JAMESTOWN — A company will use a $329,000 federal grant to buy a machine for logging and forest restoration.
Sierra Resource Management got word of the grant this week from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The grant will help cover the cost of a feller-buncher, which shears small trees near the ground, thinning them out of dense stands, company president Mike Albrecht said.
This will be a state-of-the-art addition to the feller-bunchers and other equipment used by the company in and near Tuolumne County.
"It's really nimble," Albrecht said. "It's able to move around the woods easily and is geared toward harvesting small trees in the future."
The county's once-thriving timber industry has shrunk in the face of environmental restrictions and, recently, a drop in wood demand from home builders and other users.
Advocates of logging say it still has a role to play in thinning stands that have become crowded thanks to suppression of the gentle fires that used to clear them. They say thinning would reduce the risk of catastrophic blazes and improve the woods for wildlife and watershed uses.
The small trees can go to sawmills or to plants that burn them to produce electricity.
The grant was one of 13, totaling $4.2 million, that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced for efforts to turn bio-mass from national forests into energy and products.
"Markets for woody biomass can also bolster forest restoration activities on both public and private lands, improving the ecological health of our forests and reducing the impacts of global climate change," Vilsack said in a news release.
Grant recipients are required to provide at least 20 percent of the total project cost.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at 578-2385 or firstname.lastname@example.org.