Increasingly, conservationists are pushing for timber thinning on federal land as a means of ecological restoration and fire-fuel reduction. In Oregon, roughly 5.6 million acres need thinning, more than any other state.

Unfortunately, most of the thinned timber is being wasted—simply piled and burned. Luckily, new technologies that convert biomass to usable energy, can perhaps begin to offset the Northwest’s dependence on expensive fossil fuel imports. One of the big upsides of biomass is that it would keep money circulating locally, rather than pumping it to North Slope oil corporations.

At present, unfortunately, biomass energy in Oregon hasn’t caught fire because producers are worried that there won’t be a steady and predictable supply of thinned timber. Of course, that’s exactly what has environmentalists worried too. Obviously, it’s a shame to waste natural resources and money, but many conservationists are equally worried that biomass energy could unleash a demand for federal timber that could outlive the thinning projects and exert harvesting pressure on national forests far into the future.

Read all about it in today’s Oregonian.