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Good Earth Project Gets ‘New Life’

Good Earth Project Gets ‘New Life’

A new investors group that has taken over daily operations of Good Earth Power AZ is seeking to ramp up the company’s execution of a far-reaching Forest Service stewardship contract that sought to thin or otherwise treat 300,000 acres in 10 years beginning in 2012, but has barely covered 10,000 acres in the five years since.

Another new look—aiming to give the effort a fresh start—is a company name change from Good Earth Power to NewLife Forest Products.

The project encompasses the Coconino, Kaibab, Apache-Sitgreaves and Tonto national forests and their ponderosa pine stands, and comes on the heels of years of devastating wildfires.

After a group of investors stepped in to take operational control of Good Earth at the end of 2016, a recent report says the investors are making multiple changes to increase output and completion of “task order” activities that accompany specific on-ground projects.

One key is to pursue a less vertically-integrated business model and work more with outside contractors as opposed to owning timber harvesting, chipping or trucking capacity, for example. Already the company has announced a partnership with major Phoenix-based trucking firm Knight Transportation, and foresters are looking to bring in experienced loggers from the Pacific Northwest to add to harvesting capacity.

In addition, NewLife Forest Products is planning a new small log mill that will help reduce chip production, plus adding a composting operation to help increase overall biomass utilization.

Withered and non-existent forest products industry infrastructure in the region has hampered the project from the beginning due to a lack of markets for the large volume of logs and especially biomass coming off thinning and other stewardship activities.

Recently, the company’s Heber, Ariz. sawmill was closed for renovations to increase log-processing capacity and was reportedly re-starting operations in mid June. Meanwhile, the new small log project replaces a mill previously planned for Williams, Ariz. that never got off the ground.

In the meantime, hog fuel and chips are going to Gro-Well, a soil additive company, and the biomass-powered Novo Power plant.

With such lofty goals to reduce fire risk on millions of acres across Arizona, the first major contract for the Forest Service’s (FS) Four Forests Restoration Initiative has a rocky history:

First, the FS in 2012 awarded the contract to a Montana-based firm with little experience over a local group seeking to build an OSB plant to utilize the small diameter material. Yet Pioneer Forest Products could never gain financing for its plans to build a cutting mill and small log facility along with biofuel plant.

In 2013 the contract was transferred to Good Earth Power, a company with even less experience, and overall operations have suffered since as Good Earth sought to establish markets and outlets for logs and biomass. The Campbell Group was brought in to aid procurement, but that relationship soured into a lawsuit, and Good Earth was the subject of 20-plus complaints received by the FS about late payments a and non-payments.

NewLife Chief Operating Officer Bill Dyer says the company can’t change what has happened in the past but is looking to make it right and move forward. According to Dyer, tactical execution has been lacking in operations. “What we’re trying to do is bring tactical execution to the project,” he says.

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