The nation’s family forests have great potential to fuel the next generation of America’s renewable energy. Families and individuals own roughly 262 million acres and are the largest forest ownership group in the U.S. These lands can supply a large portion of renewable materials, mostly small diameter trees and harvesting byproducts, that can be converted into renewable energy. Additionally, generating renewable energy from sustainably managed family forests means family forest owners will have additional markets and revenue streams, which in turn further incentivize family forest owners to keep their forests as forests.
AFF supports increased opportunities for the production of renewable energy from sustainably managed family forests. Materials harvested from private forests and used in production of renewable energy must be harvested sustainably with verification through appropriate mechanisms, to ensure continued health and long-term viability of forests and related-resources. Policies that encourage renewable energy production from forests must consider both the short and long-term impacts of renewable energy markets on forest resources to prevent unsustainable forest management practices.
Renewable energy policies should encourage sustainable forest management, recognize that energy produced from sustainably harvested biomass can be carbon-neutral, and support a renewable energy and wood products industry that promotes healthy rural economies and forest landscapes. Renewable energy markets for forest materials should supplement, not replace, existing forest products markets. The resulting markets can lead to cleaner water, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, improved wildlife habitat, and increased opportunities to keep family forests viable.
- Provide Enhanced Opportunities for Supplying Renewable Energy
Demand for renewable energy is increasing. Congress should create incentives for family forest owners to supply certified, sustainably grown, harvested, and transported biomass materials to renewable energy markets. Renewable energy incentives and regulations should include mechanisms to safeguard against negative impacts on forest resources, including air, water and wildlife, and supplement existing and new wood and non‐wood products markets, where appropriate.
- Avoid Unwarranted Restrictions and Policy Certainty of Biomass
Current legislation regarding biomass can be confusing and overly restrictive which can prevent family forest owners from participating in renewable energy programs. Therefore, Congress should avoid unwarranted biomass restrictions on family forests when establishing renewable energy standards. Additionally, certainty in federal policy should give guidance on how to measure the carbon benefits of biomass energy, ensuring that protocols for carbon accounting proceed in a timely manner and at appropriate scales for both energy and climate benefits.
- Require & Incentivize Third-Party, Independent Forest Certification
Congress should promote forest sustainability in renewable energy incentives and regulations. Congress can do so by requiring or incentivizing third‐party, independent forest certification, including the internationally recognized and credible American Tree Farm System certification.
Forests in the Farm Bill Recommendations
AFF and other forestry organizations sent Farm Bill recommendations to the Senate Agriculture Committee, promoting the establishment of biomass supply programs for renewable energy utilization.