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The new buzz at KLT's Pine Street Woods

by REGAN PLUMB Contributing Writer
| October 28, 2020 1:00 AM

Although the sawblade was silent, the buzz of volunteers filled the autumn air on a recent weekend as community members gathered to assemble a new portable mill for Pine Street Woods Community Forest.

Purchased by Kaniksu Land Trust in partnership with Bonner Soil and Water Conservation District, the acquisition of the mill represents another milestone along the path of sustainable forestry practices and public education on the community forest property.

Pine Street Woods was purchased by Kaniksu Land Trust in 2019 with support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Forest Program, LOR Foundation, Equinox Foundation, Idaho Forest Group and many others, with a mandate to preserve it as a working forest. The principles of sustainable forest management have been intentionally ingrained into the three tenants of the project (conservation, recreation, education) through planning and design since day one.

“I was amazed when I first came up here by the diversity of trees on the property,” said forester Doug Bradetich of Idaho Forest Group, who helped to write the forest management plan. “It’s difficult to find that much (diversity) on one chunk of property, and just minutes from town nonetheless.”

With a sustainable, community-authored forest management plan soon in place, KLT was well-positioned for its first forestry challenge. That came when a March windstorm toppled countless trees at the Woods. A thoughtful logger with knowledge of the property and a sensitivity to its public nature was engaged to salvage much of the windblown timber, but a poor market for some species left the organization with a “windfall” of unwanted logs. This scenario inspired a creative new idea. If Pine Street Woods could acquire its own small mill, then these trees could be processed on site and the resulting lumber offered to the community.

Fast forward six months to the recent sawmill set-up party, held to benefit a collaborative purchase by Kaniksu Land Trust and Bonner Soil and Water Conservation District. Over the course of a weekend, and with some 70-plus hours of volunteer effort, three pallets loaded with thousands of pieces and parts, nuts and bolts, were converted into a shiny new mill with the capacity to saw 36-inch diameter logs into custom lumber. The opportunities are endless. KLT and BSWCD envision milling everything from custom timbers to lumber for backyard building projects, all sourced from sustainably grown timber from Pine Street Woods. Workshops and guest lectures can be coordinated around mill operations, and byproducts such as wood shavings and offcuts can be offered up as firewood and chicken coop bedding.

“The ability to demonstrate the entire conversion process from sustainably managed forest to a 2x4, and with so many educational opportunities along the way, is really remarkable,” said BSWCD Supervisor John Gaddess.

Education was certainly a strong driver of the sawmill initiative. “I see this as a parallel to the local food loop,” said KLT Conservation Director Regan Plumb. “Our region is famous for its ability to grow trees, but how often do you take the time to consider how that board got onto a shelf at the lumber yard? Now we can demonstrate the process from beginning to end… and community members can take home their own special piece of Pine Street Woods.”

KLT and BSWCD owe a debt of gratitude to Troy Tvrdy, Chad Landrum, Dave Brown, Rich Del Carlo, Celeste Grace, Colin Burnett, Matt Wiebe, Steve Petesch and Brian Cox for their help assembling a very complex machine. Now that the mill has been put together, the team looks forward to settling it into its new home at Pine Street Woods. Then the real fun begins.

photo

(Photo courtesy KANIKSU LAND TRUST)

Volunteers work to put together a portable sawmill at Kaniksu Land Trust's Pine Street Woods Community Forest. The opportunities for the equipment and resulting lumber are endless, KLT and Bonner Soil and Water Conservation District officials said.

photo

(Photo courtesy KANIKSU LAND TRUST)

Volunteers work to put together a portable sawmill at Kaniksu Land Trust's Pine Street Woods Community Forest. The opportunities for the equipment and resulting lumber are endless, KLT and Bonner Soil and Water Conservation District officials said.

photo

(Photo courtesy KANIKSU LAND TRUST)

Volunteers put the finishing touches on a portable sawmill at Kaniksu Land Trust's Pine Street Woods Community Forest. The project is a joint effort between KLT and

photo

(Photo courtesy KANIKSU LAND TRUST)

Volunteers work to put together a portable sawmill at Kaniksu Land Trust's Pine Street Woods Community Forest.

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