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Could Washington take advantage of a need for thinning to reduce the risk of wildfire AND create more cleaner, carbon-friendly energy in the process?  You bet we could.

Working Forests Action Network

There are no 'silver bullet' solutions, but this one's pretty good.

What if we could improve the health of all forestland in Washington state, reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire, and increase our state’s homegrown production of renewable, carbon-neutral energy?

Consider a story out of Arizona in which two activities --- active management and biomass energy production --- are aligned to multiply environmental benefits and create economic gains.

A power plant in Northern Arizona that will run on trees thinned from the forest to prevent fires has received an air-quality permit from the state…

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality issued the permit to Concord Blue Eagar, an affiliate of a larger company called Concord Blue Energy.

The company must secure contracts for wood fuel from the surrounding forests, which are part of a major restoration project that aims to thin out overgrown Ponderosa pine in Arizona to reduce the threat of wildfire. …

Previously, the company said it would attempt to make jet fuel from wood. Now, however, the company plans to use the wood to create a natural-gas-like fuel by heating it to as much as 650 degrees Celsius in the absence of oxygen, preventing it from burning. The gas can then be burned to generate electricity and the "char" left behind can be sold for other products, such as fertilizer, according to the company.

The power plant will have a capacity of 1 megawatt, which is enough electricity to power about 250 homes at once while the plant is running.
Did some of that story seem really familiar?  Forests in need of thinning, prevailing risk of wildfire, and market demand for cleaner energy production.  That’s Washington in a nutshell.  Could we see a similar solution take shape here, too?  You bet we could. 

Washington is the #2 producer of lumber in the U.S.  Washington also has in place responsible, science-driven forest practices to make our forestland some of the most sustainable in the world.

Washington’s federal forestlands, in particular, could benefit from selective thinning to reduce fuel loads and remove damaged and diseased stock.  Our environment would benefit from a reduction in the number and severity of catastrophic wildfires, and the cleaner energy produced using the renewable wood harvested. 

And, maybe most importantly, the part of our state’s economy that has continued to suffer in rural areas could receive a much-needed boost.

As always, we’ll keep you updated. 

Your Friends in Working Forestry

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