In Des Moines, Iowa on Friday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced more than $32 million to fund 2022 wood innovations and community wood grants.

“Wood innovation and community wood grants projects like these show us how we can tackle problems like the wildfire crisis and climate change while creating new markets, supporting jobs, building affordable housing and improving conditions on our forests at the same time,” said Sec. Vilsack. “Removing hazardous trees that would otherwise threaten wildfire-prone communities and having rural, forest-based economies turn those materials into renewable building and energy products, stand as examples of how a clean energy economy is within reach.”

Forest products are one of Alabama’s largest industries as over 70% of the state is forested.

President Joe Biden’s bipartisan Build Back Better Infrastructure Law provided $12 million to the program. The grant intends to expand the use of wood products, strengthen emerging wood markets and support active management to improve forest health and resilience, especially in light of the ongoing nationwide wildfire crisis.

The USDA touts the value of mass timber, stating that it is an all-purpose, sturdy and renewable material that can be used in lieu of traditional materials like steel and concrete with comparable strength and versatility. Wood buildings can store significant amounts of carbon and mass timber construction. Additionally, wood materials largely avoid the fossil energy emissions from the manufacturing.

The mass timber material for the Junction Development Catalyst project was produced in Oregon from small-diameter Douglas fir trees. Sawed timber is cut from much larger diameter trees. Growing a forest to larger diameter trees requires periodic thinning. Currently, most of those thinning trees are used for pulpwood. As the economy has shifted to electronic storage of information instead of paper files, newspapers, and books the demand for pulpwood has declined, resulting in lower revenues for forest owners and increasingly dense forests that are overdue thinning.

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