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IllinoisUrbanWood’s Top 10 Countdown

By Rich Christianson

The eyes have it!

The final votes are in and the Top 10 most-viewed posts on are known.

Activity on the Illinois Urban Wood Utilization Team’s website finished 2016 with 7, 349 visitors who clicked through 17,412 pages. Both of these totals are more than double that of 2015.

Here’s a quick reverse-order recap of the most popularly viewed posts last year.

10. Video: Tom The Sawyer Mills Black Walnut for Figure
Tom Hogard, aka Tom The Sawyer, of Eudora, KS, demonstrates how to maximize the figure of logs with “flaws” including sweep or crotches. Read more.

9. Woodworking Enthusiasts Get a Taste of Urban Wood
Woodworkers of all ages get an opportunity to craft products from wood salvaged from Chicago Park District trees. Read more.

8. Historic Bell Tolls for Urban Wood Display
Jeff Perkis used red oak milled from one of the downed trees to create a display stand for a historic train bell. It will become a permanent exhibit at the West Chicago City Museum. Read more.

7.  Illinois Sawmill Directories Updated
The Forestry Division of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources recently released a pair of newly updated sawmill directories, one featuring custom sawyers and the other dedicated to stationary sawmilling operations. Read more.

6. Passions Flow at IWF Urban Wood Seminar
Three presenters – representing three very diverse business models – chorused their praise for urban wood during a unique seminar held Aug. 26 at the International Woodworking Fair in Atlanta. Read more.

5. Diverse Audience Unites at Urban Wood Event
Arborists, foresters, sawyers, architects, woodworkers and other professionals came together at the Bringing the Urban Wood Full Circle Conference to learn and share ideas for propelling the urban wood market. Read more.

4. Couple ‘Sacrificed Our Entire Lives’ for Urban Wood Business
Rob and Zoe Bocik left the 9-to-5 rat race six years ago to pursue their dream of milling lumber and crafting furniture, jewelry and other products from local trees otherwise destined for the chipper or landfill. Read more.

3. Arborist Pursues His Passion with Urban Wood Start-up
Dobnick Timberworks has joined the Illinois urban wood  movement, opening up a lumber and custom wood products business in Oswego, IL. Read more.

2. Urban Wood Products Showcase Winners Strut Their Stuff
The Urban Wood Products Showcase, featured at the March 2016 Bringing the Urban Forest Full Circle Conference, shined a bright spotlight on the design creativity of the entries that ranged from tables and wall hangings to a bell stand and soccer ball all crafted from urban wood. Read more.

1. First Release: Urban Wood User’s Resource Guide
A new national directory dedicated to helping connect tree care professionals, sawyers, woodworkers and other urban wood enthusiasts was recently released by the Urban Forest Full Circle Network. Read more.

5-Step Plan for Managing Urban Forests to Fight Climate Change

Vibrant Cities Lab developed the Climate & Health Action Guide. It outlines a process for creating an urban forestry project to optimize for climate and health outcomes. The guide is designed to  help the user “reduce climate risks and proactively respond to changing conditions while also providing important benefits to the health and well-being of your community.”

The underlying key premise of the guide is that Healthy urban forests provide substantial benefits for communities, improving the environment and supporting human health; forests are critical to combating the effects of climate change.”

The process is based on the five-step Adaptation Workbook, developed by the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science (NIACS). The Adaptation Workbook provides a structured, yet flexible approach for integrating climate change into urban forestry projects, and this guide takes you one step further by integrating human health. The complete Adaptation Workbook can be used to take a deeper dive into creating a complete climate change adaptation plan.

Access the Climate & Health Action Guide.

Romans participate in a didactic urban wood event

Rome Urban Wood WorkshopBY RICH CHRISTIANSON

Franco Paolinelli, who has become our de facto Italian correspondent, shared some info and photos from a recent community event at which some 30 kids got to enjoy the tactile sensation of making things with wood. It was the first of three planned community urban wood workshops in Rome.

“Since 2018 our proposal o conduct ‘Laboratori del Legno Degli Alberi di Roma’ i.e. Roman urban wood workshops, is acquiring popularity,” said Paolinelli, a professional arborist. “In Rome. we have a tree pest, Ailanthus altissima, (tree of heaven, an exotic invasive species) growing all over where maintenance lacks. One interesting result is its wood is great for workshops.

“I collect pruning remains in arboricultural jobs, asking arborist firms to cut them in 30-40 cm long, 3-6 cm in diameter segments. I put them in strong bags and carry them to the workshop site.”

