Jennifer Alger, CEO of Far West Forest Products in Sheridan, CA, is a long-time proponent of repurposing trees salvaged from the urban forest, as lumber and wood products. She recently took the lead in launching the Urban Salvage & Reclaimed Wood Network to bring together urban wood stakeholders west of the Rockies. Alger will participate in the expert panel assembled for the seminar, “The Urban Wood Revolution Is NOW! Come Join the Network,” scheduled for Aug. 24 at the International Woodworking Fair in Atlanta.
Tag: Far West Forest Products
By Jennifer Alger, CEO
Far West Forest Products
The terms urban lumber, salvaged logs and reclaimed or recycled wood often get used interchangeably. While all of these terms are about repurposing wood and keeping it out of the waste stream, in mind there are some important distinctions to their meanings and thus how they should be used.
Urban Lumber is the lumber sawn from trees that have come down in storms or were removed for any reason from your city neighborhoods, yards, parks and streets. This is the wood that traditionally would have gone to your local landfill, cut into firewood or fed into the chipper. By purchasing urban lumber or products made from urban lumber, you help extend the lifecycle of your local community trees. Urban Lumber also fits into the salvaged category as well.
Salvaged logs are woods that have not been previously sawn into lumber and is typically still in log form when we acquire it. Many of our salvage logs are windfalls – literally trees that came down in a storm. Utilizing these logs for lumber allows us to extend the lifecycle of the tree. This is how we get much of our old-growth material. Salvaged logs can come from an urban setting and fit into the urban lumber category, or they can be from forests as well. Essentially these are any logs from trees that were not felled for their timber value.
Reclaimed or recycled wood is wood that has previously been sawn into lumber and used in the construction of buildings, bridges, water-tanks or other structures. Reclaimed wood has been removed during some type of a demolition project and instead of going to the landfills, its lifecycle has been extended by recycling it and preparing it to be used again.
Why Buy Urban, Salvaged or Reclaimed Wood Products?
In the late ’90s, it was estimated that 3.8 million tons of solid wood waste was going into California’s landfills each year. This dramatic number just show what was happening in our area; there was a similar situation around the U.S. when there was an incredible amount of exotic wood being imported. We are not advocating that you should stop using imported woods. In fact, we may even carry some of them. But we do believe that we can better utilize the woods that are right here in our local communities. In many cases they are every bit as beautiful as the treasured exotics from around the world with their burl, figure, spalting or other character features.
By turning logs into lumber instead of material left to rot in a landfill, you essentially stop the decomposition process and sequester the carbon. In addition, by purchasing and using local trees the carbon used to transport the exotics from overseas is lessened. Couple all that with the fact that most urban wood in the U.S. is milled on portable thin kerf band-saws such as a Wood-Mizer, that consume an extremely low amount of energy, and you really take a big whack at lowering the overall carbon footprint by utilizing urban wood.
We at Far West Forest Products encourage you to take a look at urban wood as your first option. It’s good for the environment, it’s good for the local economy, and it’s Beautiful!
Not only that, where else can you get a one-of-a-kind piece of wood or lumber that no one else has with which to build your next family heirloom. The urban wood industry is utilizing woods that are typically not used as lumber because there aren’t enough of them to create a commercial market for the larger mills.
A Brief History of the Urban Lumber Movement
The urban lumber movement became a “thing” in the ’80s, and really started to gain momentum in the ’90s. The concept, however, has been around for much longer and stemmed from the, “waste-not, want-not” generation. I can remember as a child in the ’70s going out with my dad to buy urban hardwood trees that were dead or dying and I know this was happening long before I came along.
I remember the famous Hooker Oak tree that fell in Bidwell Park in Chico, CA. It was thought to be the largest white oak tree in the world. An Oroville sawmill owner milled it into usable lumber in 1980 in order to preserve this historic landmark. There are countless other stories where sentimental and historic value has been preserved in urban trees by recycling them and giving them a second life which date back to before the term “urban lumber” really took off. Our customers love it when we can give them the rich backstory on the piece of wood they are selecting for their projects.
Why I’m a Proponent of a Market-Driven Solution
I believe that collectively our urban products will be more affordable and more sustainable if the industry grows through market-driven solutions as opposed to legislative action. Although I’m very passionate about using urban products whenever possible, I fear that legislating it could complicate the process to the extent that the average sawyer and lumber producer either couldn’t afford to do it or wouldn’t want to deal with the paperwork that comes when the government gets too involved in an industry. This in turn would drive up the price of urban wood products as well as potentially decrease the supply. The industry has to be viable economically for the tree service company, the sawyer, and the consumer in order for it to be sustainable.
I would prefer that local governments get behind and support (as Cal Fire’s Urban Forestry division in California has), but not necessarily legislate the urban wood industry with cumbersome red tape. I believe that if we can educate the consumer, and keep it affordable; they will choose urban wood products based upon environmental, economic, emotional and aesthetic reasons.
Let’s work together to make urban lumber and urban wood household names and go-to products for every wood products consumer in America.
Jennifer Alger is CEO of Far West Forest Products of Sheridan, CA, a family-owned business that actively works to promote the use of local native species and underutilized logs including reclaimed urban wood. Jennifer has worked alongside her father and brothers for most of her life and for more than the past decade also has been a regional representative for Wood-Mizer portable sawmills. She has presented at several urban log and lumber utilization workshops and seminars focused on marketing, growing and operating a small sawmill business, including the first urban wood utilization seminar ever presented at the International Woodworking Fair last month in Atlanta. You can contact Jennifer at email@example.com.
