You may remember what I called "the Most Promising Wood Industry Story of 2012," the public/private partnership between the U.S. Forest Service, community groups, and the Southwestern timber industry.
Patrick Rappold, the Wood Utilization and Marketing Specialist for the State of Arizona, recently shared some nice follow-up comments and photos on the project.
The Vaagen Brothers hosted an open house on Wednesday May 29, for the opening of the Four Corners Forest Products sawmill in Eagar, AZ. A mobile HewSaw is being used to process small diameter trees that are being removed as part of the White Mountain Stewardship Contract on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. The open house for the mill coincided with the two-year anniversary of the Wallow Fire. What eventually became Arizona’s largest wildfire; the Wallow Fire devastated 538,049 acres of forests. While most of the acres burned did occur on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, the fire did cross over into New Mexico and also burned some forests managed by the White Mountain Apache. Salvage of the timber is still ongoing.
The HewSaw [operation] is not associated with Pioneer Forest Products and the mill is exclusively utilizing material from the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. The Forest Supervisor for the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest (Jim Zornes) was instrumental in bringing the operation to Eagar, AZ. Current timber management plans for the Forest allow for existing industry to coexist with the HewSaw. Several large diameter sawmills still operate in the region and are taking most of the larger logs from the Wallow Fire Salvage operation.
The Vaagen Brothers are operating the mill using a batch system. An onsite log merchandising system sorts the logs based upon diameter, sweep, and length. At the open house on May 29, the HewSaw was primarily producing pallet cants. The yield looked pretty good. The clean chips produced from the HewSaw are being marketed to different businesses. There is wood heating pellet plant nearby that is currently turning the chips into pellets. When the 24MW biomass fueled electrical plant (Snowflake Power) comes back online, chips will likely be marketed to that operation also.
Below are some production numbers for the mill:
This Hew Saw has the capabilities of producing over 100,000 board feet of lumber per shift. That amount of lumber is roughly 20 log loads per shift, producing lumber and chips to go into the local markets. This Sawmill will employ 15 to 30 people directly; the number of logging jobs in the forest will be approximately 25 to 50."
Nice to see that the effort has yielded some fruit. Harvesting and utilization of small diameter logs and forest restoration are one of the most daunting natural resource tasks, and one of the greatest economic and ecological opportunities, we face here in the US. Hats off to the Vaagen Brothers and all the loggers that have committed to the joint effort, and for putting in the extra effort to make sure that the expectations of all the stakeholders are met. We will be watching closely to see if this experiment can be made to work on our western frontier, and what, if any, lessons we can learn in order to make this work in other regions.
Here's hoping the venture, and others like it, are financially successful in a hurry. You home builders out west, keep throwing them up! We need your business.
Thanks to Patrick for the update and pictures in the accompanying slide show.
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