Land management agencies expend millions of dollars and labor hours on forest thinning projects as a necessary response to the threat of uncontrollable wildfire. Firefighters use chainsaws and hand tools to selectively cut down and remove living a dead wood and debris to promote forest health. These forest thinnings are typically gathered into “burn piles” and set on fire for disposal during optimal weather conditions.
Instead of burning the fuels on-site for disposal, which results in waste and smoke pollution, the materials could be removed to an off-site biomass processing facility (biorefinery) and converted into ethanol. The forest thinning products that would otherwise go to waste would be used as a renewable energy source. This would result in several improvements in efficiency and financial/labor expenditures:
1) Reduce the amount of labor hours required by firefighters to burn and monitor the forest thinnings;
2) Reduce the potential threat of an expensive and destructive wildfire that could result from burn piles becoming out of control;
3) Partner land management agencies with private industry to produce mutually beneficial and environmentally friendly action; and
4) Improve government efficiency by reducing waste and supporting renewable energy objectives.