Op-Ed: Making The Most of Trees When They Are Done Being Trees

Friday April 7, 2023

By Matthew Perkins, Idaho Department of Lands Urban Interface and Planning Manager

City foresters often promote the many benefits that trees in urban environments provide for people who live among them, but there are times when community trees need to be removed for risk mitigation, new construction, and a variety of other reasons.

Most municipal forestry programs use the wood products created by these removals. Wood chips created during the removal process have become recognized as a resource in our urban landscapes. But there is so much more that can be done.

All too often the wood from trees that get pruned of removed end up as firewood, or takes up space in our landfills. By creating a product from the wood that can give it a second life and keep the carbon in the wood sequestered for another 100 years or more. This is where the Urban Wood Network (UWN) comes in.

The UWN consists of municipalities, arborists, sawmills, suppliers, manufacturers, design professionals, and consultants. Their mission is to utilize wood that is generated during the normal, everyday practices of tree care and maintenance through uniting, promoting, and demonstrating its use. The UWN provides connectivity to help the industry thrive. They give trees a second life at their highest use by promoting a robust supply chain to get the greatest value product from trees. Their motto is “Trees First, Wood Next”.

Urban wood that is processed, sold, and utilized at its highest use can lower expenses for communities while providing a sustainable, renewable resource that can beautify our communities. A thriving wood market can help communities manage their tree resource in a holistic manner, from seedling to value added product. The UWN does not advocate for the removal of trees, just the thoughtful use of the wood that results from inevitable removals in the urban environment.

There is now a very active local chapter of the Urban Wood Network in Idaho that is garnering attention. A number of Idaho communities are participating in some unique opportunities and partnerships.

Wood bar

In Boise people can enjoy sitting at a bartop constructed from a silver maple that was removed from Boise’s urban forest. It was constructed by Tom Charters of Urban Forest Products and can be observed at Camp Cocktail Bar in the Warehouse Food Court in Downtown Boise.

Wood slabs

Meridian Parks and Recreation has a supply of wood milled from a large silver Maple removed in Meridian.

Wood table

One use of that wood has been picnic tables for its parks.

Wood bench

McCall Parks and Recreation is using reclaimed urban wood to build benches that will last forever. They can be enjoyed at Legacy Park.


The goal of UWN is to build interest and create potential partnerships in the future.

To learn more about The UWN and how you can get involved visit their website www.urbanwoodnetwork.org

In the Treasure Valley: Treasure Valley Urban Wood Network
In northern Idaho and Spokane: Spokane Conservation District







Sharla Arledge
Public Information Officer