Shaheen Urges Forest Service to Institute Competition to Explore New Uses for Mass Timber

December 14, 2018

(Washington, DC) – Yesterday, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and a bipartisan group of lawmakers called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to support an award program for educational institutes who explore new potential uses for mass timber. In a letter the Senators point to the previous success of similar programs through USDA and the U.S. Forest Service, and highlight that the innovative solutions developed through a potential competition would help create a stronger and healthier forest products market all while improving the environment.

“In 2015, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the USDA had tremendous success in bringing attention to the potential use of wood in tall buildings with the first U.S. Tall Wood Building Prize Competition. We believe an award program utilizing an educational institution is an ideal next step to teach and demonstrate to the next generation of decision-makers, engineers, architects, planners and builders the benefits of mass timber,” wrote the Senators. “Mass timber technology can help colleges and universities across the nation achieve their sustainability goals.  Stronger markets create an incentive for landowners to ensure forest land is managed sustainably to reduce wildfire risk and help maintain a high monetary value for timber.  Further, mass timber use at our nation’s colleges and universities has the additional benefit of supporting wood product markets at the local level.”

Senator Shaheen has long advocated for America’s forests and initiatives that would survey and repurpose biomass for clean energy initiatives. Earlier this week, both Chambers of Congress passed the bipartisan Farm bill that includes Shaheen’s Community Wood Energy Innovation Act, bipartisan legislation with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) that incentivizes investments in energy-efficient wood energy systems and supports facilities that repurpose low-grade, low-value wood that would otherwise be sent to landfills. In February, Shaheen introduced the Forest Incentives Program Act, legislation that would provide incentives for private forest owners to improve and maintain sustainable forest management and for non-residential building owners to use less energy-intensive products, such as wood, as building materials.

The letter was signed by U.S. Senators Angus King (I-ME), Susan Collins (R-ME), James Risch (R-ID), Tina Smith (D-MN), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Roger Wicker (R-MS).

The full letter is available HERE, and text of the letter can be found below:

The Honorable Sonny Perdue

Secretary

U.S. Department of Agriculture

1400 Independence Ave., S.W.

Washington, DC 20250

Dear Secretary Perdue:

We write today to express our appreciation of the USDA’s efforts to promote innovative wood uses, and to support a mass timber competition for institutions of higher education.  Such a competition will not only provide opportunities for our future decision makers to utilize a remarkable new material, but also help create a stronger and healthier forest products market all while improving the environment. Colleges and universities are also well adept at leveraging seed money with other public and private funds, and could therefore make very efficient use of a federal mass timber competition award.

In 2015, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the USDA had tremendous success in bringing attention to the potential use of wood in tall buildings with the first U.S. Tall Wood Building Prize Competition. We believe an award program utilizing an educational institution is an ideal next step to teach and demonstrate to the next generation of decision-makers, engineers, architects, planners and builders the benefits of mass timber. 

Mass timber technology can help colleges and universities across the nation achieve their sustainability goals.  Stronger markets create an incentive for landowners to ensure forest land is managed sustainably to reduce wildfire risk and help maintain a high monetary value for timber.  Further, mass timber use at our nation’s colleges and universities has the additional benefit of supporting wood product markets at the local level.

We appreciate the assistance the USDA has provided thus far, and look forward to working with you on making the mass timber higher education competition a success.

Sincerely,