28 May 2022, US: Today during a visit to the Junction Development Catalyst project site in West Des Moines, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced more than $32 million to fund 2022 wood innovations and community wood grants. Bolstered by $12 million from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, these grants aim 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 Junction Development Catalyst project is funded by a wood innovations grant from 2021 and uses wood construction known as mass timber to build affordable housing in West Des Moines. Mass timber 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 largely avoids the fossil energy emissions from the manufacturing of many conventional building materials. The mass timber material for the Junction Development Catalyst project was produced in Oregon from small-diameter Douglas fir trees.
“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 Secretary 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.”
“With continued USDA investment and with the ongoing support of President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, this vision is getting closer every day,” said Secretary Vilsack.
Secretary Vilsack also said that funded projects align with President Biden’s Executive Order to advance racial equity and support underserved communities. In response to that direction, the USDA Forest Service is supporting the manufacturing base in rural, forest-based communities and funding equipment upgrades to reduce pollution and emissions.
In addition to the $32 million from the USDA Forest Service, the wood innovations and community wood grant programs leverage $93 million in partner funds, bringing the total to more than $125 million for 99 projects. The grants include funds to help Tribes, local governments, and qualified non-profit organizations develop and maintain forest markets critical to maintaining healthy, resilient, and productive forests.
Many of the funded projects will help reduce hazard trees that fuel catastrophic wildfires as envisioned in the new Forest Service 10 Year Strategy to Confront the Wildfire Crisis. These projects cover activities ranging from the development of district wood heating systems and small-scale sawmill operations in Western states, to the continued expansion of markets for mass timber, biochar, and other emerging wood products.