Down To Earth

Jul 18, 2011 11:49 AM by David Ortiviz

Sawmill sees growing demand for beetle kill pine

According to the U.S. Forest Service, bark beetles have destroyed more than 3 million acres of trees in Colorado raising fire and safety hazards. However sawmill companies are finding new life for those dead trees.

From a distance you can't see a difference but up close, the distinction is clear--or should we say bluish grey. "The outer part of it is a grey stain," said Len Lankford, owner of Greenleaf Forestry and Wood Products a sawmill in Westcliffe. The blue tint is left on the outer rings of trees that have been killed by hungry little bark beetles."They carry this little fungus on them on their feet or wherever (laughs) and that fungus is what colorizes the wood," said Lankford.

The wood is called beetle kill pine. At Greenleaf Forestry they're sliding through orders as fast as they can. "They ask me about beetle kill pine all the time," said Lankford.

Greenleaf started milling beetle kill pine about 5 years ago, since then they say the demand has exploded. "People from San Diego call about making a fence out of beetle kill pine and you go, really don't you have wood over there? They say we want to help. We want to help use that wood it's green," said Lankford.

U.S. Forest Service workers have been actively removing these dead trees. They're concerned they could fall and injure someone or fuel a fire. "A lightning fire could cause an immense fire in Northern Colorado and everyone is on the edge of their seats about that," said Lankford. We asked: "So they want you to use it?" Lankford: "The want us to use it."

They've used the unique wood to make everything from clocks to coffins, although most customers use it for wall or floor paneling. "We never imagined, they say, that you had anything like this," said Lankford.

Beetle kill pine is probably not available in local lumber yards, it's mostly sold at independent sawmills across Colorado.



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