2890 Kilgore Road, Suite B
Rancho Cordova, CA 95670
(916) 638-8811

June 3, 1997





 Legislative Efforts
   Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery and Economic Stability Act of 1997
   The Forest Thinning Bill


Fuel Reduction Strategy

Support For Fuel Reduction

Biomass Availability

Fuel Reduction

Integrated Timber Harvesting

Primary Timber Types

Biomass Availability For Each Site

Land Ownership

Analysis of Slopes Within Fuel Reduction Areas

Analysis of Forested vs. Non Forested Areas

Factors Influencing Biomass Feedstock Availability and Cost

Collection, Processing and Transportation







The study area includes most of the Lassen and Plumas National Forests and the Sierraville District of the Tahoe National Forest, which encompasses approximately 2.4 million acres. This forest area has been severely affected by previous drought years and insect infestation, resulting in extensive buildup of biomass fuels. Given the general absence of frequent, low intensity fire there is possibly a greater fuel accumulation and dead trees than anytime in history. In the study area, one hundred years of fire exclusion and various management activities combine to result in stand conditions which support large stand-replacing fires. Fires that have burned in forests with conditions of excessive fuels have been larger, hotter and more destructive than ever before. Suppression of these fires is difficult, hazardous, and expensive.

Califomia's forests are at risk, the direct result of too many trees competing for growing space, rainfall, and soil nutrients. Restrictions on general harvest activities and the removal of salvage trees has resulted in forests that are not only dense, but are weak, dry, and extremely flammable.

Scattered throughout the study area are numerous small rural communities most of which have been threatened by wildfire at least once in the last 20 years. As more homes are built in the wildland/urban interface, firefighting becomes increasingly complex. More fires occur from the increased association with the urban interface. It is often necessary to divert wildland firefighting resources to protect improvements, resulting in additional wildland loss.

To address these issues, the Quincy Library Group (QLG) put forth a plan to strategically thin the forests to; improve forest health, restore ecosystem balance, and reduce fire danger. The QLG proposal is a grass roots effort among members of the timber industry, the county Governments of Lassen, Plumas and Sierra, fisheries and environmental groups to agree on how selected local national forest resources should be managed. The QLG has described the desired future forest condition as: “all age, multi-story, fire-resistant forest approximating pre-settlement conditions.” The silvicultural strategies recommended by the QLG to achieve this condition are intermediate thinning, and regeneration harvest using group selection and single tree selection.

Discussions between the QLG and the various Forests led to changes in projects proposed for funding through the $4.7 million redirected to the Forest Health Pilot (FHP) project. Fuel reduction, watershed restoration, monitoring, and land management planninc, projects are included in the FHP.


The objective of the Feasibility Study is to determine the economic, environmental and regulatory feasibility of siting one or more Forest Biomass to Ethanol manufacturing facilities in Northeastern California. This assessment by TSS Consultants (TSS) will address the availability of biomass and the economics of collection, processing and transporting the biomass material to potential project sites for use as a feedstock in the conversion to fuel ethanol and cogenerated electricity.


TSS has prepared the following assessment by reviewing available data provided by the U.S. Forest Service, contacting other individuals knowledgeable of biomass available within the study area and by making field visits to the project area. TSS's past knowledge and experience in the biomass supply within this geogaphic area was used as a basis for the assessment.

The assurance of a long term biomass feedstock supply at a reasonable price is a critical element in the successful operation of this proposed biomass to ethanol facility. This report reviews the estimated biomass feedstock generated on an annual basis, the economics of collection, processing and transportation of the biomass feedstock and the level of risk associated with the supply of biomass feedstock.

Legislative Efforts

Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery and Economic Stability Act of 1997

During the 1st Session of the 105th CONGRESS, (February 27, 1997) local Congressman Wally Herger introduced H.R. 858. As of the date of this report, this legislation is in the Committee on Resources. This legislation was originally introduced during the 104th CONGRESS 2nd Session, by Congressman Herger as, H.R. 4082 (introduced 9/17/96). This legislation will direct the Secretary of Agriculture to conduct a pilot project on designated lands within the Plumas, Lassen, and Tahoe National Forests in the State of California to demonstrate the effectiveness of the resource management activities proposed by the Quincy Library Group and to amend current land and resource management plans for these national forests to consider the incorporation of these resource management activities. This federal legislation aims to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire in northern Sierra Nevada forests by using a resource management approach recognized by the Quincy Library Group as more appropriate than the past even-age management approach. The QLG approach is designed to focus all treatment activities in a strategic manner that results in the network of defensible fuel profile zones in a short time frame. The measure would establish a five-pilot project on three national forests to test a "common-sense plan" by the alliance of environmentalists, timber industry, and local officials said Rep. Wally Herger (R-CA). The measure would require the Forest Service to reduce forest fuels on 50,000 acres a year through logging the smaller, crowded trees to provide enough material to keep local sawmills in operation.

