See wood’s trip from the forest to the marketplace


We write about Vaagen Brothers Lumber a lot because the company is such an innovator in forest collaboration and in communicating what it does. Russ Vaagen, vice president of the Colville, Wash., company, wrote on his blog recently about a video in which he appeared, talking about Vaagen Brothers’ commitment to active forest management.

The video is part of “Era of Megafires,” a multimedia presentation that is currently touring the Northwest. The presentation is by Dr. Paul Hessburg, researcher at the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station in Wenatchee and professor at University of Washington, and Wenatchee film company North 40 Productions.

Vaagen posted a 3-minute excerpt of the video, which has some great footage of Vaagen Brothers treating overcrowded forests in Northeast Washington and making them less suspectible to wildfire. From there, you see where the wood goes.

From Vaagen’s narration in the video, as he stands in the forest:

When we leave here, the forest that is left is higher value than when we found it. And we can take these biproducts to the marketplace and we’re able to carve out a nice business in a rural community. We did some treatment and that created small logs, which we put on a truck and shipped to the mill. Once we get them to the mill, we turn them into two-by-fours. The biproduct of that activity is chips, sawdust, shavings and bark. These products all have a destination, whether that be chipped wood to go to the pulp and paper plant or biomass to go to the power facilities. All kinds of wood products that you don’t think about every day but they came from these small diameter trees that came from treatments like here in this forest.

On his blog, Vaagen wrote that the video was an encouraging reminder of the progress the company and other parties are making on forest collaboration in the region.

I was interviewed along with Mike Petersen, Executive Director of The Lands Council.  As you will see in the video, Mike and his organization were not supporters of active management during the time known as the “Timber Wars”.  However, due to consistent collaboration with other community members in Northeast Washington, there is a new way of managing the Colville National Forest.  Mike and I believe that we are getting closer to fixing many of the problems of the past to create a new future for our forests and rural communities that depend on them.

I recently spent another full day of meetings with Mike and the rest of the Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition (NEWFC) leadership.  We have been working for some time to broaden the community participation.  The last six months has seen the development of a Tri-County (Ferry-Stevens-Pend Oreille) Forest Group that includes the commissioners from all three counties as well as a number of different stakeholders.  It’s so great to see the work that we have poured in for the last 15 years finally start to expand.

We are developing new relationships based on trust and respect.  It is our sincere hope that we can create an even deeper rooted model of collaboration that can help change the way we do business in and around our forests.  Not only focused on forestry, but include all recreation types, special use permits like grazing and ski areas, and help solve some of these long standing issues.  Helping our Forest Service understand the needs of the people and bringing new resources to bear to get more work done is what collaboration is all about.

Progress might be slow, but we continue to push.  This time we may have momentum.