Manchin: Reforestation And New, Innovative Forest Products Bring Incredible Opportunity To Rural Communities

Witnesses highlight wealth of opportunities to create jobs and invest in local communities in West Virginia

May 20, 2021

To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s opening remarks, please click here.

To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s questioning, please click here.

Washington, DC – Today, the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to examine the role of reforestation, active forest management, and carbon storage in fostering resiliency. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chairman of the Committee, questioned Dr. Thomas W. Crowther, Chief Scientific Advisor, United Nations’ Trillion Trees Initiative, on how reforestation on abandoned mine lands presents an opportunity to restore those areas and create safer and more inhabitable communities.

“In West Virginia there are currently over 170,000 acres of un-reclaimed abandoned mine lands, and 1-in-3 West Virginians live within a 1-mile radius of an AML site. As you discussed, I am very interested in bringing economic activity back to these sites, but I also understand that trying to re-establish trees on these sites can be especially difficult. Dr. Crowther, do these sites represent the types of areas you are considering in the United Nations’ Trillion Tree Initiative?” asked Chairman Manchin.

“It's great that you mentioned that. Natural regeneration presents an unbelievable opportunity for regenerating ecosystems, and nature always tends to do it better than we do. But you’re right, previous human activity, like mining, can lead to degradation of those ecosystems. And in those places, there’s been many, many examples of how active regeneration can make the [AML lands and communities] a more livable environment. So yes, degraded lands are central to this [initiative]. We want there to be as much natural regeneration as possible, but where that’s not possible, assisting that process can be incredibly invaluable,” said Dr. Thomas W. Crowther, Chief Scientific Advisor, United Nations, Trillion Trees Initiative.

Both Chairman Manchin and Ms. Jennifer Cover, President and CEO, WoodWorks – Wood Products Council, praised new, innovative applications of mass timber manufacturing as a means to reduce carbon emissions, an application already being effectively utilized in West Virginia.

“We are now able to use wood products in a manner today that is different than ever before, and with technologies like Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT), we can now store orders of magnitude more carbon in the construction materials used to frame our buildings. I’m proud to say that my home state of West Virginia is a national leader in the use of Cross-Laminated Timber. Franklin Elementary School in Pendleton County, West Virginia was the first school in the country to be entirely built using CLT,” said Chairman Manchin.

“With the availability of innovative wood systems and building code advancements, developers and design/construction teams are increasingly choosing mass timber to improve the carbon footprint of their projects. One example is the first CLT school built in West Virginia, Franklin Elementary. The decision to use mass timber instead of a more traditional, fossil fuel-intensive material resulted in a total potential carbon impact equivalent to taking 600 cars off the road for an entire year. One third of this carbon impact is a result of the carbon sequestered and stored in the CLT and two thirds is from the carbon avoided during manufacturing by using CLT over a traditional material. That is one building. There are 17,000 buildings built in the country every year that could be built with wood solutions but are currently not,” said Ms. Cover.

Ms. Cover went on to highlight that mass timber manufacturing can create high-paying jobs in rural areas.

“Mass timber manufacturing is typically located in rural, forest communities. Increased demand for these products will create more and better jobs in these communities. Because mass timber products are highly engineered and machined to minuscule tolerances, manufacturing facilities require skilled workers, such as computer and software engineers,” said Ms. Cover. “The addition of high- tech jobs can have a significant positive impact on these communities—and others, as demand for mass timber increases and more facilities are needed.”

The hearing featured witnesses from the United Nations, WoodWorks – Wood Products Council, J.D. Irving, Limited, National Forest Foundation, and Intermountain Forest Association. To read their testimony, click here.

To watch the hearing in full, please click here.