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USDA to Award $45 Million in Grants for Wood Products, Forest Conservation

May 10, 2021 by Reece Nations
A forest scene in Huntley Meadows Park, Alexandria, Virginia. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — The Department of Agriculture is funding over $15 million in grant proposals directed at developing and expanding “the use of wood products, strengthening emerging wood energy markets and protecting community forests.”

The grants will support 60 individual projects covering an array of initiatives, including the development of affordable housing, expanding markets for mass timber, biochar, wood energy and other wood products. Further, funds will be allocated to assist tribes, local governments and qualified non-profit organizations to conserve community forests. 

“To manage wildfire and address climate, we need to manage our forests,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a written statement. “Today’s investments underpin USDA’s commitment to (addressing) 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. The American Jobs Plan and USDA’s budget request for 2022 make sure the Forest Service can prioritize forest management and restoration.”

The USDA’s Forest Service will also offer an additional $30 million in grants from “matching and partner funds,” bringing the total funding amount available to $45 million. The Forest Service’s Wood Innovations Grants funding awards for 2021 will include $8.9 million for 44 projects across 23 states and Puerto Rico.

“(The wood innovations grants) 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,” USDA officials said in a written statement. 

Seven of the wood innovations program’s projects are aimed at creating affordable housing by utilizing mass timber as a primary building component. Additional projects under the program will center on developing markets for emerging wood products while also supporting the installation of “new wood energy systems.”  

The forest service’s “Community Wood Grant program” will include $2.1 million in funds to support six shovel-ready projects in six states. Instituted under the 2018 Farm Bill, the community wood grant program is intended to cover costs associated with installing wood energy systems and building wood product facilities for the nation’s rural communities. 

Lastly, the service’s “Community Forest Program” will disperse $4 million in funds for 10 projects across nine states. These grants will financially assist local governments, Indian tribes and qualified nonprofit organizations in the creation and expansion of community-owned and managed forests. 

The nine states are Maine, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Michigan, Washington, Iowa, Wisconsin and West Virginia.

“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.” Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen said in a written statement. “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.”

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