By Elizabeth Zach, RCAC staff writer

Pile of tree logs to use for building.The California Natural Resources Agency says that forests can provide more than lumber, pointing to an emerging “biomass” industry that could spur rural economic growth.

In its report “Recommendations to Expand Wood Products Markets in California,” agency officials recommend:

  • Remove Barriers to Market and Create Pathways for Success: To attract investors, state agencies can facilitate the permitting process, support product testing, align regulatory requirements and address financing challenges.
  • Promote Innovation: Create an infrastructure that would bring new wood products from California to the market.
  • Invest in Human Capital: Work closely with California’s public technical colleges and higher education systems to train the workforce needed to support the new industry.

In commissioning the report, the agency is following in the footsteps of other states that have looked to biomass to revive rural communities hard hit by the timber industry downturn. Construction on the country’s first high-rise building made of timber will begin soon in Portland, Oregon, and the University of Idaho is planning a new basketball arena made out of wood.

California’s state legislature will consider the report, and has directed the agency via SB 859 to identify how the state could better approach the health of its forests.

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