Natural Resources: Woody Biomass Users' Experiences Provide Insights for Ongoing Government Efforts to Promote Its Use Page: 3 of 16
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Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
I am pleased to be here today to discuss factors influencing woody
biomass use among several users we reviewed, as well as potential
insights these users' experiences may offer as the federal government
seeks to increase woody biomass use. As you know, the federal
government has responded to our nation's increasing wildland fire threat
by placing greater emphasis on thinning forests and rangelands to help
reduce the buildup of potentially hazardous fuels. These thinning efforts
are expected to generate large amounts of woody material, including many
small trees, limbs, and brush-often referred to as woody biomass-that
traditionally have had little commercial value.'
Widespread thinning efforts will be costly to the federal government. To
help defray these costs, and to enhance rural employment and economic
development, the government is promoting a market for woody biomass.
However, as we have reported in the past,2 increasing the use of the
material faces several obstacles. Officials in federal agencies promoting
woody biomass use-including the Departments of Agriculture, Energy,
and the Interior-told us that its use is hampered by the high costs of
harvesting and transporting it and the difficulty in obtaining a reliable
supply in some areas. Nevertheless, some businesses and government
entities are using woody biomass for various purposes, including heating
buildings, making lumber, and generating electricity.
My testimony today summarizes the findings of our report being released
today that discusses factors facilitating woody biomass use among
selected users, the challenges these users faced in using the material, and
the insights these users' experiences may have for the federal government
as it seeks to promote greater use of woody biomass.3 This report is based
'Although biomass can be considered any sort of organic material-including trees,
grasses, agricultural crops, and animal wastes-the term woody biomass in this testimony
refers to small-diameter trees and other traditionally noncommercial material cut as part of
thinning, harvesting, or other activities in forests or on rangelands. For the purposes of this
testimony, we distinguish woody biomass from other wood residues such as sawmill
residues or urban wood waste.
2See GAO, Natural Resources: Federal Agencies Are Engaged in Various Efforts to
Promote the Utilization of Woody Biomass, but Significant Obstacles to Its Use Remain,
GAO-05-373 (Washington, D.C.: May 13, 2005).
3GAO, Natural Resources: Woody Biomass Users' Experiences Offer Insights for
Government Efforts Aimed at Promoting Its Use, GAO-06-336 (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 22,
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United States. Government Accountability Office. Natural Resources: Woody Biomass Users' Experiences Provide Insights for Ongoing Government Efforts to Promote Its Use, text, April 27, 2006; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc295140/m1/3/: accessed November 17, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.