Rome Urban wood workshop“This particular workshop took place within ‘Parco dell’ Appia Antica,’ a huge green area, crossing the whole city of Rome that hosts lots of ancient Roman monuments. It was a didactic, recreational, activity conducted with segments of urban wood, mainly pruning remains. The kids had a lot of fun transforming the wood into objects using tools with the assistance of our experts.”

He added that the event was an opportunity to inform people of the value of urban wood in hopes that they recognize the importance of keeping as much of it as possible out of the waste stream and capitalizing on its carbon sequestration. 

“At the end of the three workshops, we put many kilos of urban wood to use and placing the wood objects the kids made into their homes, and saving them and their carbon from landfills.” 

Rome Urban Wood Workshop 






Video: Restoring the American Chestnut Part 2

For more than two decades, the USDA Forest Service has conducted research to develop a blight-resistant American chestnut with the high hopes of restoring this once-dominant hardwood species.

Much of this research has focused on working with partners like the American Chestnut Foundation and the University of Tennessee to back-cross breed the blight-resistant Chinese chestnut with American chestnuts. Since 2009, about 4,500 hybrid American chestnut trees have been planted in three national forests. About 60% of the trees are still alive, some reaching 40 feet in height. 

The American chestnut flourished in the eastern forests for more than 10 million years but was virtually wiped out within 60 years by a catastrophic blight.

Part 1 of the Forest Service’s two-part video program focuses on the historical significance of the American chestnut and its death knell.

Urban Ashes Partners with NextCycle Michigan

Urban Ashes of Saline, MI, announced its commitment as a NextCycle Michigan Partner to maximize opportunities for developing recycling, recovery, and sustainable businesses in Michigan.

Urban Ashes is one of more than 30 Michigan companies, organizations and nonprofits partnering in the program that targets the missed opportunities and wasted natural resources within the urban forests of Michigan. The U.S. Forest Service estimates that Michigan loses about 1.7 million tons of furniture grade lumber valued at $27.6 million to the waste stream each year. Urban Ashes said it is on a mission to help the state dramatically change this incredible missed opportunity.

Urban Ashes is led by Paul Hickman, who recently took on the role to organize the Michigan chapter of Urban Wood Network. has a more than 25-year history in urban wood utilization, including the last 10 years manufacturing picture frames, furniture and other secondary wood products. As a partner with NextCycle, Urban Ashes hopes to maximize the value and environmental impact of underutilized urban wood by collaborating with municipalities and corporations to build “Circular UrbanWood Triconomies.”

NextCycle Michigan is a new initiative of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE). It is an idea incubator that provides technical support, expert mentoring, and resources. This program offers an innovative pathway to identify and incubate ideas that will grow Michigan’s recycled materials supply.

NextCycle Michigan is funded through state funds and private and non-profit partnership investments identified through the Renew Partnership Portal. Funding partners sustain the program and increase opportunities for statewide recovery projects.

As a NextCycle Michigan Partner, Urban Ashes is demonstrating its commitment to sustaining the program and increasing opportunities through new projects, partnerships, collaborative efforts, or direct support for NextCycle Michigan Innovation Challenges.

Each year, Michigan landfills accept 6.8 million tons of material, including urban tree removals, that could be recycled. It is estimated that recovering 2.7 million tons of that material could generate $9 billion in potential annual labor income and $33 billion in potential economic output, elevating Michigan’s diversion rate to 45%.

Currently, Michigan has gaps at every link in the recycling supply chain – access to recycling, comprehensive collection and sorting, robust end markets and material processing, and innovative recycled-content manufacturing.

NextCycle Michigan’s diverse membership includes Ice Mountain, Henry Ford Health System, Michigan State University, Meijer, and Goodwill.

Learn more about NextCycle Michigan.

Learn more about Urban Ashes.

House Bill Includes ‘Cooperative Agreements’ for Urban Wood Utilization

Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY) has introduced the Urban Forest Act of 2021, which includes provisions for incentivizing urban wood utilization.

The Urban Forests Act of 2021 would enhance and maintain urban forests across the nation by creating a competitive matching grant program that leverages the success of the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree City USA Program and creating new jobs in urban areas focused on innovative new wood products and urban forest management.

The Urban Forests Act of 2021 also makes carbon sequestration a priority and increases funding for the Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry Program, improves data collection on urban forests, and enhances urban forestry research by coordinating existing programs. Urban forests are important sources of carbon sequestration and sequestered nearly 130 million metric tons of carbon in 2018. 

