Stimulating Sustainability Certification in North America
by Ron Kotrba (Biomass Magazine) The Dutch are motivated buyers of North American wood pellets, but the lack of sustainability certification of small forest owners in the U.S. and Canada has created an intense need for intercontinental collaboration.
The fact that the Dutch have created a program to earnestly foster sustainability certification of small, North American forests is a testament to how important Canadian and U.S. wood pellets are—or will be—to cofiring operations in the Netherlands. The Dutch want certified wood pellets from North America, up to 3.5 million metric tons per year, and they are spending at least 3 million euros to ensure small landowners across the pond understand that, unless certification by one of the several existing schemes is undertaken, wood pellets manufactured from their raw materials will likely be excluded from this emerging European market.
According to the National Climate Assessment’s 2014 data, a slim majority of U.S. forestland ownership—56 percent—is privately held by an estimated 11 million individual landowners. Of that privately owned 56 percent, 18 percent is owned by corporations while 38 percent is owned by noncorporate entities, what NCA characterizes as “an aging demographic.”
“Sustainable forestry on U.S. forest lands is largely assured by the strong rule of law in place in the U.S. and highly successful implementation of voluntary best management practices,” states a recently published white paper titled “Sustainable Forestry and Certification Programs in the United States” by the American Forest and Paper Association. “Thus, direct certification of these lands is not necessarily essential to ensuring a sustainable fiber supply.” Perhaps not, but to qualify for markets where certification is required is another story. READ MORE / MORE / MORE
Excerpt from Biomass Magazine: The enormity of this challenge cannot be overstated. Commercial forests in the Southeast are owned by millions of private individuals and families who are currently struggling to see the value in taking on the cost of certification, particularly when they feel strongly that their forests are managed sustainably now, certified or otherwise. Further, selling wood fiber to pellet mills is just one aspect of most private forest management plans, and is certainly not the driving economic force. Kotrba’s story makes it clear the ongoing debate about feedstock sustainability in the U.S. is far from settled. The Dutch, he finds, are doubling down on certification of feedstock as a foundation to any state support for biomass cofiring. READ MORE