FPL to Host National Forest Products Week Event

In recognition of National Forest Products Week, the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) invites the public to attend a free showing of “Felled,” a documentary film about giving new life to fallen urban trees, followed by a discussion with local experts on urban trees and wood use.

Felled is a story about finding worth and beauty in something most consider to be trash. The film chronicles the journey of an urban pine tree downed by a summer storm and saved from the landfill by two woodworkers who give the tree new meaning as a family dinner table. Through interviews with industry experts, sawyers, arborists, artists, and woodworkers, including both Norm Abram and Nick Offerman, the film highlights the growing urban lumber movement and explores themes of waste, craftsmanship, and redemption.

The panel of local experts include Brian Brashaw (FPL), Dwayne Sperber (Wudeward and Wisconsin Urban Wood), Fred Clark (Baraboo Woodworks), and John Stephenson (Stephenson Tree care).

Tours of the Forest Products Laboratory will be available after the film and discussion.

Event Summary:

What: Free public showing of “Felled” documentary followed by a discussion with local experts on urban trees and wood use.
When: Tuesday, October 17th, 1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Where: USDA Forest Products Laboratory, 1 Gifford Pinchot Dr. Madison, WI 53726

National Forest Products Week is celebrated the third week in October every year to recognize the significance of the valuable products that come from our Nation’s forests, the people who manage our forests in a sustainable way, and the business who make quality forest products available to us all.

As Axes Fall, Local Economy Rises: Cutting Costs While Cutting Trees

Taking care of urban forests may include the removal of diseased and damaged trees. Sometimes, the axe must fall, and professionals must be called in to remove trees due to storms, disease, or invasive insects. The removal costs can add up quickly — in some cases, to the tune of several millions of dollars. Through careful planning however, researchers, marketing teams, and industry professionals can find more affordable solutions — ones beneficial to the forests, the bottom line, and the local economy.


Trees harvested from Kenosha County, in southwest Wisconsin, will benefit several communities around the area.

Kenosha County, Wisconsin is ground zero for a large-scale urban wood utilization project where a mechanized cut-to-length (CTL) tree harvester is removing 5,400 trees that have succumbed to Emerald Ash Borer. These trees are located across the community, including in county parks and golf courses — but despite the scale of this operation, the cost to remove them is relatively low — just $13 a tree.

For the removal operation, Kenosha County enlisted the help of Don Peterson, Executive Director of Sustainable Resources Institute, and an important Forest Service program delivery partner. To keep costs down, Peterson sought out local businesses wherever possible — the winning bid for the harvesting, for example, went to a logger from nearby Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

Use of the CTL harvester provides usable wood for a variety of local industries, too, and the actual tree removal is not the only part of the project to benefit local business. Several entities plan to reuse the removed wood locally. Recovered products (pulpwood, sawbolts and hardwood sawlogs) all went to local Wisconsin forest products companies. By ensuring the diseased trees have a future before the first cut is made, the forest to market supply chain is kept intact.

The Forest Service hopes to apply what they learned in Kenosha County to tree harvesting operations across the United States.

In addition, Kenosha County hosted a workshop for city arborists and others interested in urban wood utilization. The day-long event was partially funded by the US Forest Service’s Wood Education Resource Center (WERC) and the Forest Products Laboratory’s Forest Product Marketing Unit (FPMU). Through this workshop, the public was able to learn about the operation, and see first-hand the methods employed to manage our urban forests.

The Forest Service hopes learn a thing or two from the Kenosha operation too. FPMU believes that the project demonstrates the effectiveness of “forest to market supply chain” thinking. Similar efforts could efficiently remove and utilize woody biomass from land restoration and fuel reduction projects in our clogged forests — particularly in the western United States, where fire danger continues to climb.

As researchers continue to find new uses for low-value wood through emerging technologies like nanocellulose, the demand for such material will only increase. Keeping costs low will be important for making urban wood utilization operations attractive. The tree removal project in Kenosha County shows that by considering the supply chain, utilizing local businesses, and educating the public, tree removal can benefit the local communities as we cut costs and trees alike.

Highrise Harvest: Vacant Buildings Ripe with Resources

Baltimore, Maryland, a city of more than 600,000 people locked in the largest urban corridor of the United States, seems like an unlikely place to find the rich resources of the forest. Look a little closer, or rather, inside of, the nearly 16,000 vacant homes and buildings however, and a different kind of landscape emerges—a landscape that researchers at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) see great potential in. Behind the crumbling brick and stone facades lie wooden floors, beams, and other construction material that await to be re-purposed by savvy entrepreneurs willing to become the lumberjacks of these “urban forests.”

The city of Baltimore, Maryland, has 16,000 vacant homes. Reclaiming materials through deconstruction and establishing market outlets can create value where not currently exists.

The city of Baltimore, Maryland, has 16,000 vacant homes. Reclaiming materials through deconstruction and establishing market outlets can create value where none currently exists.

FPL researchers, in partnership with the Coalition for Advanced Wood Structures, recently conducted a feasibility study that aimed to provide a framework for collecting, processing and distributing this urban woody biomass in Baltimore. Instead of simply disposing of the rubble from the demolished buildings, the material is carefully collected, sorted, and eventually sold to companies that will turn it into new products.

The yearlong study, which comes to a close in July, involved securing a contract with the City of Baltimore to complete a pilot deconstruction project involving 50 row houses. Over the course of a year, the project leaders 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. The final report is scheduled to be released next month.

Although many municipalities have found innovative ways to use their urban wood supplies, this is the first study that stresses the idea that urban forestry can stimulate lasting economic growth in cities. A key component of the urban woody biomass project is to create more job opportunities for chronically unemployed and under-employed urban residents. In addition to the countless jobs that could be created with companies that use the biomass material in manufacturing, the researchers estimate that Baltimore gained more than 60 jobs as a result of the pilot project.

The team hopes that a permanent sort yard would serve as an industry hub, with up to 100 new employees collecting and sorting material from construction sites, local arborists, and urban wood waste collection efforts.

Other than being economically friendly, urban deconstruction and recycling efforts are environmentally friendly too. In a world with finite natural resources, re-purposing existing material will be an integral part of building a more sustainable tomorrow. The foresters of the future may have to trade their axes in for jackhammers to reap the fruits of this urban landscape, but their goal will remain the same: manage local resources in a sustainable way that’s beneficial for the community, local industry, and the environment.

For more information, see this Research in Progress report.


Cutting the Cost of Urban Forestry

Removing urban trees is an ongoing and necessary process for protecting public safety, eliminating conflicts within the built landscape, and promoting forest health. But felling, bucking, transporting, and processing removed trees is a costly process.

A typical assortment of logs sourced from roadsides and other urban settings in Baltimore County, Maryland.

A typical assortment of logs sourced from roadsides and other urban settings in Baltimore County, Maryland.

Researchers have previously cataloged ways to generate profit from the recovered logs as a means to making the process more affordable. In this current study, Forest Products Marketing Unit Program Manager Rusty Dramm is working with partners to identify process improvements that can reduce the costs of urban forest management.

This study will examine four issues common to operational costs:

  1. Potential benefits of establishing municipal sort yards for receiving tree materials.
  2. Development of lumber recovery factors from logs not suitable for commercial sawmills.
  3. Documentation of barriers and opportunities for marketing products from urban trees as a means to offset the cost of removal.
  4. Identification of ways to cost-effectively direct wood material not suitable for mill production to other uses.

Municipal tree managers and public works departments will be able to use the results of this study to improve the efficiency of their tree disposition programs.

For more information, see this Research In Progress report.