Forest biomass is an underutilized, undervalued tool that can help address our wildfire crisis

Steve Frisch

Steve Frisch

President

Brittany Benesi

Brittany Benesi

Government & Community Affairs Director

Jill Sanford

Jill Sanford

Communications Manager

California is in the midst of what is shaping up to be one of the largest wildfire seasons on record… yet again. 

Over the last several years, advocating for increased wildfire funding, forest management, and the accelerating need to reestablish a natural fire ecosystem has been a priority here at SBC. In this time, we’ve seen progress on how the state understands the importance of forest restoration and wildfire mitigation. 

But unfortunately, the rate of progress we’re seeing is simply not enough.  

In order to actually restore our forests and protect the safety of Sierra communities, we need to deploy every tool in the toolbox we have at our disposal. Forest biomass is an underutilized, underfunded, and often misunderstood tool that can help us meet our forest health, community well-being, and climate resilience goals.

Forest biomass utilization, in which excess material from forest management treatments is converted to create electricity and innovative wood products, can restore our forests and reduce the risks of catastrophic wildfire, all while bolstering rural economic activity and expanding renewable energy resources.  

In 2019, SBC explored the nuances and benefits of forest biomass utilization in Biomass in the Sierra Nevada: A Case for Healthy Forests and Rural Economies

Our follow-up to this white paper report is a three-part video series, Balance & Biomass: A Solution to Emissions, Catastrophic Fire, & Communities in Crisis, that identifies the opportunities of forest biomass utilization at both the local and statewide levels and begs the question, why isn’t the state doing more to support appropriately scaled forest biomass utilization in the Sierra’s communities?   

Forest biomass is a pragmatic piece of the puzzle that can solve our wildfire crisis, a crisis that state legislators are underestimating – and consequently underfunding – what it will take to fix. 

Sierra Business Council is calling for the State of California to invest $3 billion in forest restoration efforts over the next 10 years. Without this level of investment in forest resilience solutions that we have at our disposal, including landscape scale restoration, prescribed fire, workforce training and development, ecological thinning, as well as forest biomass utilization, our wildfire crisis will continue to worsen year after year.

We can meet our forest health, community well-being, and climate resilience goals. But we need to invest now in our future.

Balance & Biomass makes the case for this investment in biomass utilization in the Sierra Nevada through the following chapters: 

Chapter 1: Forests In Crisis

Chapter 2: The Cost of Inaction

Chapter 3: Realizing the Opportunity

Balance & Biomass was made possible through the support of the BlueTechValley Innovation Cluster funded in part by the California Energy Commission EPIC program. Sierra Business Council would also like to thank the following individuals and organizations that made this series possible: 

Walk Scherer, Paradise Resident

Judy and Bob Dean, Calaveras County Residents

Matthew Cunha-Rigby, HDR Architecture, Inc. 

Julia Levin, Bioenergy Association of California

Jan Buck, Sierra Booster

Dan Sanchez, Joint Institute for Wood Product Innovation, UC Berkeley

Glenda Humiston, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California

Ryan Emmett Tompkins, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California

Teal Brown Zimring, Galvanize Partners

Thurman Roberts, Sierra Nevada Alliance Forestry Corps

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