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Study on balancing bioenergy needs, wildlife habitat under way at Vinson Institute

A faculty member at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government recently received a National Wildlife Federation (NWF) grant to explore ways to support bioenergy production facilities while maintaining critical wildlife habitat in nearby forest land.

Environmental sustainability analyst Jason Evans was awarded almost $100,000 to assess the effects of forest biomass harvesting in the Southeast. Working with Evans on the project are Daniel Geller, a public service assistant in the University of Georgia College of Engineering, and Alison Bramlet and Jon Calabria, assistant professors in the College of Environment and Design, as well as investigators from the University of Florida and Virginia Tech.

The study will provide information about the potential impact of bioenergy production on wildlife habitat and biodiversity under various biomass sourcing scenarios, according to F.G. Courtney-Beauregard, the NWF’s Southeast sustainable bioenergy manager.

Evans and the co-investigators will examine how public policies or sourcing standards could be designed to sustain economic bioenergy production while protecting critical wildlife habitat in four southeastern states.

“We’re looking for the ‘sweet spot’ where there’s enough land to meet the demand for biomass without really impacting critical wildlife habitat,” said Evans, an expert in environmental policy development.

Researchers will assess wood demands at seven bioenergy plants in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia and then analyze changing land use demands and develop sustainability criteria to help balance biomass production with habitat protection, according to Evans.

The results will inform how public policies or sourcing standards could best be designed to protect wildlife habitat with the expansion of bioenergy production in the region, according to Courtney-Beauregard. A report should be ready this summer.

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