Turning old fence posts, and beetle-killed pine into sustainable products

January 7, 2019

By: The Working Forest Staff

Caption: Ryan Palma stands in the showroom of Sustainable Lumber Co. of Missoula, a company he started to utilize wood that otherwise might go to waste. Palma uses mostly beetle-killed pine and sustainably harvested fir but reuses wood pallets and old fencing as well to make mostly wood floors and wall paneling.

Old oak fence posts from a horse pasture in the southern United States, beetle-killed pine trees from near Missoula and unused wood shipping pallets from Kalispell are on their way to a Mennonite community in western Montana for a new lease on life.

Once there, they will be milled down into flooring, wall paneling and all sorts of reclaimed wood products and shipped across the country.

According to a report in the Missoulian, this will all happen thanks to the Sustainable Lumber Co. of Missoula, a company started by Ryan Palma to reuse wood that might otherwise go to waste. Eight years ago, Palma decided to strike out on his own and now he’s shipping products all over the U.S. and planning on moving into a giant new warehouse space near Arlee.

Last October, he received the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Use and Promotion of Montana Wood during Governor Steve Bullock’s Montana Forest Products Week. His wood has been used to make a ukulele for former Vice President Al Gore and a guitar for folk rock songwriter Jack Johnson. His main products, flooring and wall paneling, come from pine trees killed by the mountain pine beetle and other bugs, which have ravaged large swaths of Montana forests. His fir products come from Sustainable Forest Initiative-certified trees from Pyramid Lumber Co. in Seeley Lake.

“I’ve had this idea of Montana-grown products,” he said. “I think people in the lumber industry honestly are the biggest tree-huggers. We really are. We want our forests to be clean and not burned up, so it’s always kind of big a part of what I loved.”

In the U.S., his loggers and friends in the Mennonite community, Palma says they refer to themselves as “Amish with technology,” get paid well and work in safe conditions.

See full report here.

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