our practices, guidelines and knowledge of the environmental impacts. However, time is of the essence if the industry is to seize the opportunity.”

The webinar is free of charge. To register, email Lisa Luokkala at

Mark JacobsThanks to Mark Jacobs for sharing the following post with our VFVC Blog readers.

BURN UP logo
I recently attended a forestry meeting in the UP of Michigan and heard a presentation from Chris Burnett – Consulting Forester on project BURN-UP (Biomass Utilization and Restoration Network in the Upper Peninsula). Some of their initiative is based on information obtained from Ontario and Sweden.

It was an excellent presentation that relates well to our situation in northern MN. Here is a link to their website I also have Chris’ PowerPoint presentation. Send me an email at if you’d like a copy. I think that we can learn a lot from the “Yoopers” in this arena.

Mark Jacobs
Aitkin County Land Commissioner


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.

Bud Stone, Grand Rapids Area Chamber of CommerceThanks to Bud Stone, president of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, for sharing his latest Chamber Update with our VFVC blog readers.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a Climate Change meeting in Duluth that featured some interesting data on greenhouse gas emissions. The speaker was Tom Mullikin, who works with the Charlotte law firm of Moore and Van Allen as a senior environmental attorney. His practice focuses on corporate compliance, regulatory relations and legislative representation. The data he presented showed that of all of the greenhouse gas emissions in the world, 94.47 percent come from natural sources. The highest contributors in the natural emission category are C02 from breathing, decay, forest fires and volcanoes, Methane from wetlands and termites and Nitrous Oxide from bacteria in tropical soils and the ocean. Humans contribute only 5.53 percent to the global emission pie. This may sound pretty trivial, but it is still enough to influence climate change. If you take this data trail one step further, you will find that of the 5.53 percent of global human-made emissions, China contributes 18.30 percent and the US contributes 17.44 percent and Minnesota responsible for only .37 percent. .37 percent is one third of 1 percent of all of the global human-made greenhouse gas emissions – not very significant compared to the 94.47 percent of global emissions that happen naturally. Of the 94.47 percent of natural occurring global greenhouse gas emissions, C02 or Carbon, is 70 percent.

OK. Now I want to share with you some other data that we received from the Science and Information Resources Division of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, when we were in Thunder Bay a couple of weeks ago with the Blandin Foundation’s Vital Forests for Vital Communities Project, Seeing the Forests AND the Trees. Our best opportunity for reducing naturally occurring and human-made carbon emissions are in our forests. Trees use carbon and store it within themselves. During the process of using carbon, trees produce oxygen and release it into the air. The process is photosynthesis. You learned about it in grade school. The process of storing carbon is sequestration. It’s a new buzz word that you hear when ever someone talks about removing carbon from the atmosphere.

Now comes the “so what”? Forests have a Carbon Cycle. It goes like this: young forests hold less carbon than old forests, but absorb a lot to grow quickly. Old forests hold more carbon but storage rates decline as growth slows. For over all health, old forests have to die and be replaced by young vigorous forests, just like humans. Nature does this by using fire and other natural disturbances, which release C02. Or, we can do this by harvesting trees and capturing the C02 in forest products. Both of these activities result in new forest, but fire and decay releases C02 while wood products store carbon for the long term.

Back to the beginning. Minnesota does not contribute much to the global greenhouse gas emissions problem, but Minnesota’s Forests can be a significant player when it comes to reducing carbon in the atmosphere. We just need to manage our forests properly. Letting them burn or fall down and rot adds to the global emissions problem. Harvesting mature timber and growing new trees does the opposite.

One more interesting fact for you to consider. Wood as a biofuel is carbon neutral. Wood used in place of fossil fuels actually reduces green house gas emissions. So, go ahead and light a fire in your fire place, sit down in your favorite old wooden rocker next to your wooden end table inside of your wood framed house and understand that you are contributing to the solution, not the problem.

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