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Asheville conference aims to chop wood waste

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10/19/2011 - Asheville conference aims to chop wood waste
by Romando Dixson - Asheville Citizen Times

ASHEVILLE -- If you believe there are more productive uses for urban-harvested timber than mulch and firewood, the N.C. Urban Wood Conference is for you.

Urban forest product business owners, foresters, arborists, educators, researchers and advocates are invited to the event, which falls in line with sustainability and green building movements. The two-day event starts at 8:30 a.m. Friday at Lioncrest on Biltmore Estate and continues Saturday at the Asheville Visitors Center.

"What this conference aims to do is bring people together to create networks," said Bill Hascher, arborist manager at Biltmore. "We're bringing in guest speakers to talk about successes they've had in other parts of the country."

A central theme of the conference: Salvaging wood products that might otherwise go in a landfill or wasted in other ways.

Sam Sherrill, author of "Harvesting Urban Timber: Starting a Modest Size Urban Forest Products Business," is one of the speakers. He said he has been involved in the industry for 15 years.

"I think this is an emerging industry, and I think after 15 years we have arrived at a carpe diem moment," he said. "Now I think is the time to seize the day.

"For this to succeed, it has to be a private sector response. People have to be interested in starting these kind of businesses. It's not something the government is going to do."

Sherrill teamed with local business owner Michael Keleher to form Urban Forest Products of Asheville LLC. He said the company uses a kiln to cure useful wood.

"By the best estimate we have at present, somewhere between 3-4 billion board feet of potential lumber from urban trees annually is either put into landfills (treated as green waste), or used as firewood or mulch," Sherrill said.

"The nation uses about 13 billion board feet of hardwood every year. So we are throwing away, burning or grinding up urban trees that could be converted into lumber that would be equal to about one-third of what we consume annually."

The second day, free and open to the public, is from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at the lower parking lot of the Asheville Visitor Center, 33 Montford Ave.

People are invited to look at wood crafts and watch demonstrations, including a portable wood mill in action.

"This is our first effort to form a network," Hascher said. "There are a lot of links that need to take place though this meeting. It is hoped we can create a nice chain from the person who's cutting the tree down to the person who is going to use wood in its final form."

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