2009 Plum Creek Lecture

The Economic and Ecological Implications of Biomass Utilization from Rocky Mountain Forests

September 22-24, 2009

The Plum Creek Conference on Forests and Energy brought in experts in ecology and economics as well as individuals currently involved in the field of biomass utilization to give lectures and lead workshops that addressed the following questions:

  • How can biomass best be used as a source of renewable energy, locally and nationally?
  • What are the ecological implications of utilizing woody biomass and what does this mean for forest management?
  • What is the economic feasibility of utilizing biomass for energy in the Rocky Mountain forest region?

The goal of the conference was to identify the areas of agreement and gaps in knowledge with respect to the sustained use of energy from forests to supply energy needs for people while addressing the broad impacts of a changing global climate.

Presentations - slides and videos

Forest biomass: Making the most out of scarce natural resources;Elaine Oneil, Research Scientist at the University of Washington and the Executive Director of CORRIM (Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials) Presentation slides (PDF)

Moving biomass: Technology, economics, and feasibilityRobert Rummer, Project Leader, Forest Operations Research to Achieve Sustainable Management Presentation slides (PDF)

Sustainable biomass energy: Public policy opportunitiesAndrea Colnes, Policy and Development Director, Biomass Energy Resource Center (BERC), Montpelier VT Presentation slides (PDF)

Rekindling Wood Energy in America: What wood teaches us about energyDaniel deB. Richter Jr., Professor of Soils and Forest Ecology, University Program in Ecology, Southern Center for Sustainable Forests, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Durham, NC Presentation slides (PDF)


Andrea Colnes currently serves and the Policy and Development Director for the Biomass Energy Resources Center in Montpelier, Vermont. Her work focuses on efforts to advance efficient, sustainable, community scaled biomass energy in the northeast and across the country. Andi has spent much of her career working on natural resource public policy and coalition building throughout New England and elsewhere in the country. Her background in energy issues began with work on Vermont’s first Comprehensive Energy Plan under Governor Madeleine Kunin. More recently, she worked closely with BERC and partners on the Northern Forest Biomass Energy Initiative. Andi served as founding Executive Director of the Northern Forest Alliance, Policy Director of the Northern Forest Center, and Deputy Director of the Vermont Natural Resources Council. She also co-founded Americans for Our Heritage and Recreation and the Eastern Forest Partnership and helped launch the National Rural Assembly. Prior to joining BERC, Andi served as the Policy Leadership Director for the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire.

Elaine Oneil is a research scientist at the University of Washington and the Executive Director of CORRIM (Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials), a 15 university research consortium that has spent the last 13 years conducting life cycle inventory and life cycle assessments on wood products from cradle to grave. She has a PhD from the University of Washington, where she studied climate change impacts on forest health in Inland West forests while working on multiple projects related to forest carbon, forest management, and Washington State’s timber supply analysis and climate impact studies. Prior to her mid career return to academia, Elaine worked as a Professional Forester (RPF) in central British Columbia in both consulting and government forestry positions.

Daniel deB. Richter Jr. is currently Professor of Soils and Forest Ecology and Director of Graduate Studies for the Ecology Program at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. He completed a B.A. at Lehigh, graduate studies at Mississippi State and North Carolina State Universities, and a Ph.D. at Duke, before joining the faculty at the University of Michigan in 1984 and at Duke in 1987. Richter has served as advisor to over 100 masters of forestry and environmental management students and 13 PhD graduates. Dan chaired the successful SAF-reaccreditation committee for Duke in 1997-98 and is currently leading an effort to reaccredit Duke’s MF program and to propose accreditation standards for graduate-professional forestry education in general. He is principle investigator for the 50-year old Calhoun Experimental Forest, the international network of Long-Term Soil-Ecosystem Experiments (LTSEs), and the Southern Center for Sustainable Forests. He is the author of over 110 scientific papers and a Cambridge University Press book, Understanding Soil Change

Robert Rummer leads the Forest Operations Research Unit which currently has a major emphasis on woody biomass harvesting and transport. Personal areas of study include alternative biomass transport systems, mechanical fuel reduction treatments, harvest of woody biomass. Because of work in this area, Dr. Rummer serves on the Forest Products Lab Biomass Grant Review committee; is a member of the National Woody Biomass Utilization Group; is a member of the Interagency Feedstock Logistics Working Group of the Biomass R&D Board; and provides technical consultation on the topic of woody biomass harvest and transport.