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Harvesting Urban Timber


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About the Author

Sam Sherrill, author of Harvesting Urban Timber: A Complete Guide, retired in 2008 from a large mid-western university where he taught graduate courses in economics, statistics, and social research methods. He is a lifelong woodworker who uses urban trees as the sole source of lumber for commissions. Most often the commissioned pieces are made from trees that stood on the client's property. In addition to woodworking, Sam devotes his time to promoting the creation of a formal Urban Forest Products Alliance (UFPA) organization as a means of gaining recognition of the urban forest products industry. He firmly believes that producing urban wood products from urban trees, though similar to the well-established forest products industry, is sufficiently distinct to warrant separate recognition and representation by its own trade organization. With the essential support of both Friends of the Urban Forest and CALFIRE, Sam organized an urban forest conference in the spring of 2011 in San Francisco. Then with the support of the North Carolina Forestry Service's Urban and Community Forestry and the Biltmore Estate, he organized a similar conference in Asheville, NC in the fall of the same year. Sam maintains an active urban forest research agenda. He conducted a survey among southwest Michigan businesses on the amount of wood residue they generated and whether the residue was re-used or treated as solid waste. Another part of this study conducted by a David MacFarlane, a colleague at Michigan State University, estimated the saw log content or the greater Detroit urban forest. Working through Dovetail Partners on a USDA Forest Service grant, he and hisDovetail colleague, Steve Bratkovich, constructed a quantitative model to estimate the carbon sequestration potential of urban forest products - which, as it turns out, is substantial (124 million tons over a thirty-year period). They recently received another grant from the Forest Service to reconstruct the original sequestration model so that at the macro-level it will convert selected tons of CO2e to board feet of urban wood products needed to yield the selected sequestration amounts and, conversely, to convert selected amounts of urban wood in board feet used to make solid wood products that would yield corresponding tons of CO2e. From the business perspective this information can be used as a major marketing tool to promote both the UFP industry and its individual businesses. Sam continues to search for and interview owners of urban forest products businesses to learn where they are and what and how much they produce. With Michael Keleher, an Asheville cabinet company owner, Sam was until recently an active partner and investor in a start-up LLC, Urban Forest Products of Asheville, which specializes in kiln drying lumber. Overall, by the combination of research and personal experience, Sam is very familiar with every stage of diverting saw-log quality urban trees from waste, mulch, and fuel into higher value wood products. He has felled trees, sawed them into lumber, dried the lumber, and made furniture. He has given many invited presentations on the subject of harvesting urban timber. He has been the subject of numerous newspaper articles, TV news reports, and has appeared on national television to promote this idea, including on the PBS program New Yankee Workshop. Working with urban wood is a Sherrill family enterprise: Sam's wife Pat turns pens. He and his son, Carey, a very accomplished woodworker in his own right, have worked together on most commissioned projects.

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