Three entrepreneurs who operate businesses capitalizing on the largely untapped stream of urban wood will share their passions and diverse point of views for putting felled community trees to their best possible use at a free seminar scheduled for 1:00 p.m. Friday, Aug. 26 at the International Woodworking Fair in Atlanta.
The 90-minute session, “Urban Wood Utilization: Making Wood Products and Profits from Landscape Trees,” is being presented by the Full Circle Urban Forest Network, a group made up of urban wood utilization teams in Illinois, Michigan, Missouri and Wisconsin funded by a grant from the USDA Forest Service. Wood-Mizer and the Southeast Urban Wood Exchange have signed on as major sponsors of the seminar. Additional sponsorship support is being provided by Dovetail Partners.
The expert panel includes:
Rick Siewert, owner of Wood From The Wood and Siewert Cabinet of Minneapolis, MN, and a member of the Architectural Woodwork Institute, will discuss how his commercial cabinet shop made its way into the urban wood business.. WFTH has quickly grown to where it now collects, mills and dries more than 100,000 board feet from urban logs.
Jennifer Alger, CEO of Far West Forest Products of Sheridan, CA, will discuss the differences and similarities between urban salvaged and reclaimed urban forest lumber. She’ll also provide a brief history of her family’s business, how it got into urban wood, why it’s good for the environment and her goal to see that “urban lumber becomes a household name and a go-to product.”
Dwayne Sperber, owner of Wudeward of Milwaukee, WI, will address his long involvement in the urban wood movement including with Wisconsin Urban Wood. He will explain how Wisconsin Urban Wood has forged a market by creating a network made up of professional arborists, sawyers, architects, municipalities, woodworkers and more.
Rich Christianson, communications director of the Illinois Wood Utilization Team and former long-time editor of Woodworking Network, will moderate the panel.
“Far too many valuable trees felled by insect infestation, storm damage, urban development and other causes are being chipped and landfilled with little or no thought instead of being repurposed as high-value lumber and slabs,” Christianson said. “I strongly encourage IWF attendees and exhibitors to attend this free session to learn more about this incredible wood resource that literally grows on the trees that shade their yards and line their streets.”
Attendees of this session will learn:
• How to find sources of urban wood;
• The unique source local/buy local marketing appeal of urban wood products and the interesting stories they tell;
• The environmental advantages of utilizing urban wood; and
• An opportunity to get answers to their questions posed seasoned urban wood product experts.
While the seminar is being presented free of charge, attendees must register to guarantee a seat at the program. Learn more and register at www.IWFAtlanta.com/Education/nbs6.
For information about becoming a seminar sponsor and general inquiries, contact Rich Christianson at 773-822-6750; firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Seminar Sponsors
Major Sponsor: Wood-Mizer LLC of Indianapolis, IN, is a manufacturer of portable sawmills, sawblades and other wood processing equipment and accessories. Visit Wood-Mizer during IWF 2016 at booth #6773.
Major Sponsor: the Southeast Urban Wood Exchange is preparing to launch a new website to support the creation and promotion of urban wood networks in Region 8 of the U.S. Forest Service which encompasses 13 States from Virginia to Florida and Oklahoma, plus Puerto Rico. Its Exchange’s mission is to help increase awareness of urban forests as a sustainable source of wood suitable for processing, thus increasing demand for urban wood.
Sponsor: Dovetail Partners of Minneapolis, MN, provides authoritative information about the impacts and trade-offs of environmental decisions, including consumption choices, land use, and policy alternatives. One of its areas of expertise is urban forestry and urban wood utilization.
About the International Woodworking Fair
The International Woodworking Fair, owned by the Woodworking Machinery Industry Association and the Wood Machinery Manufacturers of America, is North America’s largest woodworking event. IWF 2016 is scheduled for August 24-27, 2016 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. It is the “must attend” show for supplies, manufacturing and processing of materials for the furniture, cabinetry, flooring, door and window, plastics, solid surfacing and machine tooling industries. IWF 2014 attracted more than 23,000 woodworking professionals and industry suppliers from the U.S., Canada and beyond. Learn more at iwfatlanta.com.
About the Full Circle Urban Forestry Network
The Full Circle Urban Forestry Network operates from funding provided by the USDA Forest Service Northeastern, State and Private Forestry Landscape Scale Restoration Grant Program. The four state partners include:
• Illinois Wood Utilization Team;
• Southeast Michigan Resource Conservation and Development Council;
• Missouri Department of Conservation; and
• Sustainable Resources Institute, Wisconsin Urban Wood and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
About the USDA Forest Service
The Full Circle Urban Forestry Network’s IWF urban wood seminar is made possible through grant funding by the Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry, U.S. Forest Service. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, and where applicable, sex, marital status, familial status, parental status, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, political beliefs, reprisal, or because all or part of an individual’s income is derived from any public assistance program. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.) Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact USDA’s TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TDD). To file a complaint of discrimination, write to USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, DC 20250-9410, or call (800) 795-3272 (voice) or (202) 720-6382 (TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.
For information to become a sponsor, contact Rich Christianson, 773-822-6750.