2 Jan 2008, 11:33am
Federal forest policy
by admin

Sacrosanct Biomass

The following Letter to Congress regarding bio-energy was written by Charles J. Hendricks, USFS (ret). In his letter Mr. Hendricks points out that Congress has decided to “protect” federal forests by banning the use of federal logging slash for bio-energy production.

Evidently Congress would prefer that federal slash burn in place in horrendous and catastrophic forest fires, rather than be put to any practical use. Instead of heating the homes of the citizenry, Congress would prefer to see homes of the citizenry burned to ashes in holocausts that start in overly dense federal forests, leap across property lines, and scorch neighborhoods of the voters and taxpayers.

Don’t think we voters and taxpayers haven’t noticed this about you, Congress, because we have.

To be fair, Congress-types are just being weenies as usual, groveling for every monied special interest and serving none.

Another part of the problem is that Gaia worship is fraught with inconsistencies (due to the absurdity of the theology). Mr. Hendricks requests rationality from Congress and we support his call, although we have diminished expectations (due to the absurdity of the politicos).

To: Senator Ken Salazar

Dear Senator Salazar:

I would like to direct your attention to the recently passed and signed into law, Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The specific provisions in the law that trouble me are found under Sec. 201. DEFINITIONS (1), (I) RENEWABLE BIOMASS, which states as follows:

`(I) RENEWABLE BIOMASS- The term `renewable biomass’ means each of the following:
`(i) Planted crops and crop residue harvested from agricultural land cleared or cultivated at any time prior to the enactment of this sentence that is either actively managed or fallow, and nonforested.
`(ii) Planted trees and tree residue from actively managed tree plantations on non-federal land cleared at any time prior to enactment of this sentence, including land belonging to an Indian tribe or an Indian individual, that is held in trust by the United States or subject to a restriction against alienation imposed by the United States.
`(iii) Animal waste material and animal byproducts.
`(iv) Slash and pre-commercial thinnings that are from non-federal forestlands, including forestlands belonging to an Indian tribe or an Indian individual, that are held in trust by the United States or subject to a restriction against alienation imposed by the United States, but not forests or forestlands that are ecological communities with a global or State ranking of critically imperiled, imperiled, or rare pursuant to a State Natural Heritage Program, old growth forest, or late successional forest.
`(v) Biomass obtained from the immediate vicinity of buildings and other areas regularly occupied by people, or of public infrastructure, at risk from wildfire.
`(vi) Algae.
`(vii) Separated yard waste or food waste, including recycled cooking and trap grease.

I have highlighted the key words that are most troubling to me. As a result of these highlighted words in the definitions, it is my interpretation that all the dead and dying forests of the Rocky Mountains on federal lands or forest lands under other ownerships, and not actively managed as plantations, are exempt from consideration as renewable biomass under this act. That means that any dead and dying fuel that is removed from the federal lands (mainly National Forests and BLM) will not be eligible for incentives for removal and proper utilization. Also, the utilization for biofuels from the federal lands and other non-qualifying forest lands will not be counted as a credit for cellulosic biofuels under the provisions of this act.

In most western situations the private lands do not offer enough volume of material over the long term to make major investments of required industry infrastructure economically feasible. Consequently, the federal lands are the critical element for making the industry investment decisions needed to establish the infrastructure necessary to remove the dead and dying material.

The dead and dying forests that have been created by the mountain pine beetle epidemic are a disaster of major proportions for the watersheds of the Rocky Mountains. The latest Forest Service report estimates the mortality at approximately 750,000 acres in the seven county area of northern Colorado and southeastern Wyoming at the beginning of 2007. It is expected that the mortality will reach or exceed 1.5 million acres within the next few years. The latest mortality surveys are showing recent significant mortality on the east slope of the front-range of Colorado.

These dead trees will either be removed by mechanical means and utilized for some useful products such as biofuels, or the natural forces of wildfire will accomplish the removal, creating enormous destruction of recreation, watershed, wildlife, structures and other important economic and social values. Certainly it is not possible to remove all the dead material before wildfire accomplishes the task. However, it is possible to conduct removal operations that will reduce the wildfire risks, and allow recovery of some economic values in the way of useful products such as biofuels, while restoring timber stands to more healthy conditions.

It is for the reasons mentioned above and others too numerous to mention, that I do not understand the logic of extracting [proscribing] public land renewable biomass from eligibility under the provisions of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

I believe that it is worthy of mention that I was alerted to this inconspicuous exemption in the law by a U. S. Forest Service District Ranger friend who is working hard to deal with all the complexities of his job, and still accomplish restoration of a rapidly dying timber resource on his Ranger District. The on the ground federal land managers and the rural resource dependent communities, in which they reside, deserve all the support we can give them in accomplishing the job of returning the forest to healthy conditions.

I trust that you do not support the exemption for federal lands from eligibility under the provisions of law for Renewable Biomass, and that you will work to correct this misguided language in the Act.


Charles J. Hendricks
Retired, U. S. Forest Service



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