The timbers that line Timber Rise Farm, a 10-acre woodlands-style farm in southeastern Ohio, are just one of hundreds of acres of wooded property across the U.S. that are being developed as part of the National Rural Land Investment Act.
This is a key moment for rural America, as timber industry leaders argue that the United States is heading for a future dominated by the use of biomass and other renewable resources.
The National Rural Development Association, a trade group representing timber industry stakeholders, recently released a draft environmental assessment of the timber farm proposal, which outlines some of the most pressing environmental concerns and recommendations for action.
The report, which was released by the National Environmental Policy Act Advisory Board on Dec. 6, 2016, includes a detailed analysis of the impacts on land, water and wildlife, along with a range of other key findings.
“It’s not an easy situation for rural communities, but there are many ways to make sure we are not putting our future ahead of our own people,” said Bill Hensley, president of the NREPA advisory board.
The NREAPA’s assessment says that the forest-to-home conversion project, which is slated to begin this spring, will create significant new threats to land, air and wildlife.
The assessment points to “the potential impacts on the health and safety of forestland, and on water quality and water supply,” among other issues.
Some of the problems it identifies are as follows: The project’s impact on wildlife habitat and habitat types, and the impact on water supplies, air quality and groundwater.
The project would result in increased use of large amounts of nitrogen in the soils.
The environmental impacts of the project include: The release of large quantities of phosphorus and nitrogen.
The release, through the project, of greenhouse gases and greenhouse gases releases into the atmosphere.
These emissions are “not a benign environmental process,” the assessment notes, and “will cause adverse health impacts, including impacts to wildlife.”
In addition, the assessment adds that “it would not be possible to complete the project safely, safely, and responsibly,” due to the impact of wind turbines and other large-scale, high-voltage power lines on water, wildlife and land.
This could include the destruction of wildlife habitat, water quality, air, wildlife habitat areas and the impacts of erosion.
“Land use and development impacts” could include increased water availability, increased water demand, increased erosion, increased flood risk, increased fire risk, loss of wildlife habitats, loss or destruction of timber habitat, increased human health risks, increased noise and vibration and increased risks of disease transmission.
These impacts are “serious,” the NNEA’s summary notes, but not “negligible” because they do not pose a “significant risk of catastrophic loss of forest land or human life.”
These effects include “significant impacts” on “natural resource quality and quantity.”
The assessment also notes that the project will require extensive and costly maintenance, which could create an economic burden on the communities impacted by the project.
These issues are addressed in the assessment.
The timber project has been a controversial issue in the area, and concerns about the project have been raised by environmentalists.
In addition to the NREL advisory board, NREAPS board of directors includes representatives from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio Department for Natural Resources Conservation, Ohio Natural Resources Council, American Timber Alliance, Ohio Forest Service, Ohio State University, Ohio Valley Timber and other stakeholders.
The review comes as the Trump administration has pushed forward with its plans to slash the federal forests, including through the REDD+ program, which aims to help rural communities transition from timber production to other energy sources.
The Trump administration is also considering cutting funding for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which provides assistance to communities affected by the economic downturn.