Section 2 of the bill proposes urban and community forestry assistance programs for urban wood utilization. They include:

  • Pilot project for cooperative agreements for urban wood utilization through which the secretary of agriculture can enter into agreements with state and local governments, institutions of higher education, private or non-profit organizations, and other entities that support projects that create wood products from dead and fallen trees in urban and community areas.
  • These cooperative agreements would put a priority on supporting local job creation; supporting typically underserved areas or areas with a low tree or environmental equity; develop new uses for dead and fallen trees; and improve urban forest health and resiliency.
  • The secretary of agriculture may provide technical or financial assistance to entities that enter into a cooperative agreement to facilitate research on new uses for dead and fallen trees in urban and community areas; and market expansion opportunities for products made from dead and fallen trees in urban and community areas.

Chicago Area’s Urban Forests Have More Trees and Lots of Challenges

2020 Chicago area tree census

Trees provide more than $416 million in benefits to the residents of the seven-county Chicago area.

Trees provide more than $416 million in benefits to residents of the seven-county Chicago region, but widespread invasive species, the massive loss of ash trees, and the need for more mature and diverse trees are significant issues that The Morton Arboretum’s scientists say will impact the region for years to come.

Those are among the key findings in the Arboretum’s 2020 Chicago Region Tree Census, released on Arbor Day, April 30, a day set aside for planting and calling attention to trees. The report provides the first measure of change for the regional forest in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties since the 2010 tree census. The 2010 tree census was the first such assessment conducted at the regional scale and the largest of its kind in the U.S. The Arboretum remeasured 1,576 plots to gain a comparative snapshot of the regional forest and the benefits it provides.

According to Chai-Shian Kua, Ph.D., urban tree science leader at the Arboretum, the overall tree canopy cover increased in the region during the previous decade, but the canopy declined in the city of Chicago and McHenry County. Standing ash trees (Fraxinus spp.) decreased by 46% to 7 million due to an emerald ash borer (EAB) insect infestation, with approximately 4 million more either dead or in decline, leaving only 3 million healthy ash trees in the region. Because ash trees are so common in Chicago, the canopy in the city was impacted. Canopy refers to the upper layer of forests formed by mature tree crowns that shelter the ground below. Kua noted that canopy quality is ecologically important and that large, healthy trees are able to provide more benefits than small trees.

While the census reports that the region has more trees than it did in 2010 — growing from 157 million to 172 million today — it also identified invasive European buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica), a medium-sized tree that spreads rapidly and degrades native ecosystems, as the most common species in the region, making up 36% of its trees. For context, the second most common tree is boxelder (Acer negundo), which accounts for 4% of trees. Kua explained that buckthorn and other invasive plant species reduce the diversity of the regional forest by out-competing native plant species and preventing the growth of young saplings.

The impact of buckthorn is of such concern that the Chicago Region Trees Initiative (CRTI), a partnership of more than 200 organizations founded by the Arboretum to address the kind of challenges highlighted in the 2010 tree census, developed the Healthy Hedges program to assist individuals and communities with buckthorn removal and replacement.

“One of the most urgent actions that need to be taken in the region is for homeowners and other landowners to remove invasive buckthorn and replace it with non-invasive trees and plants,” said CRTI Director Lydia Scott.

The regional forest needs a greater diversity of tree species to be resilient to threats posed by the changing climate, pests, and diseases. Significantly, Arboretum researchers determined that there are at least 194 different tree species in the region and 103 in the city of Chicago. However, this wide range of species is not broadly planted throughout the region.

“Concerted effort is needed to expand species diversity,” Kua said. “Residents and communities must focus on planting a wide variety of species now to ensure a healthy regional forest as a key defense against the uncertainties of the changing climate.”

Toward that effort, CRTI recently launched the Plant Trees for Communities campaign to support proper planting and care for trees, with the short-term goal of planting at least one tree in every community in the seven-county region, as well as all 50 Chicago wards in 2021. CRTI is seeking corporate partners to support the program to be able to provide trees at no cost for under-resourced communities that have the most urgent needs.

Another challenge, according to the census, is that three-fourths of the trees in the region are less than 6 inches in diameter, and the Arboretum’s scientists are concerned that many may not survive and grow to provide the benefits of large canopy trees without proper attention to their care.

“We need more people to plant the right trees in the right places and provide the right long-term care so they grow to maturity, or we risk losing the many critical benefits they could provide for decades to come,” Kua stressed. She noted that the Arboretum has tools available to help residents select trees suitable for the regional climate, including a searchable online database of trees and plants.

2020 Chicago area tree census

Field workers of the Morton Arboretum remeasured 1,576 plots to gain a comparative snapshot of the regional forest and the benefits it provides.

