Bolstering a long-term strategy to address fuel reduction and overall forest health, USDA Under Secretary Harris Sherman today announced two Forest Service 10-year stewardship contracts totaling $13.4 million.
The two contracts identify projects that will treat a minimum of 20,000 acres in two national forests.
"Today's announcement supports our commitment to accelerate restoration of our national forests and to generate and sustain jobs in rural America," said Sherman. "Not only will these contracts help us alleviate the impacts of the mountain pine beetle infestation and reduce the threats of catastrophic wildfire, but they also will offer a supply of woody biomass that will be used to produce low-cost heat and a clean, renewable source of electricity," said Sherman.
The stewardship contracts are focused on improving the health of subalpine and mountain forests affected by mountain pine beetle on portions of the Medicine Bow-Routt and the White River national forests in southern Wyoming and northern Colorado. The stewardship contracts announced today add to the $100 million the Forest Service directed toward addressing bark beetle infestations in the Rocky Mountain Region since 2010.
The Medicine Bow-Routt Long Term Stewardship Contract was awarded to Confluence Energy of Kremmling.
West Range Reclamation of Hotchkiss submitted a winning bid for the White River Long Term Stewardship Contract. West Range Reclamation's bid of $8.66 million was accepted by the Forest Service based on the company's ability to meet technical requirements and per-acre price. The contract focuses on the removal of tree species susceptible to insect and disease infestations, including lodgepole pine, subalpine fir, Douglas fir, Engelmann spruce, aspen and ponderosa pine.
West Range has partnered with Eagle Valley Clean Energy to develop an environmentally sound use for the dead and small-diameter trees — known as woody biomass — that will be removed during fuels reduction and forest health treatments. Eagle Valley Clean Energy is currently planning an 11.5 megawatt woody biomass-fueled power plant in Gypsum. The electricity generated from the plant will be supplied to Holy Cross Energy, servicing 8,000 to 10,000 homes in Colorado from Parachute to Vail and Glenwood Springs to Aspen. Heat from the plant will also support an adjacent wallboard manufacturing facility. In October, USDA's Rural Utilities Service announced a $40 million loan guarantee to help finance the plant.
"The continued stability of the 10-year project will allow West Range to provide well-paying, steady, year-round work for our current employees and the ability to hire more skilled operators," said Pam Motley of West Range Reclamation. "We also intend to do our part to help strengthen local economies by purchasing products and services such as fuel, food, housing, tools, parts, supplies, rentals and repair services from local businesses."
Eagle Valley Clean Energy estimates that the woody biomass electricity plant will further support 41 permanent jobs and 107 construction jobs for the region.
"This contract realizes an opportunity for us to achieve critical landscape restoration on the White River National Forest," said White River Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams. "It also continues our legacy of sustainable use of wood products from saw logs to biomass for renewable energy."
Sen. Mark Udall welcomed the news, saying, "These stewardship contracts will create jobs in rural communities and bolster Colorado's economy while also reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire and helping restore the ecological health of our forests.
"As we saw this summer, wildfires are unfortunately growing bigger and more intense each year. These contracts are excellent examples of the private sector turning the problem of the bark beetle epidemic into profit while also improving public safety, protecting our water supplies, and reducing the risk these fires pose to Colorado communities and those living in the wildland-urban interface zones."
He added, "The stewardship contracts are especially exciting because it will add to Colorado's balance of clean, renewable energy by supporting biomass energy — electricity and heat for Eagle Valley Clean Energy in Gypsum and wood pellets for clean and efficient heating at Confluence Energy in Kremmling."blog comments powered by Disqus