Tribal Biomass Demonstration Projects

IB 2020-013
Information Bulletin


January 10, 2020

In Reply Refer To:
1200, 1510, 1511, 5000 (220) P

Information Bulletin No. 2020-013

To:                   All Field Office Officials

From:               Assistant Director, Resources and Planning

Subject:           Tribal Biomass Demonstration Projects

The purpose of this Information Bulletin (IB) is to provide guidance on the implementation of the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act Amendments of 2017 (P.L. 115-325) (the Act) as it relates to the approval of Tribal biomass utilization agreements and contracts on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) managed lands.  The Act provides the BLM with authority to enter into stewardship contracts or similar agreements with Tribes to carry out demonstration projects on Federal lands to promote biomass energy production during fiscal years 2019 through 2021.  The goal of the demonstration projects is to promote biomass energy production (including biofuel, heat, and electricity generation) by providing reliable supplies of woody biomass from Federal land.  Beginning in fiscal year 2019 and each year through 2021, the BLM and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) must carry out at least four demonstration projects combined.  The Act also directs the BLM and USFS to carry out at least one demonstration project per year in Alaska.

To be eligible, a federally-recognized Tribe[1] must submit an application to the BLM that includes a description of the Indian forest land or rangeland under the jurisdiction of the Tribe[2] and the demonstration project to be carried out by the Tribe.  Upon receipt of the application, the BLM Authorized Officer (AO) will notify the Washington Office Division of Forest, Range, Riparian, and Plant Conservation (WO-220).  The WO-220 will track applications BLM-wide and coordinate with receiving offices to monitor progress on implementation of the Act.  If WO-220 determines that the BLM has not obtained the minimum number of projects, the AO will use only Criteria A in entering into an agreement or contract.  If WO-220 determines that the BLM has obtained the minimum number of projects, or there are multiple tribal applications for the same sourcing area, the AO will use both Criteria A and B in evaluating and approving a demonstration project.

Criteria A

In evaluating applications, as provided by the Act, the AO shall take into consideration whether a proposed project meets one or more of the following criteria:

  1. Increases the availability or reliability of local or regional energy;
  2. Enhances the economic development of the Indian tribe;
  3. Results in or improve the connection of electric power transmission facilities serving the Indian tribe with other electric transmission facilities;
  4. Improves the forest health or watersheds of Federal land or non-federal land;
  5. Demonstrates new investments in infrastructure; or
  6. Otherwise promotes the use of woody biomass.

Criteria B

The Authorized Officer shall take into consideration the factors listed in 25 U.S.C. §3115a(e) when evaluating and entering into an agreement or contract.  Use of these criteria imply the potential use of other sources of performance for a project which would be determined through a competitive procurement and best value evaluation or sole source using the criteria in (ii) below. The factors include:

  1. Use of best-value basis, and;
  2. Specific consideration to Tribally-related factors in the proposal of the Indian tribe, including:
  1. The status of the Indian tribe as an Indian tribe;
  2. The trust status of the Indian forest land or rangeland of the Indian tribe;
  3. The cultural, traditional, and historical affiliation of the Indian tribe with the land subject to the proposal;
  4. The treaty rights or other reserved rights of the Indian tribe relating to the land subject to the proposal;
  5. The indigenous knowledge and skills of members of the Indian tribe;
  6. The features of the landscape of the land subject to the proposal, including watersheds and vegetation types;
  7. The working relationships between the Tribe and Federal agencies in coordinating activities affecting the land subject to the proposal; and
  8. The access by members of the Tribe to the land subject to the proposal.

The BLM may need to coordinate with the Bureau of Indian Affairs on any determinations necessary to evaluate criteria A and B listed above.

The AO is required to evaluate the Tribe’s application and provide written notice of the eligibility of the project within 120 days of receipt of the application.  If the application is not eligible, the AO shall issue a notice of denial that identifies the specific reasons for the denial and the courses of action that would be needed to address these reasons.  In addition, if after consultation WO-220 determines that the proposal entails a cost to the BLM that exceeds available funds, the AO may negotiate with the tribe to address cost concerns and/or deny the application.  There is no specific timeline affecting the completion of the environmental review supporting the decision to approve an agreement or contract.  The AO is encouraged to expedite the approval of the agreement or contract and forward all application approvals and denials to WO-220.

The Act permits the BLM to enter into a sole-source contract or agreement with an eligible Tribal applicant.  When the BLM enters into a sole source contract or agreement with a Tribal applicant pursuant to the Act, the BLM Grants Management Officer or Contracting Officer should cite 25 USC §3115a et seq. as justification for the award.

As required by the Act, the Authorized Officer shall exclude from consideration for biomass utilization any merchantable logs that have been identified by the AO for commercial sale by setting material size or type exclusions (e.g., tree diameter limits) or excluding areas already planned for commercial activity which are incompatible with the biomass utilization request.  If sawtimber removal is needed to meet the land management objectives of a project, the BLM may incorporate cutting, yarding, and decking of sawtimber for subsequent sale.

The BLM should implement demonstration projects through Stewardship contracts or agreements as described in BLM Manual 5920.  Policies on volume estimation, appraisal, and conveyance of wood products will follow BLM Manual 5920 and Manual 5300 when using a Stewardship contract or agreement.  Authorized officers are encouraged to enter into long-term contracts or agreements, not to exceed 20 years as specified by law to ensure stability of the Tribal feedstock supply.  The contract or agreement should incorporate, and whenever feasible, give deference to those aspects of a Tribal resource-management plan that would otherwise pertain to biomass harvesting on Tribal lands.


Signed by:                                                       Authenticated by:
Byron Loosle                                                  Robert M. Williams
Acting, Assistant Director                              Division of Regulatory Affairs,WO-630
National Conservation Lands and
   Community Partnerships


[1] Tribe means: “any Indian tribe, band, nation or other organized group or community, including any Alaska Native village or regional or village corporation as defined in or established pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (85 Stat. 688), which is recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians.” 25 U.S.C. § 5304(e).

[2] Indian forest land or rangelands means: “land that is held in trust by, or with a restriction against alienation by, the United States for a federally-recognized Indian Tribe or a member of a federally-recognized Indian Tribe; and is Indian forest land (as defined in section 3103 of this title); or has a cover of grasses, brush, or any similar vegetation; or formerly had a forest cover or vegetative cover that is capable of restoration.” 25 U.S.C. § 3115a(a)(2).  Indian Forest land means: “Indian lands, including commercial and non-commercial timberland and woodland, which are considered chiefly valuable for the production of forest products or to maintain watershed or other land values enhanced by a forest cover, regardless whether a formal inspection and land classification action has been taken.” 25 U.S.C.A. § 3103(3).