Why is urban wood utilization important?

In every community across the nation, trees from streets, parks, backyards, and other public areas are regularly removed due to old age, disease, and mortality from a variety of causes. Even though many of these trees are of grade lumber quality, they are considered a waste, and therefore a disposal problem, for most municipalities. Chipping/grinding and transport to an incinerator or landfill is the standard disposal method for most urban wood, regardless of the market value that these resources could have as timber. Communities get a raw deal in this situation:

  • They pay large fees for chipping the material, transporting it, and disposing of it at a waste site.
  • They receive no economic return for trees bought and cared for with public funds.
  • They still have to purchase wood products from other sources for municipal projects.

According to "Utilizing Municipal Trees: Ideas From Across the Country" (a 2001 U.S. Forest Service publication by Stephen M. Bratkovich), approximately 200 million cubic yards of urban wood is generated annually in the United States. Of this, fifteen percent is made up of unchipped logs. If processed, these logs could produce 3.8 billion board feet of lumber OR 30% of all hardwood lumber produced annually in the U.S.

Given that the emerald ash borer has already killed over ten million ash trees in Southeast Michigan, it is very important that communities and homeowners reevaluate how they manage their urban forest resources. The trees killed by the EAB will have to be removed; however, it is not a wise use of resources for a city to send its valuable wood to a landfill, only to then purchase lumber that was created from harvesting other forests.

Does ash wood have any real value?

Ash wood can be used for a wide variety of products, including (but not limited to) furniture, flooring, cabinetry, railroad ties, and landscape timbers.

A ton of ground ash wood is only worth approximately $22. In contrast, a single ash railroad tie is worth $18. One high-quality ash log, cut into grade lumber, can occasionally be worth as much as $100. Without even considering the good environmental reasons for turning these urban trees into products, it is easy to see the huge economic benefits of marketing this material.

Can ash be utilized safely?

Yes. The emerald ash borer tunnels just through bark into cambium layer of the tree, leaving the inner (and most valuable) wood untouched. Recent research shows that removing the bark and about one inch of the wood underneath will eliminate the infested portions of the material and leave the remaining wood safe for use.

However, please keep in mind that ALL ash wood in the quarantine area is still federally and state-regulated material. Any ash wood that is kiln-dried and/or fumigated may leave quarantine. Other bark-free material (green lumber, railroad ties, etc.) may leave quarantine only with MDA/APHIS inspection and certification.

How can I obtain state certification to move ash products?

For more information about compliance agreements, please contact the Michigan Department of Agriculture at (517) 373-1087.

Is grant funding for demonstration projects still available?

Unfortunately, no grant funding is available at this time. All of our demonstration projects are supported through grants that our organization has received from the U.S. Forest Service. We are regularly applying for new grants and hope to support new demonstrations in the future. To be added to the mailing list to receive first notice of new grant opportunities, please contact the RC&D office at (734) 761-6722 x 105 or visit our news page to see recent announcements.

I have dead ash trees. What should I do with them?

Please see our resources page for wood utilization tips, important contact information, and useful links. The flyers "My Ash Tree is Deadů Now What Do I Do?" and "Emerald Ash Borer and Your Woodland" should be particularly helpful. If you are the manager for a large block of land (municipality, substantial woodlot, etc.), contact the RC&D office for more information.

How can I learn more about ash wood utilization in Michigan?

To learn more about ash utilization projects in Michigan and/or to schedule a speaker for your community or organization, please contact:

Jessica Simons
Natural Resource Specialist
Southeast Michigan RC&D Council
7203 Jackson Road
Ann Arbor MI 48103-9506
(734) 761-6722 x 105

A project of the Southeast MI RC&D


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Targeting Michigan's core emerald ash borer infestation area of Lenawee, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair, Washtenaw, and Wayne Counties.