Washington, DC - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will invest up to $7 million in grants for projects designed to expand wood products and wood energy markets that support sustainable forest management, especially in areas with high wildfire risks. These grants are available through the U.S. Forest Service's Wood Innovations Program.
President Obama has proclaimed Oct. 16-22, 2016, as National Forest Products Week. In his proclamation, President Obama recognized USDA's work to promote the use of wood energy and wood products, stating, "The health and well-being of our forests and our communities go hand in hand. With the Department of Agriculture, we are working to strengthen markets for forest products. By allocating millions of dollars to help expand technologies that encourage the use of wood in innovative ways, we are also striving to improve forest health and generate rural jobs. And we are exploring ways to help forestland owners respond to climate change -- earlier this year, we released a roadmap for implementing key building blocks to achieve this goal, such as private forest growth and retention, stewardship of Federal forests, and promotion of wood products."
Promotion of wood products is one of the ten "building blocks" in USDA's Building Blocks for Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry, the Department's framework for helping farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners respond to climate change. Through this initiative, USDA is committing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing carbon stored in forests and soils by over 120 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year by 2025. That amount is equivalent of taking 25 million cars off the road, or offsetting the emissions produced by powering nearly 11 million homes.
"Growing markets for wood products and wood energy create new uses for diseased wood that otherwise would be hazardous fuel in our nation's forests, where we are experiencing increasingly longer and more intense wildfire seasons. By getting this wood out of the forests and putting it to use as building material or a renewable energy source, we are able to sustain the health of our forests and maintain their capacity to store carbon," said Vilsack. "Already, USDA has invested nearly $1 billion into 240 projects to uncover innovative new uses for wood, and our Tall Wood Building Prize Competition is proving that multi-story buildings made of wood can be a reality in major U.S. cities. This new round of funding will no doubt inspire additional opportunities for the benefit of our forests and climate."
In 2017, the Wood Innovation Program will invest up to $7 million in projects designed to have a long-term impact on National Forests and other forest lands by leveraging the market for low-value wood. Funding is available for a diverse range of activities, from facilitating the establishment of new building codes to support expanded use of wood materials to developing a cluster of wood energy projects in a geographic area. Funding may also support business planning and efforts to accelerate the manufacturing, market adoption and demonstration of innovative wood products, such as cross-laminated timber.
Since 2005, more than 240 grants have been awarded to small businesses, non-profits, Tribes, States, and local governments to improve forest health while creating jobs, renewable energy and healthy communities. Since 2013, this funding has also helped establish 22 Statewide Wood Energy Teams and six Statewide Wood Utilization Teams that collectively expand and support wood energy and wood products markets.