NAFO Members Earl & Wanda Barrs celebrate Earth Day, Encouraged by the Promise of Healthier Markets for Forest Owners
Washington, DC – A new policy announced today by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) formally recognizes forest biomass energy as carbon neutral. The policy is effective immediately for all regulatory programs involving stationary sources and will be followed by a stand-alone regulation. The National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO) is pleased to see action taken on the issue, which is an important step toward providing long-term certainty for private forest owners.
The 2018 Omnibus Appropriations bill, passed with bipartisan support last month, directed EPA to work with USDA and DOE to develop clear and simple, science-based policies that reflect the carbon neutrality of forest-based, renewable biomass. Bipartisan agreement on the carbon neutrality of forest biomass has been consistent since 2016 when the same language was passed unanimously on the Senate floor as part of the Senate energy bill.
NAFO members Earl and Wanda Barrs, whose family owns thousands of acres of award-winning sustainably managed working forests in Georgia and across the southeastern United States, hosted EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt for an Earth Day celebration today focused on forestry. Wanda Barrs and Administrator Pruitt read The Tree Farmer by fellow award-winning forest owner and musician, Chuck Leavell, to children at Bleckley County Elementary School in Cochran, Georgia, before planting a tree on the school’s campus.
The state of Georgia harvests more trees by volume than any other state in the country. At the same time, overall tree volume in Georgia has been increasing since 1953. Nationally, private forest owners are growing 40% more wood than they remove.
“In Georgia, we excel in growing trees,” said Earl Barrs, a trained forester and land professional who has spent more than 40 years managing and expanding his family’s working forest. “Keeping forests healthy and productive in this great state is a proven strength of our land and our forestry professionals. Our challenge is that there are not enough healthy markets for the wood we grow.”
A clear and simple biomass policy strengthens the economic viability of privately owned forests like the Barrs’, which account for more than 70% of working forests in the United States. Policy clarity on biomass supports markets that enable private forest owners to make significant investments needed to replant trees, maintain roads, and prevent fire, insect infestation and disease – investments that often total millions of dollars. As private forest owners continue to invest in their forests, they face uncertainty about future markets for their wood.
“Our forests clean the air we breathe, filter the water we drink, provide healthy homes for all kinds of wildlife, and create jobs for people within our communities,” said Wanda Barrs. “However, we can’t keep our forests just because we love all they provide. Like any other sustainable business, the forests we manage, which benefit everyone, must provide a competitive economic return.”
Healthy markets – like biomass – ensure that working forests can continue to provide jobs, clean air, clean water, and abundant habitat for wildlife.
“Policy uncertainty means uncertain investment in the future of our forests. When policy limits markets, it puts economic pressure on forest owners. That not only threatens jobs, but it also puts our forests at risk, jeopardizing our water, our air and our wildlife,” said Dave Tenny, founding CEO of NAFO. “Recognizing that forest biomass in the U.S. provides a carbon neutral source of renewable energy will encourage landowners to replant trees to keep our forests healthy and intact and provide good paying jobs well into the future.”
Climate science clearly and consistently documents the carbon benefits of forest biomass energy and recognizes the long-term natural carbon cycle of forests. A recent analysis shows that increased demand for forest products – lumber, paper, packaging, and biomass – has led to greater forest productivity and a significant increase in the amount of trees storing carbon.
The National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO) is a national advocacy organization committed to advancing federal policies that support the long-term economic, social and environmental benefits of sustainably managed privately-owned forests. NAFO member companies own and manage more than 45 million acres of private working forests – forests that are managed to provide a steady supply of timber. NAFO’s membership also includes state and national associations representing tens of millions of additional acres. Private working forests in the U.S. support 2.4 million jobs.