As forest biomass utilization becomes cost effective to harvest, more areas at risk of catastrophic wildfire can be thinned of dense brush and small diameter trees. In an effort to increase biomass utilization, the USDA Forest Service granted more than $36 million in National Fire Plan-Economic Action Program funds in the western United States during fiscal years 2001 to 2003. Interviews with program coordinators and grant recipients were used to characterize the types of investment strategies used and to assess accomplishments relative to national fuels reduction objectives. Findings include a strong emphasis on grants leveraging other funding sources, coordination of resources to increase utilization capacity, and the need for technical assistance to facilitate project design and implementation. We conclude that community assistance programs may help to create the type of utilization capacity necessary to reduce hazardous fuels, but that sustained progress will depend on synergistic activities on multiple fronts and improved demonstration of program accomplishments.
- Biomass utilization
- Community assistance programs
- Hazardous fuel reduction
- Western United States