During the 104th Congress this legislation was referred to the Committee on Resources and Agriculture as well as the Subcommittee on Resource Conservation, Research and Forestry and the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Lands, then withdrawn by the QLG because of the need to work with environmental interests.

The Forest Thinning Bill

Another effort in California during 1996 was, AB 1357 (Knowles), "the Forest Thinning Bill" which provides incentives for all landowners to care for their property by thinning out dense, suppressed trees without the costly and bureaucratic Timber Harvest Plan paperwork. This legislation was signed by the Governor on September 19, 1996. Like other exemptions, AB 1357 would require all scientifically proven forest practice rules authorized under existing law to be followed with the direction of a licensed professional forester. California has the most comprehensive forest practice rules regulating small ownership and commercial timberland management in the world.

Thinning activities under this bill would be limited to only those which will "reduce the rate of spread, duration and intensity of a wildfire." The bill also mandates compliance with recent forest rule developments that result in the development of timber stands with higher basal areas than required by the minimum standards. The legislation will result in the retention of larger trees by focusing on the smaller trees that contribute to the overstocked conditions. This approach will result in the retained trees being more free to grow and less susceptible to stand replacing fire.


There are still residual effects of the drought during the late 1980's and early 90's. California wildfires burned larger and hotter during 1996. According to the National Interagency Coordination Center in Boise, Idaho more than 600,000 acres were burned, almost 11 percent of the nation's burned area, accounting for the worst fire season in 4 decades.

The following Table 1.1 reflects the fire history for the previous five years by direct protection area. Direct protection area refers to those areas where the agencies actually provide the people and equipment to put the fire out.


Table 1.1   California Fire History By Direct Protection Area

  1991 1992 1993 1994 1995
Direct Protection Area Acres Acres Acres Acres Acres
CDF 23,100 191,490 122,606 140,792 121,198
USFS 10,100 66,050 11,753 239,313 20,055
Contract Counties 2,300 4,915 119,527 26,200 10,203
US BLM 2,700 19,169 49,139 115,537 40,480
National Park Service 6,000 1,121 6,754 4,377 17,879
Total 44,200 282,745 309,779 526,219 209,815
5 - Year Average 287,072 360,160 242,109 232,734 305,629

Fuel Reduction Strategy

Feedstock for one or more ethanol manufacturing facilities to be located in northeastern California is readily available from thinning the forest to reduce fire dancer, improve forest health and from timber harvesting residues. In July of 1995, the Forest Service prepared the "Technical Fuels Report" addressing fire hazard as a major concern. The purpose of the report was to recommend strategies with the potential to increase fire-fighter safety; reduce loss of life and property at the wildland/community interface; improve forest health and vigor; reduce fire size, severity, and level of resource damage; and protect ecosystems.

The eastern portions of the Lassen and Plumas National Forests were targeted in the report, as well as the eastern portion of the Sierraville District of the Tahoe National Forest. Three fuel reduction strategies were recommended: defensible fuel profile zones; community defense zones; and fuel reduction zones. Together they comprise the basis for a strategic fuels management program.

From National Forest lands, feedstock can be generated in the development of three types of fuels management strategies. These three fuel reduction strategies are described as follows:

Defensible Fuel Profile Zones

A defensible fuel profile zone (DFPZ) is a strategically located strip or block of land on which fuels, both living and dead, have been modified. The objective is to reduce the potential for a crown fire and to allow fire suppression personnel a safer location from which to take action against a wildfire. They are generally located in conjunction with a road system. Defensible fuel profile zones are not intended to stop Iong-range spotting. They are also not intended to take the place of widespread fuel treatment. They are, however, intended to reduce the rate of spread of a wind-driven fire. They will facilitate follow-up and treatment of adjacent areas. DFPZ's can also serve as control lines for prescribed burning,

A defensible fuel profile zone decision will be site specific and will vary with fuel type and terrain. A defensible fuel profile zone may be any size, shape, or width. They may be located alone, roads, on a ridgetop, or in a canyon bottom. It is desirable that a DFPZ be located on lands less than 30 percent slope in conjunction with a road system to provide for fire suppression and maintenance.

