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Salvaging Timber in East Texas

Photo by Mose Buchele for KUT News
Officials are considering timber salvage from some of the trees destroyed by fire in Bastrop State Park last month.

More than one-third of timber damaged by wildfires in East Texas has been salvaged and resold by property owners. Separate wildfires across the eastern part of the state in June scorched over 30,000 acres. The salvaged timber will be repackaged and sold as building materials, paper, and fuel. The value of the resold goods is expected to exceed $100 million.

Burl Carraway is the Head of the Sustainable Forestry Department at the Texas Forest Service. He told KUT News, “It just shows that even after the damaging effects of the severe wildfires that we’ve been having, some good can still come out of it.”

Carraway said private landowners worked together with loggers and foresters to clear the partially burned debris.  The concerted effort produced enough wood to frame and sheath about 7,000 average-size homes (1,800 square feet).

He also said that officials at Bastrop State Park are looking into a similar salvaging effort. The process is just beginning, so the Forest Service doesn't have any numbers on how much profit could be made. Because the land is a state park, any proceeds would go to Texas Parks and Wildlife.

According to Carraway the timber can be converted into building materials like 2x4s and wood paneling. However he said property owners do need to make sure they don’t wait too long to collect and transport their wood.

Carraway said, “Once the trees are killed they have a limited lifespan to be able to be used for forest products. If they stay dead too long, the wood can dry, and crack, and check.”

He said this can happen after two to three months. Wood can also pick up blue fungal stains. These physical imperfections would make it more difficult to sell. But Carraway says that even if the wood has deteriorated, there may be other options. The timber can be chipped up to create a woody bio-mass to be used in electricity production.

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