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Hats Off to an Urban Wood Pioneer

By Rich Christianson

For those of us who think the concept of converting dead or dying urban trees into valuable lumber is a 21st century construct, think again.

I literally stumbled upon this YouTube video of a Sept. 17, 1993 report from ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings. In fact, I was only the second viewer when I did so. It’s about George Hessenthaler of Salt Lake City, UT. He was inspired to start Uniquest Industries, a business focused on turning logs destined for landfills into value-added lumber.

Soon after the ABC News report aired Hessenthaler renamed his enterprise more aptly Urban Forest Wood Works and moved it to nearby Logan.

Talk about an urban wood pioneer!

In an October 2001 report, “Utilizing Municipal Trees: Ideas from Across the Country,” Stephen Bratkovich, then with the U.S. Forest Service and now a consultant/project manager with Dovetail Partners of St. Paul, MN, attributed the following quote to Hessenthaler: “Anything made from wood can be from urban forest wood.”

A May 2013 article in the Logan Herald Journal noted that Hessenthaler was then observing his 25th anniversary of repurposing otherwise discarded urban wood. A former public relations man turned cabinetmaker turned sawyer, Hessenthaler estimated that he had sawn 500,000 board feet of lumber from more than 20 difference species of urban forest trees.

I think this quote from the Herald Journal’s interview with Hessenthaler sums up why so many groups are springing up across the country, including the Illinois Wood Utilization Team, dedicated to creating a sustainable market place for urban wood. “A tree grown in the city, after it’s given its 50, 60, 80 years of shade and comfort and pleasure is greeted with a horrible demise because it’s cut into chunks and burned, or taken to the dump, and I think it has a higher and better use. It has a greater destiny than being cut into firewood, so I hope a customer, when he or she buys a box will realize it’s been made out of a tree that would have otherwise been dumped in the landfill.”

Right on, George!



Blogs

08/29/17 – Spurned Woodworker Turns to Toronto for Urban Ash Lumber

08/24/17 – House Supports Urban Forestry Funding

08/01/17 – Have You Saved a Tree from the Landfill Today?

07/03/17 – Pacific Coast Lumber Owner Has His Urban Wood Elevator Speech Down Pat

05/27/17 – Duluth’s EAB Plan Promotes Wood Use; Does Your City Do the Same?

01/02/17 – IllinoisUrbanWood’s Top 10 Countdown

12/12/16 – Book Chronicles Urban ‘Wood to Table’ Movement

11/13/16 – IL WUT’s Global Reach

11/07/16 – Got Urban Wood News? Share It!

09/14/16 – Let’s Make Urban Wood a Household Name

07/26/16 – IWF Urban Wood Seminar Sponsors Help Spread the ‘Word’

05/21/16 – Great News! Urban Wood Shines in WI Hotel Makeover

02/15/16 – Thank You Urban Wood Conference Supporters!

01/28/16 – Daily Double Discount: Hardwood Lumber & Urban Forest Events

11/29/15 – Five Top Reasons to Sponsor the Bringing the Urban Forestry Full Circle Conference

10/29/15 – Keep Spreading the News!

09/23/15 – Woodworking Enthusiasts Get a Taste of Urban Wood

08/25/15 – Historic Bell Tolls for Urban Wood Display

06/23/15 – Photo Gallery: Color Point Greenhouse Operations

06/14/15 – Color Point Pushes Sustainable Wood Usage with Wood-Fired Greenhouse

06/05/15 –  Hats Off to an Urban Wood Pioneer



USDA Forest Service Awards Urban Forestry Challenge Grants

USDA-Urban-ForestryAgriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the 2016 USDA Forest Service’s National Urban and Community Forestry Challenge grant recipients. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is providing $900,000 in funding to four goal recipients who will demonstrate how healthy urban forests can increase public health benefits, improve development and redevelopment efforts, and contribute to urban food production

“Urban forests are integral to strong, vital, and healthy communities, enriching the lives of the more than 80 percent of Americans who live in cities and towns,” Vilsack said. “The grants announced today will make important strides in innovative research and community projects that will help keep our urban forests valuable contributors to our daily lives.”

Forest Chief Tom Tidwell said, “As our urban communities grow and  confront rapid development and climate change, urban trees will be more important than ever by  providing  rich habitats, capturing storm water and helping provide clean air and water. The grant recipients will help to improve the public’s health, well-being and create resilient ecosystems for present and future generations.”

The grant recipients, whose work will highlight the economic and social value of urban forests, are committing an additional $1.1 million to their projects bringing the total investment through this project to $2 million.

In the United States alone, urban trees store over 708 million tons of carbon, which is equivalent to the annual carbon emissions from about 500 million automobiles. Urban trees help further reduce emissions by lowering electricity demand for summer air conditioning and winter heating. Well-maintained urban forests can help address climate and extreme weather impacts by reducing storm water runoff, buffering high winds, controlling erosion and minimizing the impacts of drought. Urban forests also provide critical social and cultural benefits providing places for people to recreate and gather with their communities.

The U.S. Forest Service, together with many partners, plays a pivotal role in ensuring urban and community forests continue to provide their life enriching benefits. In partnership with state forestry agencies, the Forest Service helps over 7,000 communities to plan, manage, and grow urban forests through the Urban and Community Forestry Program and the National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council’s Ten Year Action Plan.

The 2016 grant recipients and amounts are:

State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry,

A Decision Support System to Develop, Analyze, and Optimize Urban and Community Forests: $285,340 to create a decision support system for i-­Tree Landscape to allow forest managers and planners to achieve desired benefits and service from urban and community forests. Developed by the Forest Service, i-Tree is a ground-breaking interactive web tool helping communities identify and make the most of their urban trees.

Earth Learning Inc., Community Food Forestry Initiative: $175,627

to address tree canopy loss due to re-development by providing planners, decision-makers, and designers  with a comprehensive set of resources to integrate food-producing trees and plants into the urban landscape.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Dept. of Recreation, Sport and Tourism, Urban Forestry’s Return On Investment Tying Residential Nature To Health Care Expenditures: $278,383 to document the effects of urban and community forests on health care savings by examining the impacts of urban forests on major U.S. population groups, particularly the underserved, giving the findings direct relevance to communities across the nation.

Georgia State University, The Impact of Natural Environments on Symptom Expression in Children with Autism$160,650 to research the impact of nature on symptom severity in children with autism. A “Lessons Learned” document will provide best practices for working with children with autism.

For more information about the National Urban and Community Forestry Challenge grant recipients, please visit www.fs.fed.us/ucf/nucfac.html.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.