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Project Woodcut relief effort nets national award
For immediate release
Major media distribution
January 5, 2009
Contact: Rod Nichols, 503-945-7425
A project conceived by professional foresters in 2008 as a way to clean up winter storm damage to northwestern Oregon forests and help afflicted local residents heat their homes has garnered a national honor. This fall, the Society of American Foresters (SAF) bestowed the House of Society Delegates National Recognition Award on the Portland SAF chapter for the outstanding public service benefits achieved by "Project Woodcut."
When SAF member Bob Alverts learned of the extensive blowdown of trees from back-to-back storms last December, he pondered how to solve two pressing concerns: the millions of board feet of downed timber that would soon become a wildfire hazard, and the roughly 800 Vernonia homeowners without heat due to storm-caused power outages. His solution, dubbed Project Woodcut, helped address both problems.
The retired Bureau of Land Management natural resource manager took his idea to the SAF leadership, and soon they were working the phones to recruit woods-savvy volunteers to cut up the dead trees into fuel and deliver it to the remote community. He set the project goal at an ambitious 100 cords of firewood.
Public response was gratifying: Stihl Northwest and Precision Power Equipment loaned power saws and other gear to the crew, volunteers provided wood splitters, and lumber mills sent trucks to haul the wood to the stricken homeowners. Cash donations flowed in to help with fuel and other expenses. All told, the generous gifts of services, equipment and supplies, and money by Oregon businesses, organizations and individuals exceeded $50,000.
In several weekends the foresters, working with Columbia County Disaster Relief coordinators and local volunteers, cut and split more than 50 cords of firewood from Weyerhaeuser Company and Bureau of Land Management lands, as well as Banks and Vernonia landowner properties, and delivered the fuel to Vernonia residents.
Initially, much of the toppled timber proved unreachable due to forest road blockages. To keep the firewood deliveries on track, DR Johnson Lumber of Prairie City donated an entire truckload of dry pine logs. Iron Triangle Logging of John Day hauled the logs to Pendleton, and local mill Blue Mountain Lumber completed the relay by delivering them to Vernonia.
Longview Timber Company, Green Diamond Company and Roseburg Forest Products also donated several log truck loads of wood to help exceed the 100-cord goal.
A final forest outing of Alverts’ band of volunteers on Nov. 15 closed out the nearly year-long relief effort. He reflected on the multiple benefits of the project:
"It has helped connect rural and urban people and provided for the basic needs of several hundred flood victims," he said. "Also, it has clearly helped the Society of American Foresters get back to its roots and develop relationships with a number of agencies, companies and volunteer organizations."