The Illinois Emerald Ash Borer Wood Utilization Team was honored with the Governor’s Sustainability Award in October for its significant achievements in protecting the environment, helping sustain the future, and improving the economy. The Governor’s Sustainability Awards were presented by the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) during a ceremony in Peoria. ISTC is a unit of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois.

Since 1987, ISTC has presented Governors awards to organizations in Illinois that have demonstrated a commitment to environmental excellence through outstanding and innovative sustainability practices. Any Illinois public or private organization is eligible to apply for the award. Winners are selected through a rigorous process of review and examination by ISTC technical assistance experts.

Seventeen of the winners are corporations such as United, McDonalds and Quaker Foods. The remaining 10 winners included public agencies and non-profits. The Metropolitan Mayors Caucus hosts the Illinois Emerald Ash Borer Wood Utilization Team and accepted the award along with Team members from the Illinois Department of Agriculture and the US Forest Service.

The Illinois Emerald Ash Borer Wood Utilization Team champions the reclamation of valuable wood products from felled landscape trees. The introduction of traditional forest products industry technology into the management of urban forest is the innovation that allows the capture of wood material from the waste stream. Urban trees, maintained over decades for their contributions of shade, beauty, and air quality, energy conservation, and other benefits, come to an inelegant end at the conclusion of their useful life. Trees are felled and logs and limbs are usually processed into wood chips for mulch, or sometimes firewood. Yet, the market demands sustainable lumber products.

The Team’s new approach harvests logs that are considered waste, processes them into lumber, manufactures them into products and uses them locally. The Illinois Emerald Ash Borer Wood Utilization Team (WUT) promotes this new sustainable model by linking segments along the supply chain – from managers of urban landscapes to sawyers to woodworkers to end user of wood products. The team convened to address the anticipated large volume of ash wood that would result from the state’s emerald ash borer (EAB) infestation and has broadened to promote reclamation of all useable urban wood material. Through advocacy, education and training, demonstration projects and technical support, the Team has built a network of 55 sawyers; trained 130 arborists; assessed the timber resources in the Chicago metropolitan region; promoted reclaimed baseball bats on national television; and transferred technology and know-how to help other states create similar regional urban wood efforts.

In 2003, Illinois began planning its response to the threat of EAB and incorporated the sustainable utilization of waste ash wood into the statewide EAB plan, becoming the first state to do so. Illinois WUT spun off from the Illinois EAB Readiness Planning Team in 2006 and secured funding from the US Forest Service and the Illinois Department of Agriculture to develop wood reclamation options for EAB-infested ash trees. The Team served in an advisory capacity to the Governor’s Illinois EAB Science and Management Advisory Panel and was affiliated with Illinois Conservation Foundation, its fiscal agent. The Team is an all-volunteer ad-hoc group now, housed with the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus.

Congratulations to WUT members and all partners who advance the use of urban wood:

Michele Beaulieux,

Work In Motion


Robert Benjamin

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Laureen T. Blissard


LTB Envirotech

Jeffrey Coath

U.S. Department of Agriculture


Blake Davis


Illinois Institute of Technology


Paul Deizman

IL Department of Natural Resources


Tom Dilley


U.S. Forest Service


Tom Gargrave

IL Department of Natural Resources

Dave Hull

Village of Mount Prospect


John Lough

City of Chicago

Scott Schirmer

IL Department of Agriculture


Edward Kalebich

Robbins Community Power


Ron Meyer

Meyers Woodworking

Eve Pytel


Delta Institute


Matt Seiler

Chicago Furniture Designers Association


Randy Timmons

IL Department of Natural Resources

Jim Tresouthick

Village of Homewood

Source: Illinois Emerald Ash Borer Wood Utilization Team


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