By Tipi Welsh
Did you know that Wisconsin’s dead urban trees could produce over 73 million board feet of lumber each year? Unfortunately, most trees removed from our cities and towns are fated for the wood chipper. The Rescued Wood Program of Habitat for Humanity Wisconsin hopes to change that protocol by saving and recycling the best logs and creating a wide variety of remarkable resources and products for our community.
In partnership with the City of West Bend, Habitat for Humanity of Washington and Dodge Counties receives the city’s trees contaminated by the emerald ash borer or other invasive pests. The connection to the non-profit organization Habitat for Humanity was formed by conscientious stewards of both the land and those who live on it. The need to reduce, recycle and repurpose has long been one of the many goals of the organization. Habitat for Humanity’s overall mission is to build simple, quality, affordable homes in partnership with the community and those in need. The Rescued Wood Program follows this mission on many levels and started by taking damaged local ash trees and creating the end product of trim for homes built in the community.
In January of 2015 the program continued to grow when Habitat for Humanity of Washington and Dodge Counties received a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to begin operations of a sawmill in Kewaskum. Since then more than 20,000 board feet of milled lumber has been processed with the help of more than 100 volunteers and a Wood-Mizer LT15 sawmill. The majority of the wood milled on our band sawmill is ash, although there are other species that include red oak, honey locust and elm. Currently the sawmill is offering 4/4 (1”) ash boards in varying widths and lengths as well as 8/4 (2”) live edge kiln dried slabs. All lumber is kiln dried in strict accordance with the DNR’s regulations. Other products include firewood and live edge “flitches” used for signage, crafts, art, and taxidermy, but are sold only within the State’s EAB Quarantine area.
State and local government agencies as well as community organizations have embraced the Rescued Wood Program as an affordable, creative and purposeful project. Evidence of this can be seen in the recent build sites for Washington and Dodge Counties. Rescued wood has been milled, crafted and installed by countless volunteers into beautiful mission style trim for the windows, doors and baseboards for the West Bend, WI Habitat build. Approximately 1,200 board feet of rescued wood has been used for this project. There are plans for trim to be created for the Habitat build site in Juneau, WI as well. Other Wisconsin Habitat affiliates are exploring options to create cabinetry with the wood.
In addition, purchase of rescued wood milled lumber and the many other products and by-products of the program through Habitat for Humanity ReStores does more than provide a customer with beautiful, high quality wood product. It makes smart use of local resources. By supporting this program, the Washington and Dodge County ReStores are creating new markets, audiences, positive public relations and opportunities for the Rescued Wood Program. The added benefits include funding builds with increased ReStore sales. Rescued Wood is currently available in five Habitat for Humanity ReStores located in West Bend, Germantown, Beaver Dam, Fond du Lac and Sheboygan. From the casual crafters to the serious artisans. The local taxidermists, to the fine furniture makers, all have found the high quality, low priced wood to be an exciting addition to the already fine selection a ReStore offers. Many ReStores are beginning to target the Do it Yourself (DIY) crowd by creating an upcycled and Rescued Wood corner display.
Taking a piece of furniture with a rough surface and exchanging it for a fresh new look gives the furniture not only more bang for the buck, but a repurposing that is in fashion right now and supported by many different individuals. From die-hard recyclers to purveyors of fine craftsmanship, buyers come in many forms, yet all see the beauty in the “cradle to cradle” concept of the wood. Another aspect of this project involves training and educational opportunities. The sawmill runs throughout the year and accommodates many groups in search of new skills and volunteer opportunities. The Rescued Wood Program hopes to go statewide in the future with the establishment of other Habitat for Humanity led operations or partnerships with local sawmills and kiln operations.
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