log from a removed urban tree ready to be cut into lumber at a sawmill


Beautiful Lumber from Once-Beautiful Trees

Upcycling harvested wood from our communities celebrates local history and extends the tree’s story for future generations to cherish. Instead of chipping into mulch or chopping for firewood, there is a growing trend to divert that good wood to a local sawmill to mill logs into lumber.

Urban wood is a plentiful, local, renewable resource with unique character. Woodworkers, designers, artists, homeowners and business owners can create customized looks with rich colors, unique grain patterns, knots, or branching patterns found in community trees for bookcases, tables, mantels, flooring, trim or cabinets.

The DNR forestry program is working to connect people all along the supply chain to build community, business and consumer interest to embrace this untapped potential.

Learn more about how homeowners, communities and businesses are crafting fallen trees in their locales in the Summer Iowa Outdoors Magazine.

Sorting for the Best Use of Each Community Tree

A community tree has value at every stage of its life. Its story does not have to end when it must be taken down because of disease, storm damage or development plans.

Different parts of a fallen tree can be separated into piles for reuse and to reduce waste. Portions of trees are best converted to wood chips, compost and mulch—think twigs, branches and limbs. But trunks, if not hollow, can be rescued and lumbered.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, if recovered and repurposed, wood from our country’s urban forests could produce nearly 4 billion board feet of lumber each year.

Easy Ideas to Support Wood Recycling in Your Community
  • Select local lumber for home improvement projects from area sawmills and the Habitat for Humanity ReStores in Des Moines and Iowa City.
  • Choose arborists, tree care companies and sawmills that reuse wood responsibly.
  • Learn more about wood characteristics of urban trees. No two wood grains are exactly alike, but each tree species has characteristics that set its wood apart.
  • Explore the children’s playhouse constructed almost entirely from urban lumber at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. Originally constructed for the 2021 Iowa State Fair, the playhouse showcases seven species common to urban areas, including white oak, elm, honey locust, maple, hickory, eastern redcedar and black walnut.
Local Use is Good Use

Every tree that shades our yards and public parks has a story. Lovingly planted and nurtured, it grew for decades and sometimes over a century. It’s a celebration of local history, a natural fixture in a park, along a street, in a backyard or alongside a school.

Recycled wood from community trees can boost local economies, strengthen sustainability commitments, reduce expenses for communities, and enhance our living spaces.

Capturing the highest and best use of removed urban trees reduces the strain on our natural habitats and forests to supply us with usable wood products and building materials. 

Buying local lumber for your wood use needs whenever possible is a step towards becoming a more sustainable community. With its beautifully unique appearance, it creates one-of-a-kind home products, while supporting local businesses.






Contact Information

Aron Flickinger
Forestry Program Specialist
502 E. 9th St., Des Moines, IA 50319
515-291-2829
aron.flickinger@dnr.iowa.gov

 

Powering New Local Business, Crafts

Community Examples [PDF]

Iowa DNR forestry was awarded funds from the U.S. Forest Service to help communities become more sustainable by networking with local businesses to recycle wood from urban trees that have been removed and promote sawmills.
 
Several pilot projects are helping communities explore options and initiatives to responsibly use the wood from their fallen urban trees.