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USDA Awards $15 Million in Grants to Expand Wood Products, Wood Energy Markets and Community Forests

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Friday awarded more than $15 million to fund grant proposals to develop and expand the use of wood products, strengthen emerging wood energy markets and protect community forests. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the announcement in Colorado Friday while visiting prescribed fire and wildfire recovery areas adjacent to the Roosevelt National Forest Northern Colorado Front Range landscape.

The grant funding, delivered through USDA Forest Service programs, will support 60 projects that cover a diverse range of activities from the development of affordable housing to expanding markets for mass timber, biochar, wood energy and other emerging wood products. The grants also include funds to help tribes, local governments and qualified non-profit organizations permanently conserve working forests that benefit communities.

Forest Service awards will leverage an additional $30 million in matching and partner funds bringing the totals well above $45 million.

“To manage wildfire and address climate, we need to manage our forests. Today’s investments underpin USDA’s commitment to address the climate crisis with a market-based approach that begins to move us toward a clean energy economy, led by production of renewable fuel and energy and biobased products grown and manufactured here in the U.S.,” said Vilsack. “The American Jobs Plan and USDA’s budget request for 2022 make sure the Forest Service can prioritize forest management and restoration.”

“We are placing emphasis on assisting wood energy facilities in economically challenged areas to retool or add advanced technology to replace systems that are inefficient or fueled by fossil fuels.” said Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen. “The grants will also expand markets for cross-laminated timber in commercial and multi-family housing, which supports the important connection to healthy forests and manufacturing in rural communities.”

Wood Innovations Grants

Forest Service Wood Innovations Grant program awards for fiscal year 2021 include $8.9 million for 44 projects across 23 states and Puerto Rico. Twenty-one of the projects focus on mass timber and cross-laminated timber. These projects will support critical needs for expanding markets and species options (hemlock, ponderosa pine, white fir), improve structural performance, increase education and outreach, and promote design and construction of highly visible buildings.

Seven of the projects will focus on developing affordable housing using mass timber as a major building component to support equity, economic opportunity, and climate change priorities. Additional projects focus on developing markets for emerging wood products like biochar and cellulose nanomaterials, and support installation of new wood energy systems. A complete list of Wood Innovations Grant recipients is available now on the Forest Service website.

Community Wood Grants

Forest Service Community Wood Grant program awards for fiscal year 2021 include $2.1 million to support six shovel-ready projects in six states. Initiated in the 2018 Farm Bill, the grant program helps to fund the costs of installing wood energy systems and building innovative wood product facilities in rural communities nationwide. Awardees will use locally sourced wood to reduce energy costs and fossil fuel use while supporting sustainable forest management.

These grants also support innovative wood products manufacturing facilities that make products like building components and other products made from low-value or low-quality wood.

Two of the Community Wood Grants are awarded to DCI Furniture, Inc. in New Hampshire and Arizona Log & Timber Works, LLC in Arizona. DCI Furniture will use the funds to install a new wood boiler to generate heat and electricity at a furniture plant. Arizona Log & Timber Words will use the funds to build a biochar plant, firewood kiln, and pole peeler to expand a forest products facility. A complete list of Community Wood Grant recipients is available now on the Forest Service website.

Community Forest Grants

Forest Service Community Forest Program awards for fiscal year 2021 include $4 million to support 10 projects across nine states. The grants include financial assistance to local governments, Indian tribes, and qualified nonprofit organizations to create, expand and enhance community owned and community managed forests. Project work will help communities acquire and conserve forests that provide public access and recreational opportunities, protect vital water supplies and wildlife habitat, serve as demonstration sites for private forest landowners, and provide economic benefits from timber and non-timber products.

Since 2012, the program has supported 88 community-driven projects across 25 states and territories and permanently conserved more than 24,000 acres.

Visit the Forest Service website for a complete list of projects and organizations receiving grants under the Community Forests Program.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.