Forest Service Eastern Region Distributes $2.2M in Grants to Support Forest Markets

Release Date: Jun 23, 2021

Milwaukee, WI (June 23, 2021) – The USDA Forest Service Eastern Region is supporting the development and expansion of forest markets with an investment of nearly $2.2 million in grants. This year’s eight funded projects are in Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The Forest Service’s Wood Education and Resource Center (WERC) Forest Markets program is working to support a more competitive, productive and profitable forest products industry in the U.S. This industry plays a key role in sustaining effective forest management, which includes the thinning of small-diameter, low-grade or underutilized wood. Thinning reduces disease and wildfire risk in forests, yet the cost of removal can exceed the value of the wood products themselves. Expanding markets for these products makes this work economically viable.

“Thanks to their work, our grant recipients are bolstering rural economies by creating value with innovative forest products and climate-smart forest management,” said Eastern Regional Forester Gina Owens.

This year’s funding priorities include:

  • Supporting projects related to the role of forest products in carbon sequestration and forest management in the overall carbon cycle.
  • Assisting in the development of new industries that can utilize pulpwood-size logs and are aligned and compatible with current forest business sectors.
  • Maintain wood energy technical assistance and support projects that use forest management, wood manufacturing and urban tree residues for energy, heat and renewable products.

2021 Wood Education & Resource Center Forest Markets Funded Project Summaries:


Grant Recipient: University of Maine, Advanced Structures & Composites Center, Orono, ME

WERC Funds: $150,000

Project Title: Optimization of a Pilot-scale Fiberboard Manufacturing Line and Investigation of Fiberboard Manufacturing Parameters Using Underutilized Forest Resources and/or Recycled Wood-based Products

Project Summary: The Advanced Structures & Composites Center, located at the University of Maine, will acquire and commission a fiberboard pilot line, capable of producing both medium-density fiberboard and low-density insulating wood fiber composites. Fiberboard facilities could use a very large volume of low-grade fiber from underutilized species, thus improving forest health in the region. This project supports optimization of the pilot line, as well as evaluation of several wood fiber-based products manufactured with underutilized, low-value and/or recycled wood species and products. Wood composite panels offer a viable market alternative to pulp/paper to utilize low-grade timber. Markets for low-grade timber enable thinning to reduce hazardous fuels and support forest health.


Grant Recipient: GO Lab, Inc., Belfast, ME

WERC Funds: $450,485  

Project Title: Funding Support for the First Insulating Wood Fiber Composite Manufacturing Facility in North America

Project Summary: GO Lab, Inc., is installing the first-ever continuous line for manufacturing insulating wood composites in North America. Grant funds will be used to increase the pace of commissioning the new plant. GO Lab will begin to produce, market and distribute wood fiber construction insulation in Somerset County, Maine, in late 2022. The project will help to rejuvenate an economically distressed region that has been disproportionally affected by paper mill closings.


Grant Recipient: Hancock Lumber Company, Inc., Pittsfield, ME

WERC Funds: $564,000  

Project Title: High Efficiency Thermal Energy from Woody Biomass Residue

Project Summary: Hancock Lumber Company will offset electric use from the grid at its Pittsfield Sawmill through the installation of steam system upgrades and a high efficiency backpressure steam turbine. Hancock uses waste biomass from their sawmill to provide thermal energy to six onsite lumber kilns. By upgrading its boiler and installing a steam turbine, Hancock will be able to more effectively use the available biomass, for both heat and power. Generating electric power with renewable biomass waste onsite reduces Hancock’s dependence on non-renewable energy from the grid and improves plant economics. This project benefits the local economy and makes Hancock Lumber more competitive. The project also showcases how technological innovation improves sawmill competitiveness in an increasingly challenging global marketplace.



Grant Recipient: Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, Boston, MA

WERC Funds: $279,287  

Project Title: Warming Our Parks: Accelerating the Implementation of Modern Wood Heating at Public Recreational Facilities across Massachusetts

Project Summary: This project accelerates the installation of modern wood heating systems in Massachusetts state park facilities currently consuming a combined 8,900 gallons of fuel oil annually. The new wood heating systems provide tangible links between forest management, local economic development and climate change mitigation efforts, including the 2020 Massachusetts State Forest Action Plan and the Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act. Located in areas with frequent public use, the new systems will serve as an important tool for growing consumer confidence in wood heating. The project will increase state government purchases of locally manufactured wood pellets by 80 tons/year.



Grant Recipient: Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Lansing, MI

WERC Funds: $36,228

Project Title: Biomass Power Economic Analysis Project

Project Summary: The project will analyze the economic contributions of the biomass power industry in the 20 Northeast and Midwest states, plus California, Georgia and Virginia. Both commercial power plants and industrial-scale combined heat and power (CHP) plants will be included in the analysis. Methodologies will be developed for apples-to-apples economic comparisons between power generation industries. A Michigan field demonstration will compare alternatives for disposal of harvest residues, such as using the materials for biomass power or mechanical reduction in place (e.g., roller chopping). The WERC funds supplement funding awarded to this project through the FY21 Landscape Scale Restoration grant program.



Grant Recipient: Choose Outdoors

WERC Funds: $70,000

Project Title: Minnesota Episode of America’s Forests on PBS

Project Summary: This is a collaborative effort between the Minnesota DNR, the agency’s national Wood Innovations program, and the Eastern Region State and Private Forestry WERC Forest Markets program to engage with the producer of America’s Forests. An episode on PBS featuring Chuck Leavell will focus on Minnesota’s forests and the role they play in the social, economic and environmental aspects of life in Minnesota.



Grant Recipient: Wilson Engineering Services, PC, Meadville, PA

WERC Funds: $400,000  

Project Title: National Wood Energy Technical Assistance Team

Project Summary: The Wood Energy Technical Assistance Team provides targeted technical assistance to state agencies, statewide wood energy teams, facility owners or operators and other stakeholders. This assistance moves clean and efficient biomass thermal and combined heat and power projects from concept to successful implementation. The team provides a wide range of wood energy technical assistance, including feasibility studies, operational troubleshooting, energy and emissions metering and data analysis on existing wood energy systems to document and improve their performance.



Grant Recipient: Nicolet Hardwoods Corporation, Laona, WI

WERC Funds: $250,000  

Project Title: Nicolet Hardwoods Corporation Biomass Energy Project

Project Summary: Nicolet Hardwoods Corporation’s Biomass Energy Project will install a new wood boiler plant with a modern combustion system to reduce staffing requirements, improve energy efficiency, improve reliability and reduce overall operation and maintenance costs to provide steam to the mill and kilns. The project will improve economic competitiveness and create more technology training jobs in an underserved area of Wisconsin.

Map graphic for WERC