January 05, 2012

A Deck Cut from Paradise


From The Oregonian, October 30, 2011
Blog post by Chris Wille, aka EcoBeavers

Here's a link to the original post.

Our search for sustainably harvested wood for our Beavercreek eco-home has led us to some wild and inspiring stories. Here's one...

The Nature Conservancy, a smart, nonprofit, ecosystem-saving organization, owns and manages the 7,600-acre Ellsworth Creek Preserve in Washington. The preserve connects to the equal-size Willapa National Wildlife Refuge, home to seabirds such as brown pelicans, the marbled murrelet, wintering Pacific brant, head-bobbing shorebirds that poke for food in the mudflats, and countless critters that live in the rich mosaic of salt- and freshwater marshes.

Nearly pristine Willapa Bay is world famous for oysters and runs with chum, chinook and coho headed up-creek to spawn. The combined protected areas host bear, elk, cougar, flying squirrels, bats and their wild associates. Bald eagles patrol the skies; Pacific tree frogs chirp in the underbrush.

As The Nature Conservancy (TNC) says, Ellsworth Creek is all about "thinking big." All but 300 acres of the preserve have been logged over, high-graded, degraded and abused. TNC has developed a restoration plan, thinking long-term and letting nature do much of the regrowing and repair. Over the next century, loggers under TNC's direction will carefully thin parts of this coastal rainforest, extract any non-native trees and restore the forest's natural productivity and diversity.

The wood that has been thinned from the preserve is sold to discerning brokers such as Sustainable Northwest Wood -- and the profits provide revenue for the restoration work. Streams are being rehabilitated, and the patches of old growth are safeguarded. Some trees are centuries old, already towering adults before any Europeans passed through the area.

The preserve's recovery and management plan has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). By following the FSC guidelines, managers can take commercial quantities of wood from a forest without compromising its ecological integrity. In fact, TNC is showing that commercial logging can even help restore a forest.

Biologist Tom Kollasch, Willapa Program Director for TNC, hopes that the project will provide a blueprint that can be used to restore other forests around the world, and in this article explains how selectively logging trees in old-growth forests can actually help revive marbled murrelets, a threatened seabird.

TNC is no stranger to radical restorations and has used logging, fire, cattle and other blunt instruments to recover ecosystems across the country. Ellsworth Creek is the first TNC holding in the West to earn FSC certification.

We're delighted to be among the first buyers of the certified wood from the preserve. It's beautiful cedar and carries a motivating tale of successful conservation. We love standing on our cedar deck and thinking of its connection to marbled murrelets, cougars and elk.

December 28, 2011

Dreaming of next year's garden? Think juniper!


Garden enthusiasts everywhere sooth their wintertime blues by poring over the pages of next year's seed catalogues, dreaming of what to put where and the beautiful blooms and bounty that their gardens will produce once warm weather returns.

As you contemplate the shape that your garden will take in the coming year, don't forget to consider the materials that hold it all together!  Juniper is an ideal replacement for the pressure-treated lumber that is often used to build raised garden beds, arbors, fences, and other backyard essentials.  Juniper lasts longer outside that pressure-treated fir, plus it is chemical-free, so you won't be introducing questionable substances into your soil. 

And, of course, your purchase of juniper supports family-run mills in Eastern Oregon and a constructive use for this intrusive species.

Sustainable Northwest Wood keeps juniper 6" x 6" and 2" x 6" landscaping timbers in stock and can quickly and efficiently help you source other dimensions, too.  Be sure to view the juniper photos in our Gallery and visit our Juniper page for more information about this durable, beautiful, and sustainable wood!

November 29, 2011

It's official! New product launch of our exclusive Zigzag Doug Fir


It's official! Sustainable Northwest Wood is now stocking our exclusive Zigzag Doug Fir.

Zigzag Doug Fir is FSC Pure and is sourced from the small town of Zigzag, 40 miles east of Portland on the southern slope of Mount Hood.