Community Defense Zones

A community defense zone (CDZ) is an area around or within a community where fuels have been modified to increase protection of the community from wildfire. It will also reduce the chance of fire spreading into the wildland from the community. Direct treatment may not occur over the whole area, but fuels are reduced, ladders are removed, and canopy closure is reduced to slow an approaching fire. CDZ's provide defensible space to increase effectiveness of suppression actions and firefighter safely.

Involvement and cooperation of local communities is necessary in the development of CDZ's since most of the land near the communities is privately owned. Local communities may enter into cooperative agreements with the Forest Service and other agencies to develop community defense zones. Some communities have already initiated these projects.

Each community defense zone needs to be planned in a site-specific manner, utilizing one or more of the following concepts:

1. Develop a defensible fuel profile zone around the community, or in the area at greatest risk from fire.

2. Reduce fuels within the community defense zone to a level that will not support high intensity fire.

3. Use the standards for fuel treatment immediately adjacent to structures found in California Public Resource Code 4291.

4. Consider a fuel reduction zone in the general forest area upwind of the community defense zone.

5. Work with cooperators to treat state and private land adjacent to the community defense zone.

Fire managers considered: structure density, access, fuel type, slope, fire history, fire occurrence, fire protection resources, previous or planned treatments, and land ownership when recommending community defense zones.

Fuel Reduction Zones

A fuel reduction zone (FRZ) is an area in which continuous high hazard fuels are broken up. They are designed to increase firefighter safety and reduce resistance to fire control efforts. A fuel reduction zone may be of any size or shape. They may have a higher number of snags, down logs, and canopy closure than defensible fuel profile zones. Work may be accomplished by any treatment method or combination of treatment methods.

Support For Fuel Reduction

The Western Forest Health Initiative, chartered by former Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, Thomas in 1994 states:

“Reducing fuel continuity involves an interconnected network of natural fire barriers and treated stands as zones for controlling wildfires. Following an appropriate level of landscape analysis, management practices should focus on creating “breaks” in the landscape while reducing hazard to the entire area. Breakup of continuity is the key; not treatment of the entire area. The challenge is to make these breaks part of the range of variability for the landscape rather than increase forest fragmentation.”

“Reducing fuel levels involves the rate of spread of crownfires. To limit the acreage involved in natural wildfire, it is prudent to reduce fuel levels in order to minimize catastrophic loss.”

On March 18, 1997, Forest Service Chief Dombeck outlined Forest Health Priorities in the following news release:

WASHINGTON (March 18, 1997) -Increasing prescribed fire, reducing exotic pests, restoring streamside functions, and increased forest thinning and monitoring, are some USDA Forest Service priorities for restoring forest health, according to Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck.

“While our forests are generally healthy, some timber practices of the past and the elimination of fire from fire dependent ecosystems have increased the risk of catastrophic wildfires, and increased the severity of drought, insect infestation, and disease,” Dombeck said today in testimony before the United States House of Representatives' Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health.

"We must look at restoration of forest health as an investment: an investment in the land, an investment for our children's future; an investment that will ensure productive, healthy and diverse national forests,” he said.


“But the fact is that many of our forests are sick,” he said. “We can accelerate the healing through a balanced and measured approach. This is not about "cutting it to save it. " It is about sitting down at the same table with regulatory agencies, other local managers, and citizens and taking action before we are confronted with incredibly costly fires."

He also said the restoration of ecosystems would not be quick, nor inexpensive.

“It took many decades for today's unhealthy forest conditions to develop ... and it will take an equally long time to reverse them,” Dombeck said. “But we must look at these sorts of activities as investments in the land. Investments that will often not pay dividends until our children's children are born.

Dombeck's prescription for restoring forest ecosystem health includes such things as prescribed fire, thinning, noxious weed management, fuel obliteration and maintenance, and grazing management.

