I am an “Urban Logger”. I only mill trees from town. There is a reason for this. I am a tree hugger (yea really) Not the stereotype, insert your own mental picture here, that have given that title a negative connotation. BUT, I do love trees. I think they are magnificent. I know this sounds weird from a guy that runs a sawmill, you would think I just feel they are for me to chop down and mill and make money from. It’s not like that at all . I started sawmilling just to keep the ones that were already being killed from dying a pointless death. Working construction I saw huge piles of hardwoods on jobs burned/left to rot, it made me sad. The same with the great specimens I have seen in the towns I have lived in cut down and hauled off as waste. I felt that was almost a crime against nature to cut a tree that was 300 years old in a town and burn it, like my town for example that is only 175 years old…that tree was here before we were . We “grew up” around it, then cut it down.
I have nothing against traditional logging (if done properly, selective harvest), don’t get me wrong. I would never chain myself to a tree like what most people think of when they hear “tree hugger”. But somehow I feel if I mill these trees that were going to waste I am filling a little piece of the market and maybe one tree in the woods can stand. If I mill and sell an oak tree from a local town to a local woodworker, that guy will not buy wood from a tree that was harvested from nature some place else. Maybe an odd way to go about saving a tree, but it is the best I can do.
For another example of my love of trees I have access to log family timber full of mighty oaks. I see those trees and remember the time my cousin and I climbed up in the limbs and had a picnic. The nap I took under the tree on a beautiful fall afternoon. The first time I showed my wife the tree and explained that tree was most likely 500 years old. I live in an area that was heavily populated by native Americans (I have dozens of artifacts from the same acreage, arrow heads and such) To think that a man living off the land 400 years ago might have also rested in the shade of the same tree, hunted the squirrels that fed from the fruit of that tree…No amount of money in the world would make me think about cutting that tree down.
I am not going to shove this urban logging thing down your throat. But millions of dollars of lumber is being wasted every day by our cities (your tax money) The whole time the Fed is subsidizing logging companies, yea they are. I will not go into tariffs here on imported wood that is another subject. The flip side of government funding is “Tree Cities USA” in Illinois alone we have $82.4 million dollars on the books for planting trees in urban settings…care to guess how much they have set back for what to do with the 2 trees they cut down for every 1 they plant ? Or for the ones our grandfathers planted ? I will give you a hint $0. The plan is cut them down and burn them.
Finally I am going to get to my point. If you have read this far, thanks. After 5 years of beating my head against the wall I made contact with the right person. The webmaster has some tweaking to do with links and there will be more information soon. But right smack on the DNR page http://dnr.state.il.us/conservation/forestry/urban/ is an attention grabbing “Urban Forest Utilization” NEW.
The link takes you to a listing page that is also a work in progress. That page will provide information to people/municipalities on how and why to further utilize urban logs and has listings for sawmills like mine that will process them.
Basically this is state endorsement of what I do, and promotion through their site .They are working on pamphlets to educate local municipalities on why they should look into further utilization of their urban forests. I am not going to be able to mill every tree that gets removed in the state obviously…but maybe someone can. Now that “urban logging” is recognized and validated on a state governmental level it will bring more guys like myself out of the shadows. I would love to see a coop of sorts, a network of sawyers working together with communities to put these tree to good use. (and get them in the hands of woodworkers instead of piled and burned/ground for mulch/split for firewood)
I have sited this statistic before from The University of Illinois Forestry Dept. on timber acreage.
- Forestland prior to European settlement – 13.8 million acres (40 percent)
- Forestland today – 4.4 million acres (12 percent)
- Illinois ranks 49th among states in percent of land remaining in original vegetation
We have cut alot of trees down in this state. There is real money being spent through “Tree City USA” to replant them in our cities and towns. It would be a shame to see them meet the same fate as the 9.4 million acres from the stats above. If you live in Illinois and care anything about this there is contact information on the link I provided. I don’t see anything but good coming from a note of support for this. If you are a sawyer in Illinois who will help me saw these logs you can be added to the list of sawmills on that page as well.
I know we have jocks from all over the country/world. If any of this blog strikes a cord with you, check with your state see what they are doing. If they are not doing anything…maybe you should. After many efforts (and I am going to throw a pun in here) and walking away feeling I was barking up the wrong tree, one little email paid off. One lady listened. Not only listened to my spiel, but asked questions. That opened a line of communication between us and the result was the pages on the Dept. of Natural Resources I linked and some people in the state capitol scratching their heads on how much more they can do in the way of putting our urban forests to a good use.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, and of course I am available to help in any way I can if you have questions. I would love to see something like this in every state. Some are ahead of Illinois, Michigan is one of them http://urbanwood.org/ . Do some checking maybe your state has something like this in place.