This clear vertical grain Doug Fir is selectively harvested from the Creighton Homestead, a 35-acre historic property owned by the Girl Scouts that is used as a scout camp and educational facility.  The forest is managed by Portland-based Trout Mountain Forestry.  The logs were cut and processed by a small, family-owned mill just south of Portland.

The Zigzag forest is a dense mixed conifer forest that supports a broad range of plant and animal life, including old growth Doug Fir, Western Red Cedar, Big Leaf Maple, Alder, and many other species of flora and fauna (see photo at left, taken from the trail that winds through the property). Trout Mountain is careful to manage it in a way that promotes forest health through strategic thinning and allows many generations of each tree species to flourish.

The trees in this parcel of forest have never experienced a clear cut.  A forest fire cleaned out much of the growth in the early twentieth century, a few years before the Creighton family settled on the land in 1912 and built their homes and outbuildings out of wood felled on site.  Since then, the forest has regrown and now the majority of its population is nearing a hundred years old. A few trees have been cut every so often, and stumps in varying states of decay can be seen, many of which have become nurse logs for new trees.  

The most remarkable aspect of a trip down the homestead nature trail, part of which comprises the old Barlow Toll Road (at right), is how hard it is to see that logging has occurred.  While the stumps remain, the forest is still intact, and its health and diversity is evident with every bend in the path.

Our kiln-dried, Clear Vertical Grain Zigzag Doug Fir is stocked in 1x6 surfaced trim and 1x6 rough blanks. 

We also stock kiln-dried Clear Vertical Grain flooring with the historically accurate face width of 3 1/4".

Check out our Photo Gallery for more images and information from our recent visit to the forest.


November 22, 2011

Juniper Country: A fact-finding mission


Last week I was fortunate to be able to embark on a fact-finding mission to Eastern Oregon, with the goal of learning more about where Sustainable Northwest Wood's juniper comes from and the route it travels between the forest and our warehouse.

It was certainly an eye-opening outing: The spread of juniper is surprisingly vast, with seedlings and young trees covering many mountain slopes, from Fossil eastward. 

Most of these are young trees, just a few decades old (note the bevy of baby trees in the photo above).  It is easy to imagine how the landscape will be altered in the coming years, morphing from open sagebrush steppe into dense woodland, barren of the grasses and shrubs that historically hosted much of Oregon's wildlife. 

How will these animals evolve to survive in such a different ecosystem in the span of just a few decades?  Chances are, they won't.

This is why the work of the brave folks who are pioneering a juniper industry is so important. They are striving to show that juniper can be cut, the landscape can be restored, jobs can be created in communities that are desperate for them, and the broader marketplace will support their work by buying the wood. 

We look forward to continuing our work with Oregon's juniper mills, doing our part to help develop the market for their wood, selling it at a price that allows them to grow their businesses and create conservation-based  jobs, and making sure reliable standards are developed and enforced to ensure that the wood is cut in a way that minimizes or negates harm to the surrounding plant and animal community.

Click here for more photos and information about the trip.

October 05, 2011

FSC vs. SFI - What's the difference?


People often ask us about the differences between wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and wood certified under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).

The line between the two, for many consumers, is fuzzy, and LEED 2012 appears to be on the verge of accepting SFI wood, whereas in the past only FSC was acceptable.

But there are stark differences, and a side-by-side comparison of the two standards can help us remember why we prefer FSC, and why our ultimate goal is to promote the use of wood that meets or exceeds FSC standards.

Some of the biggest differences:

  • FSC prohibits the use of genetically-modified organisms; SFI allows their use
  • FSC prohibits the use of persistent and/or bioaccumulative pesticides; SFI recommends "prudent" use of pesticides
  • FSC prohibits the conversion of natural forest to plantations; SFI allows that conversion and the certification of wood from those forests
  • FSC's standards were developed by a broad range of stakeholders, including environmental and human rights activists and forest products representatives; SFI was developed exclusively by the forest products industries
  • FSC's audit results are made public and can be appealed; SFI's audit results are private and cannot be appealed

UPDATE 8/16/2013:  This well-researched Portland Tribune article explores the differences in detail.  A great read for anyone looking for more information about FSC vs. SFI.

