Date of Award
Master of Science in Environmental and Energy Policy (MS)
College, School or Department Name
Department of Social Sciences
Kathleen E Halvorsen
A considerable portion of public lands in the United States is at risk of uncharacteristically severe wildfires due to a history of fire suppression. Wildfires already have detrimental impacts on the landscape and on communities in the wildland-urban interface (WUI) due to unnatural and overstocked forests. Strategies to mitigate wildfire risk include mechanical thinning and prescribed burning in areas with high wildfire risk. The material removed is often of little or no economic value. Woody biomass utilization (WBU) could offset the costs of hazardous fuel treatments if removed material could be used for wood products, heat, or electricity production. However, barriers due to transportation costs, removal costs, and physical constraints (such as steep slopes) hinder woody biomass utilization.
Various federal and state policies attempt to overcome these barriers. WBU has the potential to aid in wildfire mitigation and meet growing state mandates for renewable energy. This research utilizes interview data from individuals involved with on-the-ground woody biomass removal and utilization to determine how federal and state policies influence woody biomass utilization. Results suggest that there is not one over-arching policy that hinders or promotes woody biomass utilization, but rather woody biomass utilization is hindered by organizational constraints related to time, cost, and quality of land management agencies’ actions. However, the use of stewardship contracting (a hybrid timber sale and service contract) shows promise for increased WBU, especially in states with favorable tax policies and renewable energy mandates. Policy recommendations to promote WBU include renewal of stewardship contracting legislations and a re-evaluation of land cover types suited for WBU. Potential future policies to consider include the indirect role of carbon dioxide emission reduction activities to promote wood energy and future impacts of air quality regulations.
Balint, Susan, "Federal and state policy influence on woody biomass utilization", Master's Thesis, Michigan Technological University, 2009.