The new Chief also said the Forest Service must become more focused on providing a stable supply of goods and services within the ecological limits of the land. “We must accomplish this in a manner that is ecologically responsive and fiscally responsible.

Biomass Availability

TSS is of the opinion that biomass feedstock for the QLG project can be recovered from fuel reduction strategies carried out on national forest lands such as creating Defensible Fuel Profile Zones, Community Defense Zones and Fuel Reduction Zones as well as from collecting and processing biomass from timber harvesting, operations. For the purposes of this analysis the acreage of Community Defense Zones reflected in the Technical Fuels Report has been adjusted to reflect only the acreage on national forest lands.


Fuel Reduction

TSS has evaluated the amount of biomass feedstock that could be removed from performing these fuel reduction strategies within the areas that are tributary to the QLG supply area. TSS has assumed that an aggressive program of treating 50,000 acres per year for the first five years could be initiated, followed by a program of treating approximately 18,500 acres per year for the next 15 years to effectively treat all of the identified acres within a 20 year period. The following Table 1.2 reflects the acreage of each treatment for each forest and the estimated BDT of biomass feedstock that can be recovered. For purposes of this initial assessment, TSS has assumed that an average of approximately one load of chips can be recovered per acre from these treatments, or approximately 12.5 BDT per acre. This estimate of biomass generation is based on data received from the Forest Service from fuel treatment projects as well as TSS's experience. The actual biomass generation has ranged from one-half load per acre to over two loads per acre (6.25 - 25 BDT).

Table 1.2
Estimated Fuel Treatment Acreage and Biomass Feedstock Availability

Forest Acres BDT Acres BDT Acres BDT Acres BDT
Lassen 84,676 1,058,450 57,018 712,725 106,548 1,331,850 248,242 3,103,025
Plumas 49,451 618,138 88,935 1,111,688 106,841 1,335,513 245,227 3,065,339
Tahoe 20,111 251.388 745 9,313 13,057 163,213 33,913 423,914
Total 154,238 1,927,975 146,698 1,833,726 226,446 2,830,575 527,382 6,592,278

Implementation of a fuels reduction strategy as described above within the QLG supply area could generate an annual volume of 625,000 BDT of biomass feedstock during the first five year period and sustain an annual volume of approximately 231,250 BDT of biomass feedstock during the next 15 years by treating all of the acres identified in the Technical Fuels Report that occur on national forest lands.

This level of biomass feedstock (231,250 BDT) generation per year could produce over 17 million gallons of ethanol per year at an assumed conversion rate of 75 gallons/BDT. The following Table 1.3 reflects the estimated annual biomass feedstock available from fuel treatment on national forest lands within the QLG supply area.

Table 1.3
Estimated Annual Biomass Feedstock Availability From Fuel Treatment

Source Years 1 - 5
Year 6 - 20
Fuel Treatment



The combined FY97 Forest Health Pilot Program for the Lassen and Plumas National Forests and the Sierraville District of the Tahoe National Forest will accomplish approximately 20,000 acres. The results of the FY96 Forest Health Pilot Program Fire Hazard Reduction are reflected in the following Table 1.4.


Integrated Timber Harvesting

In addition, biomass feedstock is available to the project from the residue generated as a by-product of timber harvesting operations. The quantity of this material that remains in the forest varies depending on the species, type of soil, terrain, utilization standards of forest management, and actual logging operations. This forest material, which can be used as feedstock, typically takes the form of tree tops, branches and limbs, whole trees too small for sawmill processing, and defective logs. Forest residues having biomass feedstock potential are derived from integrated logging.

The available forest residue within the QLG fuel supply area is defined as the quantity of residue that could be generated annually from logging operations. Average forest residue moisture content is estimated to range from 45 to 50 percent, depending upon species harvested and the time of the year.

Primary Timber Types

The ethanol plant processes are sensitive to the species of trees that make up the potential feedstock. The tree composition of the commercial forest land within the QLG supply area is primarily mixed conifer forest type consisting of varying mixtures of white fir, Douglas-fir, ponderosa pine, sugar pine, Jeffrey pine and incense cedar with scattered oak. With increasing elevation, the mixed conifer zone gives way to a fir belt - then predominately red fir. Within the eastside forest type the tree composition consists primarily of Jeffrey and ponderosa pine with various mixtures of other conifers depending upon location. To quantify the variety of timber types within the QLG supply area, TSS obtained the data available for existing timber types within each national forest from the U.S. Forest Service. The following Tables 1.5 through 1.7 reflect the percentage of existing, timber types by national forest. Table 1.5 reflects the percentage of existing timber types for the Lassen National Forest.