September 29, 2011

New ADU in Southeast Portland showcases FSC and salvaged wood


Built by homeowner Brent Foster, this adorable ADU in Southeast Portland is made entirely from FSC-certified or salvaged lumber.  Foster, a woodworking hobbyist, designed and built the structure to incorporate many sustainable features, including an innovative graywater system, 12" thick walls, and an ecoroof.

The ecoroof is held in place on its slope by a grid of juniper boards, strategically placed beneath the soil, which are rot-resistant for years and ideal for a ground-contact application like this. 

Foster also used locally-sourced, FSC certified lumber for the framing package, and sided the home in FSC certified cedar shakes.

Inside, an adorable table made from local FSC cedar grounds the space and adds rustic charm.  A stained concrete floor, slate mosaic tile backsplash, and cabinetry made from salvaged Doug fir add earthy color and texture. 

Outside, a hand-made cedar gate and arbor beckon guests into the yard.  A  verdant DIY living wall, nearing completion, will be installed nearby.

Foster's new space is a shining example of innovative sustainable building techniques.  Nice work, Brent!

September 13, 2011

Sustainable wood: It's not just for buildings! Check out this handmade boat...


This handmade boat boasts oars, gunwales, and breasthooks made out of local, sustainably sourced wood.  Isn't she a beauty?

Her name is Rosie, and she is the product of months of love and labor by a team of Portland women who, under the tutelage of the Wind and Oar boat school, took up woodworking tools for the first time in their lives and crafted this amazing functional piece of art.  The gunwales and oars are made of clear vertical grain Doug fir sourced from forests just outside of Portland; the beautifully figured maple in the breasthooks is from the central Willamette Valley; and the floor boards are made of local Alder.

Check out the photos here:  Rosie full length -- Rosie's breasthooks -- Rosie's Oars -- Oars close-up

Read more about Wind and Oar in this Oregonian feature.

August 29, 2011

Healthy Forests, Handsome Homes


From The Oregonian, August 29, 2011
Blog post by Chris Wille, aka EcoBeavers

Here's a link to the original post.

The long debate over how to manage our forests has often been divisive, but amid the discord there are some dazzling displays of collaboration. It's indeed possible for timber cutters, conservationists and businesspeople to all paddle in the same direction. A local, nonprofit organization called Sustainable Northwest brings these diverse forces together in a program called Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities Partnership.

Sustainable Northwest is led by the charismatic and clear-thinking Martin Goebel, who published a proposal in the Oregonian last week aiming to recast the entire argument over how to save salmon. The iconic fish, properly managed and productive forests and thriving rural communities are all linked, Goebel wrote, and profit incentives will work better than regulations in unlocking creative solutions and a lasting determination to work together.

Much of the wood in our Beavercreek eco-home/office - still under construction - comes from Healthy Forests managed by Healthy Communities through Sustainable Northwest Wood, Inc. in Portland. SNW is perhaps the only lumber yard in the country that deals exclusively in wood from forests certified as responsibly managed. Buying wood through SNW is like ordering seafood from so many responsible Portland restaurants – you know it's sustainably harvested or it wouldn't be on the menu.

With the guidance of SNW manager Ryan Temple, we chose bigleaf maple for two floors. This spectacular, warmly pale hardwood grows in combination with Douglas fir and is still quite common. Our floors came from local, sustainably managed forests.

Our window trim is Doug fir from Hyla Woods, located about an hour west of Portland. This family-owned business manages three forests certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.   The goal and mantra of Hyla Woods is "to grow ecologically complex, economically viable, responsibly operated forests." The model forests host students and researchers. Every year, the foresters select a few trees for felling. The logs are milled in the forest and dried in a solar kiln.
Jim & Chip Aug2011.jpgView full sizeCM WilleMaster carpenter Jim Cochell at work, with enthusiastic encouragement from Chip the Dog.

