Government grants promote biomass use

Governmentgrants promote biomass use

8 March 2008

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USA — The federal government is disbursing $4 million in grants to encourageinnovative uses of low-value trees and woody debris removed from nationalforests. Nearly one-fourth of the money is going to Montana recipients.

Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer on Friday announced the grants would go to 17small businesses and community groups. Montana recipients are Big Sky Shavingsin Hall; Marks Ranch and Lumber in Clancy; Osler Logging in Bozeman; and theKootenai Business Park Industrial District in Libby. Marks will get $211,500 andthe others $250,000 each.

The grants are intended to encourage use of woody debris and low-value trees inthe national forests, both for benefits such as energy production and to fosterforest health, federal officials said. At a Helena wildfire conference in 2006,engineering consultant Denise DeLuca said Montana forests had so much debristhat if it was made into chips and spread on a football field, the pile would betwo miles high.

Reducing wildfire fuels is one goal of the grant program.

Osler Logging transports a grinder to woodlands and uses it to make debris intofuel that helps power Smurfit-Stone Container Corp., the Frenchtown packagingmanufacturer, co-owner Jeremy Osler said. The ground material, called hog fuel,also is an energy source for a potato-drying operation in Idaho, Osler said.Grant dollars will help the company more efficiently transport the ground fuelout of forests, he said.

Montana has a track record in the use of woody debris, also known as biomass.

A public school in Townsend last year became Montana’s fifth to heat withbiomass through a Forest Service program called Fuels for Schools. A biomassheating system was established several years earlier in the Bitterroot Valleytown of Darby. Wildfires in 2000 burned 356,000 acres in the valley anddestroyed about 70 homes.

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