Turning wildfire processing debris into marketable wood products
New report and May 9 webinar offer solutions to reduce emissions and improve resilience to wildfires
Berkeley Law Center for Law, Energy and the Environment (CLEE) and UCLA Law Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment publish today a new strategic report: Diversification: Waste Biomass Policies to Promote Wildfire Resilience and Reduced Emissions. The report offers solutions to develop a sustainable market for residual waste generated from wildfire treatments on woodlands and other high fire risk lands.
In response to California’s devastating wildfires in recent years, government and private landowners are removing excess materials at risk of burning, such as dead trees and other vegetation, to create firebreaks that protect lives and buildings. Once cut and stacked, this material is likely to burn in the next fire, creating additional carbon emissions and air pollution.
Yet rather than leaving waste debris on the forest floor, landowners could potentially use it to create wood products, chips and mulch, or other end uses, which can help cover the costs of forest fire treatments and to offset the emissions from the production of these products. .
To move this conversation forward, CLEE and the Emmett Institute have brought together a small group of experts to discuss opportunities to improve the scrap market. Several key solutions emerged from the conversation, including for the governor and state legislature:
- Create a role for the state to act as a broker for the supply of wood raw materials, potentially alongside local governments, facilitated by the California Agency of Natural Resources.
- Request the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research to support data mapping and brokerage initiatives for regional supply chain management.
- Dedicate workforce resources for forest resilience and economic development at local and regional levels.
State agencies are already approaching this issue from several different angles. The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research oversees five pilot projects aimed at improving raw material aggregation mechanisms. The pilots are spread across the state, and local leaders jointly manage the features under combined local land use authorities delegated by local government partners. Meanwhile, CAL FIRE’s Business and Workforce Development Grant Program offers up to $24 million to projects that advance the wood products market and workforce.
To avoid the risk of unintended negative consequences, such as the clearing of healthy forest materials that do not support wildfire resistance, state leaders could deploy the solutions presented in the report over a limited period of time, focusing closely on the debris, in the most affected areas. need for state assistance (due to material accumulation or potential for community benefit, or a combination of both). They could also ensure that these practices are integrated into the broader context of forest management and wildfire resilience.
Ultimately, these vegetation management practices are one component of a larger forest and wildfire management strategy that should include prescribed burning and the more intentional siting of population centers outside of areas. high risk of fire. However, by following these recommendations, the state can ensure that when land managers complete vegetation management actions, they have the opportunity to remove and dispose of residual waste responsibly, compensating for emissions and reducing the demand for new wood products.
For a full list of solutions and a more detailed discussion, see the policy report.
CLEE & UCLA Law will host a public webinar on Monday, May 9 from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. PT to discuss the report’s findings and hear from a panel of experts who will share their insights into the problem and solutions potential. Speakers include:
- Jessica Morse, Assistant Secretary, California Natural Resources Agency
- Phil Saksa, Ph.D., Co-Founder and Chief Scientist, Blue Forest