Drax and American Forest Foundation launch initiative to support private landowners maintain sustainable forests
Drax Biomass and the American Forest Foundation (AFF) has announced a multi-year project to invest in the future of small family landowners around Drax’s Morehouse BioEnergy facility in Northeast Louisiana.
The five-year, $1.1 million (€1.03m) project – the “Morehouse Family Forests Initiative” (MFFI) – will provide landowners with the tools and resources to implement forest management practices that can increase the commercial, recreational and ecological value of their lands, and maintain crucial habitat for the region’s diverse wildlife.
Drax Biomass is a manufacturer of compressed wood pellets produced from sustainably managed working forests. AFF is a leading forest conservation organization that works with individual and family landowners to keep their forests healthy and productive.
MFFI aims to increase the number of family landowners in Northeast Louisiana and Southeast Arkansas that actively manage their lands in accordance with the principles of sustainable forestry.
Specifically, the project will encourage habitat improvements, forest biodiversity and certification in the American Tree Farm System, an internationally recognised certification program specifically designed for family and small forest owners, which is administered by AFF.
MFFI support the Southern Woods for At-Risk Wildlife Partnership, a programme recently launched by AFF and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to help Southern family forest owners protect at-risk wildlife, while at the same time encouraging sustainable wood production.
‘Commitment to sustainability’
“Drax Biomass is excited to join with AFF to increase our engagement with local landowners and support their forest management efforts,” said Pete Madden, president and CEO of Drax Biomass.
He added: “Our business is built on a commitment to sustainability, and this commitment compels us to work closely with our suppliers – both current and prospective – to promote greater adoption of sustainable forest management practices. Healthy forests benefit everyone, so we look forward to working with AFF and our neighbours on this important effort.”
Last year, AFF released a report, Southern Wildlife At Risk: Family Forest Owners Offer a Solution, that found family forest owners, who own nearly 60% of the forests across the South, are key to ensuring the sustainability of the region’s forests.
According to the report, 87% of surveyed landowners said the protection and improvement of wildlife habitat is a top reason for owning land. Seventy-two percent have already implemented one or more forest management practice to support wildlife conservation, with 73% indicating a desire to do more in the future.
The same study also found that the cost of wildlife habitat improvement is a key barrier to action. In many cases, the potential revenue generated from harvesting operations, including thinning for improved stand productivity can help offset these costs and incentivise greater implementation of forest management practices.
As evidence of this market response, 85% of surveyed landowners who harvest or thin their forests have also implemented other wildlife-improvement activities, as opposed to only 62% of those landowners who haven’t harvested or thinned.
“Today’s (6 March, 2017) announcement shows that Drax Biomass is ‘stepping up to the plate’ to ensure that more and more of America’s family-owned forest lands are managed sustainably,” said Tom Martin, president and CEO of AFF.
He added: “At AFF, we are committed to working with family landowners so that our forests continue to be healthy and productive. When we are successful, the world can get the energy it needs from sustainably produced biomass, while wildlife will get the habitat it needs to support healthy populations. By partnering with Drax Biomass, we will be able to expand our work into a new region of the country.”