Future of Ozark forests hangs on woody biomass demand

Fallen limbs and leaves of scarlet oak littered an otherwise pristine Ozark forest on Friday near Highway 19 in Shannon County. Meanwhile, Jay Duncan of J & G Logging carefully felled a single tree on Pioneer Forest’s land.

Some foresters say residuals from those selective cuts can feed the growing demand for woody biomass, while others argue it’s bad for the Ozarks.

Selective cutting provides ample resources for woody biomass, argues Peter Becker of the Eastern Ozarks Forestry Council. Jason Green of Pioneer Forestry agrees, but says the demand for woody biomass will lead to clear cutting.

“It’s going to have to be a very controlled type of process, and that of course is probably the concern that Pioneer has,” Becker said. “In general we haven’t shown very good control.”

As biomass energy becomes more popular, foresters’ control — and the ability to put management ahead of demand — will determine the fate of the Ozark forests.

— By Tony Schick, Edited by Sarah Alban

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