Earlier this month Enviva announced its enhanced Responsible Sourcing Policy.
In short, the policy states Enviva seeks to preserve soil and water quality; to protect rare, threatened and endangered species, habitats and ecosystems; to promote the continuous growth of diverse, natural forests; and to contribute toward building a forest products industry that thrives on good practices.
Although still months away from construction, the Enviva wood pellet plant to be built in the George County Industrial Park will become an important market for the beleaguered forestry industry in this area.
Enviva, the largest producer of industrial wood pellets in the U.S., is committed to building a $160 million facility that will directly employ about 90 people and produce 750 million metric tons of wood pellets each year. The pellets will be shipped to Japan and used as a sustainable fuel for power plants.
The wood used in making the pellets will be approximately 80 percent pine and the remaining 20 percent from hardwood species using the lowest-quality wood produced during thinnings and traditional sawtimber harvests (such as pulpwood trees, tops and limbs) as well as sawdust and other residues from sawmills.
Throughout the Enviva website and literature, one theme stands out. The company appears dedicated to environmental conservation and sustainable forestry. The enhanced sourcing policy includes a proprietary track and trace system. This will allow end users of the pellets to know exactly where the raw material in the pellets came from.
What does all of this mean for George County landowners with marketable trees?
First of all, it means it will not be possible for someone to cut a load of trees and sell to the pellet plant.
“Enviva will only purchase wood from large landowners or timber harvesting companies that have signed a purchase agreement and use loggers trained to the state’s SFI-approved logger training program (such as the Mississippi Professional Logging Manager Program) to manage the timber harvest activities,” said Maria Moreno, Enviva communications director.
“This training includes things like the proper use of forest Best Management Practices (BMPs), threatened and endangered species identification and protection measures and protection of special sites, just to name a few. Training the timber harvester to assist the landowner in forest management activities means the landowner does not need to worry about the ‘in’s & out’s’ of the timber production; their local timber harvester can provide those services to them.
“Enviva will only purchase wood from a supplier we have an active wood purchase agreement with. If the timber harvester does not have a signed agreement and an active tract with a unique identification number, Enviva will not accept the timber and send it back.”
Land on which trees are harvested must be returned to forest.
“When a timber harvesting company asks us if we will purchase wood from any tract, we ask a lot of questions to make sure we agree harvesting is the best outcome,” Moreno said. “One of those questions is, ‘Does the landowner intend to replant?’ If the answer is ‘no,’ we will not buy wood from that tract. We firmly believe each forest site must be replanted to keep forests as forests.”
Enviva depends upon the logging companies to provide the best recommendations for their trees and which markets to use, according to Moreno. For Enviva, if there is any question about where trees originated, identification is no problem.
“Enviva uses its proprietary Track & Trace® program,” Moreno said, “which begins with every supplier agreeing to provide tract level information for every forest they plan to harvest and sell wood to Enviva. Enviva collects information on every tract a timber harvesting company asks us to buy wood. Each tract is added independently and has a unique tract identification number. The supplier tells Enviva when they start harvesting and when they stop so we can manage the tracking process for each forest providing wood to our pellet mill.
“Our sourcing policy and pledges reflect our core commitments to the highest standards of sustainability, stewardship and integrity. For years to come, our policy and pledges will guide our work and be the measure of our progress.”