Article by Dan Shell
Lumber-producing companies make investments all the time to capitalize on targeted resources and wood baskets. What kind of investment would it take to handle 1.097 billion BF of mostly small logs and 152 million cubic feet of biomass in five years? And that’s in a wood basket spread across 200,000 acres with a wide variance in volume distribution. And there are currently only two relatively small sawmills and a 28 MW biomass power plant to process any of it. Oh, and there are also very few logging and log hauling companies in the state thanks to poor forest policies in the past. And remember this is only five years of a 20-year contract.
That’s what the Forest Service (FS) in Arizona, along with state officials and anxious local communities, want to know: What company or organization can take on landscape scale forest restoration activities across 800,000 acres and process and handle billions of board feet of logs and many million cubic feet of biomass and efficiently execute a far reaching 20-year stewardship contract? Part of the FS’ 4 Forests Restoration Initiative (4FRI) that seeks to restore up to 2.4 million acres across four national forests, the Phase 2 4FRI contract’s request for proposals was released in mid September, covering up to 800,000 acres over 20 years. The contract’s initial five-year harvest plan has identified 1.097 billion BF and 152 million cubic feet of biomass (enough to fill the Rose Bowl seven times) in approved and ready-to-go task orders.
This comes on the heels of 4FRI’s Phase 1 contract initially awarded in 2012 with an aim to restore 250,000 acres over 10 years that, for a variety of reasons but mostly lack of infrastructure and biomass markets, has actually restored less than 20,000 acres in six years. With Phase 2, it’s obvious what the FS is trying to do: provide a solid 20-year commitment in resources to hopefully draw the kind of investments required to process the material coming off hundreds of “task order” projects spread across hundreds of thousands of acres.
There’s a real impetus on the part of federal and state and local officials to find a way to make these projects happen, and lots of options are on the table, from things like a state renewable energy policy and political will to utilize more biomass to developing the collaborative public-private partnerships that can marshal the tremendous manpower and resources required.
In some of the Phase 2 contract materials, the FS says it’s seeking “proposals that are sustainable, innovative and cost-effective,” and, acknowledging the scale of the contract, noted that “teaming and partnering between large and small businesses is authorized and encouraged.”
According to the FS, proposals need to provide detailed technical, financial and business information that demonstrate an understanding of wood supply, biomass treatments and both physical and logistical operating conditions.
An early partial list of entities that asked for contract information include familiar names such as Campbell Global, Godfrey Forest Products, Neiman Enterprises, Wellons, Novo Biopower, Summitt Forests and a host of others.
We wish them all success: The forests of Arizona depend on them.