From Vacant to Vibrant: Forest Service Brings Restoration Expertise to the City

The Forest Service has always been a conservation agency, focusing most restoration efforts during the past 100 years on rural environments. Today, however, the agency can use that century of experience and put it to work in urban areas as well.

The Forest Service and its partners are deconstructing and restoring vacant buildings in Baltimore, Maryland, to the benefit of many. Jobs are created in the process, along with economic opportunities and improved quality of life for neighborhood residents.

The Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) has been involved in deconstruction research for many years, and the Lab played a critical role in the Baltimore project. In 2015, FPL researchers, in partnership with the Coalition for Advanced Wood Structures, completed a feasibility study that provided a framework for collecting, processing, and distributing the material collected from the vacant buildings.

The yearlong study involved securing a contract with the City of Baltimore to complete a pilot deconstruction project involving 50 row houses. Leaders then tracked the volume of extracted wood, analyzed the costs associated with the deconstruction activities, and built partnerships with organizations to establish a distribution chain and market outlet.

Take a minute to watch this short video, where you’ll hear from Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell and several partners about the impact of this work on the surrounding communities. You’ll see that the Forest Service can fulfill its unique mission, “caring for the land and serving people,” not only in the wilderness but also in the heart of the city.