When David Barmon looks around at the trees in his east Portland neighborhood, he doesn’t just see green. He also sees lumber. Big, beautiful slabs of lumber that could become furniture, decking, fencing and cabinetry.
“That cone-shaped tree is a giant sequoia,” he says. “Look over there. That’s a cedar, and a doug fir.”
He points out a deodar cedar in a nearby yard.
Barmon owns a landscaping company, but he’s also started stockpiling wood in his garage from urban trees that have to be removed for one reason or another. He built his front port out of a black locust tree that was removed from the college campus across the street.
Urban logging is still a pretty rare phenomenon, but Barmon sees potential to grow the industry and use more urban trees for wood products instead of trees from far-off forests.
“Growing trees in the city for lumber takes logging pressure off our wild forests,” he says. “There is a smaller carbon footprint when trees are cut down, taken a few miles to a mill and used in the neighborhood.”
Barmon stacks milled lumber in his garage while he waits for it to dry. He sees urban trees as a more sustainable source of wood than trees from wild forests.
There are numerous challenges to logging urban trees. It’s expensive and dangerous, and many of the available trees are too knotty to be used for lumber.
But Barmon also has a vision of homeowners, businesses and governments planting trees on vacant land to sequester carbon and mitigate climate change while growing sustainable lumber. If urban trees were grown with lumber in mind, he says, they could be trimmed to make the logging and milling process more efficient.