North Coast Forest Biomass Strategy

The North Coast Resource Partnership (NCRP) and the Watershed Research and Training Center (WRTC) are partnering on a multifaceted initiative to collect, aggregate, and process woody biomass produced from projects that reduce hazardous fuels in the region’s forests and landscapes. This North Coast Feedstock Aggregation Pilot Project will help drive community and landscape-scale fire hazard reduction, watershed health, and economic resilience. This initiative is part of the broader North Coast Resilience Plan that the NCRP  developed in collaboration with a wide range of regional partners and local experts, which lays out comprehensive priorities for enhancing watershed, fireshed, forest, and community resilience.

Initiative Overview

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Enhancing Community Watershed, Fireshed, and Economic Resilience Through Improved Woody Biomass Utilization

The North Coast Forest Biomass Strategy Feedstock Aggregation Project, funded through a contract with the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR), supports efforts to increase the pace, scope, and scale of fuel management efforts in the region, and aims to provide multi-benefit alternatives to open pile burning of the woody biomass produced from hazardous fuel management activities on private, non-industrial parcels. The initiative will explore mechanisms that could help communities enhance the efficient, productive, and sustainable collection and utilization of this woody biomass and provide economic benefits to existing and new businesses, supporting the vitality of the stewardship economy.

This is an exciting opportunity to craft real-world, multi-objective solutions to complex problems. Success will require developing common ground among an array of sectors collaborating to achieve regional and local innovations that support community and watershed resilience, including economic vitality, climate adaptation, fuel load reduction, community health and safety, and natural resource protection and enhancement.

On June 7th 2023, NCRP and the WRTC held a webinar on the North Coast Forest Biomass Strategy. Topics included:

To view the webinar, please see the link below.

For more information, please see the initiative description below or contact:

Collaboration with the Watershed Research and Training Center

In partnership with NCRP on the North Coast Forest Biomass Strategy Project, the WRTC is using its deep expertise on the issues and knowledge of the region to lead overall implementation. The Watershed Research and Training Center is a nonprofit organization located in the heart of Trinity County, California. It conducts the full gamut of land and water management services, leads state biomass and fire resilience partnerships, and through partnerships with communities, organizations, and public agencies, it stewards the landscape, creates and sustains quality jobs, and connects people to the land and each other.

North Coast Forest Biomass Initiative

North Coast Forest Biomass Initiative

Reducing wildfire fuel and restoring forest health around vulnerable communities will produce large amounts of woody biomass. Currently the most common fate of this woody biomass is pile burning. The North Coast Forest Biomass Strategy will explore mechanisms to aggregate this woody debris to move it out of communities and make use of it. A vibrant, locally-led industry can help make use of the vegetation management byproduct to turn it into beneficial uses, reducing carbon emissions and wildfire risk while enhancing and maintaining local jobs and revenue. For this reason, the initiative is intended to support economic vitality for existing commercial operations and new business opportunities and innovative products that use material that is often considered low value waste material – all through the lens of ecosystem health and climate resilience.

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Overview

The initiative will explore mechanisms to increase access to a consistent and reliable flow of woody feedstock resulting from community scale vegetation management. Creating a more reliable flow of feedstock is important because it helps support a  stable wood products industry, including new innovations. An innovative wood product industry on the North Coast can,  in turn, help use more of the wildfire fuels around vulnerable communities. This additional woody material can be integrated into existing feedstock flows from public and commercial lands, including woody feedstock removed from agricultural lands, forests, and around communities.

To help coordinate vegetation management at the community scale, the initiative will explore opportunities to align funding from a variety of sources to pay for the work. Potential sources include state, federal and private revenues, as well as returns on the commercial value generated from the feedstock. Aligning this funding can help to more efficiently achieve the scale of effort needed to support community fire resilience.

This initiative will involve a wide range of partners to solve complex issues, and we hope you will lend your support. You can sign up for the NCRP email list to receive regular updates on this project. For more information, please contact Clarke Stevenson at clarke@thewatershedcenter.com or Karen Gaffney at kgaffney@northcoastresourcepartnership.org.

Initiative Process

Assessment and planning will take place at the regional scale, followed by high resolution pilot projects that will be developed for up to three local communities to apply and ground-truth different strategies in each unique community. State and national information and trends will inform this process, outlined below. The results from this initiative are expected to inform state and national policy.

1. Establish a cross-sector, diverse advisory committee and regional network.

Create a cross-sector, diverse advisory committee to guide this plan and pilot project and that is expected to continue to guide implementation post-project. Members of the advisory committee will include the diversity of actors necessary to implement site-specific strategies and inform a regional vision and strategy. This may include the business and economic development entities interested in developing feedstock related projects in the region, sustainable forest managers, community fire resilience practitioners, Tribal, local, state and federal governments, landowners at different scales, financing entities, philanthropic organizations, NGOs, RCDs and other relevant entities.

2. Conduct a baseline analysis at the regional scale. 

Conduct a baseline analysis at the regional scale to support an integrated, multi-benefit North Coast plan for vegetation management byproduct utilization and sustainable woody feedstock supply, including an analysis of the types and amount of vegetation that could be mobilized according to community scale vegetation management scenarios. This initial phase informs the Identification of sub-regional pilots.

3. Develop 1–3 sub-regional or community-specific pilot strategies.  

Develop sub-regional or community-specific pilot strategies designed to aggregate underutilized feedstock and match it to climate resilient, environmentally beneficial, location-appropriate wood product market opportunities. Areas for pilots to investigate include:

  • What is the best way to aggregate feedstock, especially from community scale vegetation management, in a manner that reliably connects the feedstock to businesses and drives  watershed health and community-scale fire resilience?
  • What types of organizations could perform the function of aggregating feedstocks from community vegetation management and what are the legal, financial, and political pros and cons of each type?
  • What kinds of businesses already exist that could be diversified and/or expanded to utilize this additional source of feedstock? What is the current net profit potential of various options? How do different business options align with regional and community values?
  • What innovative technologies show promise and do any of these offer a natural fit with the North Coast’s underutilized feedstock, infrastructure, and underutilized workforce?

The local pilots will focus on achieving community and watershed resilience and ensuring that the proposed solutions reflect the needs and preferences of local communities in alignment with regional values. The initiative is structured to provide the information and strategic analysis that relevant actors will need to take action together at the culmination of this initiative in 2024.

NCRP has a long track record of seeking solutions that simultaneously address interrelated needs of our communities. The woody by-product initiative will develop site specific strategies that reflect community values and identify synergies between community resilience, economic vibrancy, and watershed health.

Funding Source

This initiative is funded by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research — Woody Feedstock Aggregation Pilot Program.

Sustainably managing California forests and promoting community fire resilience, requires large investments beyond the capacity of public funding. Wood product market development and innovation provides a pathway to integrate private capital with public investment, to mobilize powerful economic drivers that create economic opportunity, reinforce sustainable forest practices, and supports community vegetation management and fire resilience. New and existing wood product businesses across California are struggling to secure long-term feedstock contracts necessary to access financing and to assure business stability. The pilot projects will develop regional strategies to establish reliable access to woody feedstock through a variety of feedstock aggregation mechanisms and organizational innovations.