New handbook guides development of biomass utilization businesses

usfs logoBiomass utilization can fund restoration, create jobs in rural communities

PORTLAND, Ore. April 19, 2017. In the Western United States, a small-diameter log and biomass utilization business can help fund active management and restoration efforts and provide rural communities with much-needed jobs. So what should businesses, forest managers, community groups, and others interested in turning the byproducts of forest management into a profitable enterprise consider?

new online handbook published by the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station offers guidance. The publication, Community Biomass Handbook Volume 4: Enterprise Development for Integrated Wood Manufacturing, takes a collaborative approach to enterprise development and recognizes the important role of partnerships and land managers in developing sustainable wood products businesses. The guidance is particularly relevant to communities and businesses near public lands.

“Everyone involved in the biomass utilization process, from the forest to the final product, has something to contribute,” said Eini Lowell, a research forest products technologist at the Pacific Northwest Research Station and lead author of the handbook. “The idea for our handbook is to share the unique information that each person may bring to the table and foster communication for a successful outcome. We’ve also included the Biomass Enterprise Economic Model, which allows rapid exploration of integrated manufacturing options and illustrates how a business can grow.”

The guide is the latest volume in a series of handbooks to help communities and land managers better utilize wood energy. Volume 4 is divided into four sections:

- Creating Mutual Understanding – Outlines the types of knowledge needed at each step of an integrated wood manufacturing process and which stakeholders can provide assistance;

- Integrated Approach to Biomass Utilization – Helps users identify viable combinations of product manufacturing that make financial sense and helps structure projects to support existing and emerging markets; 

- Biomass Enterprise Economic Model – Matches conversion technologies to allow users to quickly and easily preview utilization scenarios. The model, developed by Oregon State University, can speed up the pace of development by helping to identify viable business models that align with forest restoration goals.

- Mobilizing to Create Action – Identifies specific and realistic business options to sustain wood manufacturing projects.

“Rural communities are pioneering approaches that integrate forest resilience and local infrastructure development,” said Marcus Kauffman, biomass resource specialist with the Oregon Department of Forestry and a co-author of the handbook. In addition, the Oregon Department of Forestry has produced a series of multimedia stories that showcase the synergy of forest restoration and local wood products development.

The Pacific Northwest Research Station—headquartered in Portland, Ore.—generates and communicates scientific knowledge that helps people make informed choices about natural resources and the environment. The station has 11 laboratories and centers located in Alaska, Washington, and Oregon and about 300 employees. Learn more online at

Forest Service, ForestHealth, Biomass

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