Putting Beetle-Killed Forest Timber to Use

From the bark beetle epidemic that has already destroyed millions of acres of trees in Western states, good uses for the dead trees are now becoming more widespread as the wood is harvested.

Even with such huge damage, the wood, when harvested, has been put to striking uses in furniture, flooring, and paneling applications. It has also been used for  structural beams, as can be seen in this photo from Jeremiah Johnson Log Homes.  The list of structures built using beetle-kill pine includes everything from outhouses to garden sheds and benches. On a more expansive level. dead forests are now being considered as a source of biomass production to generate electricity.

As Colorado Senator Mark Udall has said, “Wood is the most renewable resource we have and as an energy source, it’s carbon neutral. Biomass generators can efficiently turn dead trees into electricity for our homes and offices, and new technologies have shown the potential to turn biomass into liquid fuels.

“Using these trees as a source of energy may be the scalable solution we need, but the key will be demonstrating the profitability of these technologies and in doing so unleashing the private sector. I am working every day to pass a bill in the Senate to give the Forest Service the tools and resources it needs to protect at-risk cities and watersheds, and to provide incentives to spur innovation that will lead to the large-scale solutions we need to address this problem.”

Bark beetles have destroyed almost 1.6 million acres of lodgepole pines just in Colorado’s mountains. The epidemic now includes almost all Western states, in addition to Mexico and British Columbia.  Now that harvesting of dead wood is beginning to expand, many alternative uses are available on the Web. Additionally, various trade organizations, such as the as the Colorado Beetle Kill Trade Association, are becoming active in addressing the numerous issues involved in managing the problem of dead forests.

Many options — or opportunities — are available to builders, cabinetmakers, farmers and ranchers. In this photo, Steamboat Springs district forester John Twitchell shows an attractive blue-stained desk built from beetle-kill pine.

“It’s the most inexpensive wood you can get right now,” said Jimmy Morton, a woodworker near Steamboat Springs, Colorado. He  recently completed a bench featuring the bluish, or multicolored beetle-killed pine that will sell for around $600.  The material cost is significantly less than most other milled woods.

The problem of dead trees is enormous. Some officials estimate as many as 100,000 beetle kill pine trees fall daily. The epidemic is listed as starting in 1996.

About the Author

Writer, documentary producer, and director. Meyers is a contributor to CleanTechnica, and founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.
  • Iam interested to hear any details on ways of managing and/or using this resource. GRM

  • Iam interested to hear any details on ways of managing and/or using this resource. GRM