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The NH Wood Energy Council (NHWEC), a not-for-profit public education and outreach organization, released a new report this week that documents the economic and environmental benefits of heating community, commercial and institutional buildings with modern wood chip and pellet technology.


NHWEC analyzed the use of wood fuels in calendar year 2015 in hospitals, schools, municipal buildings, and private businesses across the state. In the last 10 years, more than 120 new installations have been made, nearly always replacing imported heating oil.

Key findings of the 2015 analysis include:

* Savings in annual heating costs (versus average fossil fuel cost) - $11.8 million.
* Direct spending on local fuels (wood pellets and chips instead of exporting fuel dollars for oil) - $5.8 million.
* Total value of economic impact generated - $35.9 million.
* Net reduction in CO2 emissions (by switching to wood fuels) - 69,091 tons.

"It's clear that advanced wood heating technology is generating significant benefits for New Hampshire, said Rick DeMark, coordinator of NHWEC. "Modern, clean wood chip and pellet boilers are now heating a wide array of bigger buildings in our state. By switching to wood fuels, we keep our fuel dollars here, support our local economy and improve our forest resource base."

The study documented wood fuel use in these buildings at 7,500 tons of pellets and 94,000 tons of wood chips during 2015. These fuels are nearly entirely produced within N.H., supporting hundreds of jobs.

The study did not evaluate residential use of wood and wood pellets, which has also grown dramatically in NH. A study of US Census Bureau data by the Alliance for Green Heat found that wood use as a primary heating fuel grew more than 90 percent from 2000 to 2010 in New Hampshire, to more than eight percent of households, or about 36,000 households.

"NH exports over $600 million for fossil heating fuels annually," said Charlie Niebling, a consultant with Innovative Natural Resource Solutions and author of the study. "We can sustainably displace about 25 percent of this with modern wood heating from New Hampshire forests. This transition can create jobs and economic opportunity at a tim
e when other low-grade forest product markets like pulp and paper are declining, and support good forest management."

The full schedule of Professional Logger Program (PLP) classes for fall is now posted on the website, and registration for each class is available online. 
 
See the full class list here; click on the title of any class to reach the web page for that specific class, including general information, registration and payment, location, and directions. 
 
 
 
Current use tax rates in New Hampshire remain attractive for timberland owners. The New Hampshire State Current Use Board determines current use rates, and the Board has initiated rulemaking proceedings for new rates.

Proposed new current use tax rates are:
 
Forestland with documented stewardship:
White Pine- $84.77/acre
Hardwood - $38.14/acre
Other - $26.96/acre
 
Forestland without documented stewardship:
White Pine - $141.28
Hardwood - $63.56
Other - $44.93
 
Because these rates reflect timber stumpage values and market activity averaged from the past five years, we see a two-to-seven percent increase. The NHTOA is not opposing the proposed rates. Our expectation is that once the soft 2016/2017 pulp and biomass stumpage values are calculated into this five-year average, next year we will begin to see these rates reflect the current downward market trend for low-grade timber (pulpwood and biomass chips).
 
Public forums on the proposed new rates and other rule changes are scheduled for the first and second week of November. These forums provide the public an opportunity to give feedback and comments on the proposed tax assessment rates, and this year the public will be asked to provide comments on a number of proposed rule changes, including:

 

1. How should the rules define "structures". In recent years there has been confusion over what qualifies as a structure and would make a property ineligible for current use assessment (e.g. portable paddock shelter for livestock, water lines for watering troughs, fences, etc.), and


 

2. Should the rule's consideration of parcels less than 10 acres in size, where the annual agricultural revenue is greater than $2,500, consider more value-added products (e.g. livestock products)?

 
At the forums, officials from the Department of Revenue Administration will also provide an overview of the Current Use assessment law, an explanation of how the agricultural soil potential index (used to calculate Current Use assessment rates on some agricultural lands) works, and how local assessing officials can consider the impacts of the 2016 drought when calculating the Current Use assessment rates for agricultural lands.
 
Here is the forum schedule, with locations:
 
Nov. 3, 6:00 p.m., North Country Resource Center, Lancaster, N.H. (this is the Department of Resources and Economic Development and UNH Cooperative Extension office north of Lancaster village and fairgrounds).

Nov. 7, 6:00 p.m., Town Hall, Wakefield, N.H.

Nov. 10, 10:00 a.m., the N.H. Department of Revenue Administration office, Concord, N.H.
 
The NHTOA urges it members to attend a forum to show support for the Current Use assessment program and provide input into the process.
"While the [Professional Logging Contractors of Maine, PLC] has a deep respect for the rights of private landowners, we also believe it is their responsibility to act in ways that do not harm the livelihoods of their neighbors," wrote Dana Doran, PLC's executive director, in an editorial published last December. "The designation of a national monument on the [Elliotsville Plantation Inc., EPI] land through executive order will only serve to further divide communities already split over the issue and discourage investment in future markets in the region."
But despite the efforts of PLC and other logging organizations to negotiate a compromise that would allow some management within EPI land, that property was designated a national monument by Pres. Obama in August, named the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. The designation effectively removes 87,500 acres of Maine timberland from active management. 
"Supporters of a national monument designation may be under the illusion that the parcel EPI wishes to donate to the federal government, as well as the surrounding land, is a pristine wilderness of old growth trees and undisturbed land. In fact, the land and most of the region have been working forests for generations," wrote Doran. "The beauty people see there today is a result of responsible forest management and logging. Loggers are critical to this responsible management. Preserving Maine's forests as 'working forests' is the best way to ensure their protection and health for future generations."
To read the full editorial, click here.
To read the NY Times' coverage of the new national monument, click here.