Arizona company restoring forests while creating wood products for industries

A Phoenix-area forest restoration company is hoping to aid in preventing catastrophic wildfires, while helping construction companies stay fully stocked on certain wood products during a lumber shortage.

"We’re taking some of the really overgrown forests that’s been neglected for decades, and we’re putting them into a position of being a lot more fireproof as well as a better watershed. There’s benefits all over the place," said Kevin Ordean, Forest Operations Manager for Newlife Forest Restoration.

Newlife Forest Restoration, which is based out of Mesa, is in a partnership with the National Forest Service, and it is doing what it can to help make sure a potential wildfire can be contained.

The company's main goal is to restore forests. The company has a goal to restore 25,000 acres of forests per year. Their second goal is to produce high-value, engineered wood products, and ensuring that no lumber is wasted. How it works is the Forest Service marks which trees need to be cleared, and after that, Newlife comes in, cuts the trees, and then hauls the logs to one of its sawmills, including its newest location near Flagstaff.

"The Forest Service typically designated logs that are of lower quality, restoration-type logs, and with that, we convert those to lumber products," said Newlife Forest Restoration CEO Ted Dergousoff. "We sell pallet stock, high-grade lumber, and products that are of lower grade, we bring them to the engineered wood plant, where we cut up the longer, lower-grade pieces, and we reassemble them to different grades."

Typically, wood from forest restoration is only made into chips or mulch for playgrounds and landscapes. In some cases, it is just burned. At Newlife, they are putting the pieces into the chop saw.

"What the chop saw does is it takes the long length, lower-grade lumber and it cuts it into small pieces, and all of the small pieces are of a different quality, and what you see behind me is the smaller pieces going up into bins," said Dergousoff.

The material then goes to a finger joiner that reassembles the wood into long-length lumber by grade. Once the process is complete, the wood can now be used for various things.

"They include the material that makes siding, decking, window trim, door parts, window parts, all of these higher valued products," said Dergousoff.

From start to finish, the wood has been given new life. As for Newlife Forest Restoration's facility in the Flagstaff area, once it is complete, it will be the largest high-capacity sawmill facility in Arizona. In addition, it will create 200 new jobs in the forest industry.

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