Wood Utilization for Ash Trees

According to an article on the Minnesota DNR website there are an estimated 937 million ash (Fraxinus) trees in Minnesota. Approximately 3 million of those ash trees are in our lawns and city boulevards. That's a lot of ash for the emerald ash borer. And as of 2007, over 20 million ash trees had been killed in Michigan by the emerald ash borer. As the emerald ash borer moves through Minnesota, there will be significant challenges in dealing with the number of dead trees and the resulting quantities of wood.


So, what can be done to ease the difficulty of dealing with a large amount of dead trees and the resulting wood?  

As a start, you might consider creating a community group to inventory (count) your neighborhood trees. ​Community groups can be a great way to exchange ideas and broaden the involvement to your entire neighborhood.  Once you have an idea of the number of ash in your area, you can pool available resources to deal with potential issues.

 

Norwood PortaMill Chainsaw Sawmill; Granberg Chainsaw Mill, Model #G777 

norwood portamill chainsaw    granberg chainsaw mill

There are the standard options:

  • Remove the tree(s)
  • Chip the wood for landscaping or disposal
  • Cut the wood into firewood
  • Sell the wood for biomass uses (energy production)

What about other options?

How about purchasing a sawmill to mill removed trees into usable lumber?

While this might sound unreasonable, there are some products that are very affordable and practical for small groups or companies to purchase and operate.  

The price for a small “sawmill” that can be used with a standard chainsaw, the type a homeowner might own, start around $150. This "sawmill" can be used on individual trees to create lumber for other projects. ​Larger, yet still affordable, sawmills can be purchased by community groups, forestry or parks departments.  These sawmills start around $1000. Companies such as Northern Tool or Forestry Suppliers are good resources for these products.

Check out the EAB Decision Guide for tips to use when deciding what to do with your ash trees!

Whether you decide to purchase one of these tools or work with a company that already has a way to mill logs, your options for utilizing wood is limited only by the number of trees and your imagination.  

Here is a short list of possibilities:

  • Shelving
  • Benches for your local park
  • Furniture or flooring
  • Picture frames
  • Art
  • Lumber for your schools' wood shop programs
  • Forestry or Parks departments can mill and sell the wood to the public

How about a wildlife tree?

A wildlife tree is dead tree that is kept standing for the benefit of birds, small mammals, and other animals that wildlife in the area. So, instead of cutting down your trees, consider working with a reputable tree care company to turn your tree into wildlife habitat. Usually the major branches, top, and bark are removed from the tree, leaving the main trunk for wildlife to utilize.

Don't forget about treatments!

If there are ash trees that you highly value, options exist to treat with chemicals in order to reduce the likelihood of infestation by the emerald ash borer. While no treatment is 100% effective, treatments can still be a good option for beautiful, healthy, or large trees. Treatments DO need to be continually re-applied. Work with a reputable tree care company for assistance in evaluating treatment options and costs associated with long term treatments. Click here for a directory of tree care companies.

 

General things to keep in mind:

  • Solutions are likely going to be multifaceted
  • Community involvement is important
  • Keep the wood local. It's cheaper and prevents transportation of pests to other communities
  • Re-plant new trees to replace the ones you remove (vary the species)
  • A resource directory for sawmills, tree care companies, nurseries, and more can be found here.

Be sure to check quarantines for transporting wood. Check with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture for updates on quarantined areas and regulations.

 

 

Photo Credit: 
Figure 1 & 2 from www.northerntool.com

Written by Eric North, April 2011
Urban & Community Forestry 
University of Minnesota