Scott said that even those who can’t plant their own tree can do their part for the regional forest by watering trees in city parkways or donating to and volunteering with organizations focused on proper tree planting and care.

Kua noted, “The Morton Arboretum will use the census results to inform efforts to improve the diversity and health of Chicago’s regional forest, and ensure that trees are equitably distributed to deliver benefits to all communities.”

For the 2020 Chicago Region Tree Census Report and more information about how to support tree planting and invasive species removal, visit


Professor named ‘Citizen of the Year’ for urban wood use program


Jerome Johnson UW-Stout

UW-Stout Professor Jerome “Jerry” Johnson sits on one of the benches made by students he has worked with since 2017, as part of a Menomonie Urban Forestry Board project. Photo: UW-Stout


A professor at the University of Wisconsin-Stout who has helped students with a lab-based, community project was honored as Citizen of the Year by the Menomonie Urban Forestry Board.

Jerome “Jerry” Johnson has worked over the years with the board and its projects. Most recently, he coordinated a UW-Stout effort that repurposes wood from city ash trees, which were removed because of the emerald ash borer. The city received a $9,000 Urban Forestry Grant from the state Department of Natural Resources.

To prevent the wood from going to waste, the Urban Forestry Board partnered with UW-Stout and Johnson. Since 2017, students have made 11 benches from the milled ash. Four more are being built.

The benches, all with different designs, are at:

  • Cedarama, Wakanda and Wilson parks, seven total
  • Disc golf course on Brickyard Road
  • Shirley Doane Senior Center on Sixth Street E.
  • Menomonie Public Library bus stop
  • Additional bench to be placed at disc golf course at Wakanda or Brickyard Road.

“Through this project, we have tried to encourage students to become involved in and give back to in their community. They have been very enthusiastic about designing and building the benches and leaving them with the city,” Johnson said.

Last year, students also sanded and reconditioned the benches that were in use.

The project has gone beyond the hands-on experience that engineering, design and other students have gained in the lab.

“Many have started similar projects in their own hometown. One student is making new, little free library houses for his hometown. While learning about joinery, fastening, processing and finishing is important, the bigger benefit seems to come from the satisfaction and motivation that the students get from their involvement in a citywide, ongoing project,” Johnson said.

In UW-Stout’s wood lab, Johnson oversees senior-level students in the Research and Development course and sophomores in the Design for Industry course. Students have experimented with wood-bending techniques in making the benches and have experimented with Shou sugi ban, a Japanese finishing method of burning and sealing the wood.

urban wood fabrication at UW Stout

Student Max Mueller works on a bench in 2017 in the wood lab at UW-Stout’s Jarvis Hall Tech Wing. Photo: UW-Stout

Johnson, in the engineering and technology department, has taught at UW-Stout since 1985 and is retiring after the spring semester. He has a doctorate in vocational education from the University of Minnesota.

Johnson and Nancy Schofield, a former UW-Stout professor who is a member of the Urban Forestry Board, presented on the project in 2018 at the Urban Forestry Congress in Vancouver, B.C.

Plethora of Research Aims to Safeguard Trees from Pests & Pathogens

The Southern Forest Station of the U.S. Forest Service recently released the proceedings of the Sixth International Workshop on the Genetics of Host-Parasite Interactions in Forestry—Tree Resistance to Insects and Diseases: Putting Promise into Practice.

The workshop, held Aug. 5-10 at Deer Creek State Park in Mt. Sterling, OH, provided a continuing forum for researchers, tree breeders, and forest managers to present research to develop and deploy resistant tree populations to restore tree species imperiled by invasive pests and pathogens. The 95 presentations – oral and poster – covered a wide range of tree species and associated pathogens and pests from around the world.

The wide variety of presentations featured in the proceedings include:


Download the proceedings


Urban Wood Network Announces First State Chapters

Michigan, Texas and Wisconsin are the first three states to establish state chapters with the Urban Wood Network through the UWN’s Driving Urban Wood Utilization from Coast to Coast Cost Share program.

The UWN is also in the process of building chapters and local urban wood programs in California, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, North Carolina and Oregon. Further expansion of chapters and individual memberships is also in the works.​

Since its inception, the UWN has connected members with potential partners, customers and experts to help them grow their urban wood businesses. UWN has also educated and informed thousands of urban wood enthusiasts through its webinars featuring urban wood experts from across the country.

Through its latest initiatives, UWN plans to continue collecting and sharing best practices from throughout the urban wood supply chain to help businesses, municipalities, advocates, government agencies and other stakeholders build their local urban wood industries.

Click here to learn more about becoming a UWN member.

Contact Kari Devine of the UWN about how to start or get involved with a UWN chapter.