Table 1.5

Timber Type Lassen National Forest Plumas National Forest Timber Types  
Mixed conifer 57.0%    
Westside Mixed conifer   67.0%  
Eastside Mixed conifer   9.0%  
Eastside pine 29.0% 14.0%  
Red fir 10.0% Red fir  
Lodgepole pine 4.0% 6.0%  
Hardwood   4.0%  
Total 100.0% 100.0%  

Timber Types

Percent by Type


The following, Table 1.6 reflects the existing timber types on the Plumas National Forest.

The following Table 1.7 reflects the existing, timber types for the Tahoe National Forest. This data reflects the entire Tahoe National Forest and not just the Sierraville District.

Table 1.7

Tahoe National Forest Timber Types

Timber Types Percent by Type

Mixed conifer 57.5%

Red fir 16.0%

Eastside pine 16.6%

Lodgepole pine 1.5%

Hardwood/conifer 5.8%

Other 2.6%

Total 100.0%

Based upon the wide variety of tree species within the QLG supply area, additional analysis may be required to determine the ethanol recovery potential from the available feedstock for a specific plant site.

The following Figure 1.1 provides a review of historic timber harvest data from the California Board of Equalization, Timber Tax Division, indicating that during, the period of 1992 through 1995, timber harvest from public and private timberlands within the QLG area has averaged approximately 240.9 million board feet (MMBF), ranging, from a low of 207.1 MMBF in 1994 to a high of 290.7 MMBF in 1992. For this period, the harvest levels on public lands have ranged from a low of 40.1 percent in 1994 to a high of 50.2 percent in 1995.

Figure 1.1

Total Public and Private Timber Harvest Within QLG Area

Figure 1.1

Wood residue is generated as a part of normal logging operations of merchantable timber sales. Typical logging operations in this area remove the larger high quality portion of the trees for sale to sawmills. The remaining tops, limbs, and undersized trees too small for sawlogs can be chipped for biomass feedstock or left in the forest. The amount of material generated for biomass depends on the particular stand of timber and the harvesting prescription and ranges from 6 to 25 BDT per acre. The amount of biomass feedstock from forest residue sources was determined by analyzing the volume of timber harvested within the area tributary to the QLG Project Area during the past 4 years. TSS also estimated the amount of biomass that is generated from the various types of timber harvests occurring within the area in relation to the sawlog timber harvest. On the average, TSS estimated that 1.97 BDT of recoverable forest residue is generated for each thousand board feet (MBF) of sawlogs harvested. This estimate is based the assumption that if a chipper was available on the logging operation to chip tops and damaged trees, one load of chips could be generated for each load of logs that was removed. TSS further assumed a 4.75 MBF

insert page 18

QLG project. This level of biomass feedstock (706,250 BDT) Generation per year could produce almost 53 million gallons of ethanol per year at an assumed conversion rate of 75 gallons/BDT.

Table 1.8

Estimated Biomass Feedstock Generation

Source Year 1 - 5 (BDT/Year) Year 6- 20 (BDT/Year)

Timber Harvest Operations 475,000 475,000

Fuel Treatment 625,000 231,250

Total 1,100,000 706,250

Although data is not readily available for quantifying the public and private timber harvest within a 25 - mile radius of each of the proposed sites, TSS was asked to make this estimate based upon the best data available in conjunction with information from individuals knowledgeable within the QLG area. TSS used the last 4 years average public and private timber harvest data previously calculated within the QLG area, then estimated the percentage of harvest within a 25 - mile radius of each of the sites to calculate an estimate of the timber harvest.

As was done for the estimate for the entire QLG area, TSS estimated the amount of biomass that would be generated from this harvest on an annual basis. The following Tables 1.9 through 1.12 reflect the public and private timber harvest estimate within a 25 - mile radius of each site and TSS's estimate of the BDT of biomass generated on an annual basis.


Sunday, January ,(, /),( 0(:,(:,( AM