Summit County locals push to create market for beetle kill
summit daily news
Vail, CO Colorado
SUMMIT COUNTY – How is it possible to create jobs, promote forest health, lower the risk of wildfires and reduce fossil fuel consumption?
Local community leaders and private businesses are working to do all of the above by creating markets for the millions of lodgepole pines killed in the mountain pine beetle epidemic.
“One thing that really gripes me is that engineers and architects think the only place you can get material to hold up buildings is Canada or the Northwest, and that’s totally wrong,” said Kent Hester of Hester’s Log and Lumber in Kremmling. “We really need to educate that group of people that lodgepole pine is going to hold up.”
On Thursday morning, the Forest Health Task Force assembled logging, transportation, building, decorating and milling professionals to meet with local government leaders and Forest Service officials to discuss ways to improve consumer awareness, appreciation and demand for products manufactured from lodgepole pine.
“With a depressed economy placing severe limits on the ability of federal, state and local government to finance critical fuel reduction projects, the private sector represents the best means for putting a plentiful, yet perishable, raw material to productive use,” said Sandy Briggs, lead organizer of the Task Force, a local nonprofit group.
“Public and professional misperception of the value and use for beetle kill wood has so far limited product demand, as well as incentives for wood products businesses to invest in aggressive marketing,” Briggs added.
Facing uncertain demand, producers of pine beetle lumber or wood-heating systems are reluctant to make large investments in the equipment necessary to manufacture wood products from beetle kill on a large scale. Yet without assured product availability, designers, architects and builders are less likely to incorporate beetle kill into their projects during the planning stages.
“We don’t have the milling capacity here in Colorado. Ninety percent of wood products come from out of state,” Hester said.
The local miller said he would have to invest about $750,000 to increase his production for wide commercial use.
“What these mills in the Northwest cut in half an hour takes me two days to cut,” he added.
The group committed to continue its discussions to lay plans for future public education efforts.
Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-4630 or firstname.lastname@example.org.