Building a Forest Economy – Part 2 of 3 stories
Written by: Tim Hauserman
Faced with the potential for more devastation, like that caused by the catastrophic wildfires we experienced in the Sierra over the last few years, it’s easy to focus our attention primarily on protecting our homes and fighting the fires. But the wildfire crisis and desire for a healthier forest are both an opportunity to begin the process of building a robust new forest-based economy. An opportunity to create jobs and invest in wood processing facilities and biomass energy plants, as well as invigorate the forest transportation and product industries. It turns out, if we aggressively work to protect our communities by creating a more resilient forest, we can also create a healthier, more diverse economy.
An overabundance of trees and lack of species diversity in our forests is a key factor behind our recent fires. It’s part of a connected chain of issues:
The forests need to be thinned. There is a shortage of places to put all the trees and biomass produced by that thinning process. There is a shortage of timber products and the manufacturing facilities needed to produce those products, which has led to high prices for lumber driving up already exorbitant housing costs. And there is a lack of people and businesses available to do the work in all aspects of the forestry industry. . Given all these factors, it appears that our fire storms have created a perfect storm of opportunity to rebuild a forest economy.
In the report, “California Wildfire Crisis: A call to action” the nonprofit California Forward organization states:
In addition to public investment, private investment will be critical to build wood utilization infrastructure such as manufacturing facilities and biomass energy plants, purchase extraction and transportation equipment, and help train the needed workforce. Development of new wood product industries offers opportunities for job creation across a wide spectrum, including within higher-skill fields such as professional forestry, silviculture and other sciences, environmental permitting and regulation, facility design and construction, new technologies, and market and product development.
The Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation is looking to be a significant contributor to bringing about this new forest economy by:
Funding new infrastructure to enable the removal of biomass and the creation of energy from it by giving the biomass industry a much needed shot in the arm. Once a biomass centered strategy is in place, it can become an important part of thinning the forest while building the economy.
Supporting regional partnerships to utilize green waste in our communities. The infrastructure and structured partnerships necessary to effectively aggregate green waste across communities currently doesn’t exist. TTCF wants to change that.
Diversifying the regional economy through forest management oriented workforce development. This area is where the focus was for the first four forest economy oriented grants given by TTCF. The Maidu Summit Consortium, Sierra Institute, Sierra Nevada Alliance and Great Basin Institute were all granted funding to focus on training a forestry workforce, which will be much needed as we expand the forest economy.
These three grants were part of a group of 11 grants totaling $1 million provided by TTCF in April. Over the next few years TTCF plans to invest over $30 million towards the Forest Futures effort, including a substantial contribution towards strengthening the Sierra’s forest economy.
In case you missed it, check out my first story about Protecting Communities.