We instantly had a soft spot for the operation as Hyla is the Latin name for a large and diverse genus of frogs – the gaudy green and red tree frog – also the logo of our organization, the Rainforest Alliance.

We're fortunate to be able to surround ourselves with fabulous woods harvested and milled by caring and skilled woodsmen and women. The sustainable wood market creates sustainable jobs and, yes, healthy communities.   As these partnerships grow and branch out, they are attracting high-level attention. Recently, President Obama's top environmental policy adviser visited a Healthy Forest collaboration in John Day, a timber-dependent town in south central Oregon sandwiched between two national forests.
Window frame.JPGView full sizeCM WilleForest Stewardship Council certified window trim and flooring.

According to Sustainable Northwest, which coordinated the visit, Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said, "As we look at models for conservation, the top-down models of the past don't necessarily meet the needs of today." Sustainable Northwest and collaborating logging communities get praise from the White House; we get beautiful wood in our house.

August 10, 2011

MADE Studio makes magic with local Oregon White Oak -- Photos!


Bo over at MADE Studio sent us some breathtaking photos of projects he recently completed that use our Oregon White Oak, sourced locally from the Willamette Valley.  We love this ultra-contemporary European style kitchen island and the reception desk at Boora Architects' recently renovated offices. 

Check out these photos:

Kitchen Island 1  -  Kitchen Island 2  -  Reception Desk

And, of course, check out all of MADE's beautiful work at

August 01, 2011

Sustainable Business Oregon: Building healthy forests by building right


Thank you, Kelley Beamer and the folks at Cascadia Region Green Building Council, for sharing this important information!

Build healthy forests by building right
From Sustainable Business Oregon
July 28, 2011
By Kelley Beamer, Cascadia Region Green Building Council

Each time a new building is designed, constructed or renovated, builders have an opportunity to support healthy and resilient forests by choosing sustainably harvested wood products.

Thanks largely to growth in the green building sector and the uptake of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — LEED — building certification, several forestry standards have entered the market.

The most rigorous standard was developed by the nonprofit Forest Stewardship Council. The organization, known as the FSC, promotes responsible management of the world’s forests. FSC certification is a voluntary, market-based tool that ensures the highest biological and ethical standards were followed from forest to mill. FSC contains more performance-based criteria than any other standard in North America and follows strict requirements for assessing and conserving old growth and biodiversity.

The standard is also dedicated to protecting the rights of indigenous peoples on public and private lands and is the only certification system that outright prohibits genetically modified organisms. When lined up to other forestry standards, the FSC certification holds the highest bar.

In Oregon, we have several FSC-certified forests that represent both family-owned forests and large-scale land, like the FSC forest managed by the Warm Springs Tribe. As of March 2011, there were 548,379 acres of certified forests in Oregon. These forests provide an alternative to industrial timber harvesting, which have caused soil erosion and landslides that damage habitat and drinking water.

To date, the key problem has been linking these local forest products to the local builders who can source them. The good news is that the opportunity is growing.

Sustainable Northwest Wood is filling the critical role of connecting customers to wood sourced from sustainably managed forests and family owned mills in the Pacific Northwest. Just as farmers’ markets connect people to the farmers that grow their food, Sustainable NW Wood connects builders to foresters.

The organization operates a warehouse in Southeast Portland that provides builders with immediate delivery of specific wood orders. Each wood order carries with it a story about its place of origin. The premium of FSC wood varies, but in many cases Sustainable Northwest Wood is finding that they can supply at costs comparable to non-certified wood.

The building community has a major role to play with ensuring the future of our forests by building with certified sustainable forest products that address the triple bottom line of people, planet and prosperity. FSC products provide a value added product that can put Oregon in a leadership position for sourcing local wood and protect the long-term health of our local communities.