Linking Habitat Restoration to Bioenergy and Local Economies
$600,000 is from the trust fund to the commissioner of natural resources to restore high quality native habitats and expand market opportunities for utilizing postharvest restoration as a bioenergy source. This appropriation is available until June 30, 2013, by which time the project must be completed and final products delivered.
Click on "Final Report" under "Project Details".
Click on "Final Report" under "Project Details".
More than 7,000 acres of public and private lands needing restoration have been identified within 75 miles of St. Paul. Given the various emerging markets for woody biomass, a unique opportunity has been identified. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will use this appropriation to continue development of an innovative approach to improving lands by harvesting ecologically inappropriate woody vegetation and working with local markets to turn the resulting biomass into marketable products such as mulch, animal bedding, firewood, and wood pellets for energy generation. Funds raised from the sale of these products could then be used to expand this type of model into other areas of Minnesota. In addition to helping stimulate local economies, benefits of this approach also include enhanced biodiversity and effective utilization of woody material traditionally burned or landfilled.
OVERALL PROJECT OUTCOME AND RESULTS
This innovative project helped restore 385 acres of critical habitat and high quality native plant communities by removing ecologically inappropriate woody vegetation (exotic and/or native species) while stimulating local economies through jobs and strategic utilization of the biomass material for bioenergy and other products. This project facilitated habitat restoration efforts that might not have otherwise occurred while making the woody material, traditionally burned or landfilled, available to established and emerging woody biomass markets.
Of the $600,000 appropriation, $490,666 was spent on eleven projects. Seven non-DNR public and private landowners received a total of $324,530 granted through a competitive process. Four DNR projects received a total of $166,136. A variety of types of projects (based on restoration goals, species/type of woody biomass material, density, distance, land ownership, utilization opportunity, etc.) were completed.
Projects were selected based on critical requirements including ecological value and recovery potential of the project site, current ecologically-based management plan, project-specific harvest plan, post-harvest restoration plan, and demonstrated capacity and long-term commitment to effectively manage the site to achieve and maintain restoration goals.
Viable markets were identified prior to project implementation. Utilization of the woody biomass resulted in 291 semi-truck loads or 5,280 tons for bioenergy, 242 semi-truck loads of commercial mulch, 450 cords of pine sawlogs, 6 log loads of cottonwood for pallets, and pine cabin logs. Biomass material was either sold separately from the harvest with revenue collected, or in conjunction with the harvest where contractors valued the material (deducted from the harvest bid) and were responsible for final utilization. Revenues collected ($11,100) and values attributed ($4,000) were reinvested for further purposes of the project.
This project demonstrated that there are opportunities to sell or properly utilize ecologically inappropriate woody vegetation removed through habitat restoration activities. The long-term vision for this effort is to achieve an ecologically sound and systematic approach that addresses: current and future issues of habitat restoration and enhancement; renewable energy and climate change; invasive species, and natural resources conservation planning and implementation - all of which are effected, to some degree, by the impacts and opportunities of woody biomass.
PROJECT RESULTS USE AND DISSEMINATION
The webpage "Linking Habitat Restoration to Bioenergy and Local Economies" located at http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/eco/habitat_biomass.htmlprovides an overview of the entire project, the project fact sheet, the LCCMR-approved Work Program, and the final report.
Project data were compiled and regularly updated for the DNR's Grant Outcomes webpage to provide project descriptions, funding information, indicators, targets and outcomes information. The website is located at http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/grants/outcomes/index.html.
Project information was shared at public workshops, conferences and meetings through formal presentations, panel discussions, informal conversations and handouts, such as the project fact sheet and other printed materials, targeted for the audience. Project information was also shared with DNR staff through staff meetings, project coordination, formal presentations, and informal discussions.
Telephone conversations and meetings were convened with land managers/owners, harvest contractors, and biomass market industry representatives to discuss the project, garner insights for improvements to implementing this project, identify challenges and opportunities to move this effort forward and to facilitate connections between landowners, contractors, and biomass end-users.
The key messages were:
- For land managers/owners conducting habitat restoration projects: explore and implement the option to utilize the biomass material removed versus piling and burning or landfilling;
- For contractors: provide the combined service of harvest and utilization of the material; and
- For end-users: acknowledge habitat restoration projects as a potential significant source of material and to seek this opportunity.