A major asset of southwest Virginia and northeast Tennessee is the region’s forest land. Most of the timber harvested in these forests, however, is shipped out of Appalachia as unprocessed logs, taking potential jobs with them.
The folks at Appalachian Sustainable Development (ASD) know that, rather than cutting local timber and sending the logs elsewhere for processing, sawing those logs into lumber locally increases their value and provides more jobs.
Any additional refining and woodworking adds more value, creates more
jobs, generates more revenue in the community, and increases the likelihood that forests will be managed for the long term. That helps ensure that every part of the enterprise — growing, harvesting, and processing — is environmentally sensitive, protecting both the earth and human communities.
On April 30, the Abingdon-based nonprofit organization held the grand opening of its Sustainable Woods Processing Center, which they believe will boost southwest Virginia’s economy and encourage forest landowners in 10 counties of southwest Virginia and northeast Tennessee to practice sustainable harvesting of their trees.
Nine years in the making, from concept to construction, the $500,000 facility is sited on a hill next to the Russell County Fairgrounds outside of Castlewood. In addition to $330,000 in federal funds, the Appalachian Regional Commission, environmental groups, Russell County’s Industrial Development Authority, and the Coalfield Economic Development Authority helped finance the center.
At the grand opening event, Anthony Flaccavento, director of ASD, and Jeff Coffey, manager of the center, led the invited guests on a tour of the facility, including the log yard and sawing shed, the solar dry kiln, and the dry storage and training building, and explained the process of turning logs into lumber.
The center has the capacity to process 200,000 board feet of lumber yearly, accepting all hardwoods for processing — maple, ash, cherry, walnut, hickory, beech, red oak, poplar and white oak. The logs are turned into boards on the portable Wood Miser band saw, which, due to its thinner blade, produces a 20 percent greater yield than a circle saw.
After the logs are sawed, the lumber is dried in the solar kiln. Coffey said that sunlight on the solar panels is sufficient to maintain the required 110- to 160-degree temperatures in the kiln during the four or five warmer months out of the year. During the colder seven or eight months, the solar heat is supplemented by a furnace burning slab wood — waste from the saw mill that would otherwise be discarded.
The 3,000-square-foot storage facility can hold 60,000 board feet — about three full kiln loads. The building also includes a display area and conference space for ASD’s programs for landowner and logger training in sustainable harvesting methods.
The center contracts with landowners for the purchase of timber that will be harvested through the use of sustainable practices. ASD forester Dennis Desmond works with each landowner to develop a forest management plan, with the goal of ensuring the protection and enhancement of the ecological integrity of the forest, while meeting the needs of that landowner.
ASD’s Standards of Sustainable Forest Management, adopted by the board of directors in September 1999, are the basis for an ASD forest management plan. Implementation of a management plan is guided by three obligations:
(1.) Foremost, to protect and enhance the ecological integrity and vitality of the forested communities under consideration.
(2.) To meet the economic, social, aesthetic, and other needs and requirements of the forest landowner.
(3.) To provide useful, certified sustainably-produced wood products for processing and distribution by ASD and related institutions.
In accordance with each individual management plan, Desmond selects and marks the trees to be cut by an ASD-approved and recommended logger.
John Wagner, a local forest landowner, said he was pleased with his recent harvest. According to his management plan, “They left the biggest and best trees standing, and it still looks like a forest.” He says that, by creating openings in the forest canopy, the remaining trees will now grow faster, and new trees will sprout. He expects to be able to harvest trees selectively every 12 years or so, and still have a forest to enjoy.
The speakers at the grand opening included southwest Virginia’s Congressman Rick Boucher, who helped ASD secure U.S. Department of Agriculture funding for the Sustainable Woods Processing Center. “I would like to encourage all landowners in Southwest Virginia who are thinking about harvesting timber to contact Appalachian Sustainable Development and come to the center to see how logging can be done on their land,” he said.
For information on the ASD Sustainable Forestry and Wood Products initiative, contact Dennis Desmond or Anthony Flaccavento at 540-623-1121.