by Patti Case
Public and Regulatory Affairs manager for Green Diamond Resource Company
Welcome to the Olympic Peninsula, where Green Diamond Resource Company owns vast acres of timberland. Our company has its roots here (pun intended); 120 years ago Sol Simpson founded Simpson Logging Company in the heart of this rainy country, and today Green Diamond is still privately owned by Sol’s descendants.
Western Washington is undoubtedly timber country, a wood basket to the world. Washington also is home to some of the toughest forest practices regulations in the world, protecting soil productivity, clean water, fish and wildlife, and ensuring long-term sustainability.
The use of woody biomass to produce energy is one more component of this stewardship. We used to call it slash. It was in the way of planting a new forest, so foresters once employed broadcast burning, torching the woody debris where it lay in harvest units. It made for fantastic sunsets over the Olympic Mountains – and, admittedly, impacted air quality.
Several years ago, broadcast burning was replaced by controlled burning, in which foresters pile the debris, wait till a drizzly day in October or so, then burn the piles in order to open up planting sites. Near busy roads, state law requires forest landowners to abate the hazard of wildfire presented by wood slash as these residuals dry out.
Gathering wood residuals and shipping them to a biomass facility presents a positive alternative to reduce the risk of wildfire and clear areas for reforestation – one that is not economically viable unless woody biomass is needed for power generation.
State law requires that forest landowners leave both standing trees and down wood in harvested areas, to provide wildlife habitat and enrich soils. Green Diamond foresters will supervise biomass removal on our land, to ensure that sufficient woody debris is left behind and that biomass removal equipment does not compact soils. After all, forestry is a long term business. We’ve been on this landscape for 120 years, and we intend to be here for future generations, as well.