Many socioeconomic constraints exist for biomass removals from federal lands in the western U.S. We examine several issues of importance, including biomass supply chains and harvesting costs, innovative new uses for bioenergy products, and the policy framework in place to provide incentives for biomass use. Western states vary greatly in the extent and utilization of forest resources, the proportion of land under federal ownership, and community and stakeholder structure and dynamics. Our research—which focused on the socioeconomic factors associated with biomass removal, production, and use—identified several important trends. Long-term stewardship projects could play a role in influencing project economics while being conducive to private investment. State policies are likely to help guide the growth of biomass utilization for energy products. New markets and technologies, such as biofuels, for use in the aviation industry, torrefied wood, mobile pyrolysis, and wood coal cofiring could greatly change the landscape of biomass use. Social needs of residents in wildland urban interfaces will play an important role, especially in an era of megafires. All of these trends—including significant unknowns, like the volatile prices of fossil energy—are likely to affect the economics of biomass removal and use in western forests.
Nicholls, David; Halbrook, Jeffrey; Benedum, Michelle; Han, Han-Sup; Lowell, Eini; Becker, Dennis; Barbour, R. 2018. Socioeconomic constraints to biomass removal from forest lands for fire risk reduction in the western U.S.. Forests. 9(5): 264-. https://doi.org/10.3390/f9050264.