In recent years, considerable concern has been raised about the sustainability of the world's forested ecosystems (FAO, 2003). With deforestation rates in tropical regions estimated to be as high as 12 million hectares per year (FAO, 2003; Houghton, 2003), much of the concern has centered around tropical deforestation. In contrast to these developments in tropical areas, there is evidence that the area of forests in temperate regions is expanding. Given the large potential storage of carbon in both temperate and tropical forests, these changes in land use can potentially lead to large fluxes of carbon both into and out of forests (Houghton, 2003; Plattner et al. 2002; Dixon et al., 1994). In addition to the potential carbon fluxes, forest management and land use change influences a host of other local and global environmental impacts.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are both strongly committed to expanding the role of biomass as an energy source. In particular, they support biomass fuels and products as a way to reduce the need for oil and gas imports; to support the growth of agriculture, forestry, and rural economies; and to foster major new domestic industries — biorefineries — making a variety of fuels, chemicals, and other products. As part of this effort, the Biomass R&D Technical Advisory Committee, a panel established by the Congress to guide the future direction of federally funded biomass R&D, envisioned a 30 percent replacement of the current U.S. petroleum consumption with biofuels by 2030.