Mountain Pine Manufacturing seeks to further develop innovative reclaimed wood production facility
Mountain Pine Manufacturing hosted a tour Thursday, March 9, to showcase how the mill has grown and share the innovative products being created locally.
To reach its full capacity, though, the facility at 10 Moffat County Road 27 in Craig needs help from a U.S. Forest Service grant funding program.
Trent Jones, president of Mountain Pine, is beginning to do more public outreach about the local facility that is processing and manufacturing numerous products from beetle kill wood, as Jones is planning to apply for the Forest Service funding in late March and welcoming letters of support and in-kind matching donations for the grant.
Over a dozen guests visited Mountain Pine on Thursday for a site tour to better understand the vision Jones has for adding mass production of Engineered Wood Strand Mulch, otherwise known as WoodStraw, in addition to other reclaimed lumber products.
Jones explained that over the years, he’s cobbled this facility together into what he now describes as an inventive approach to a modest-sized sawmill.
The facility currently processes about 300 beetle kills logs per day, producing high-quality lumber, tongue and groove flooring, and premium fence posts that Jones boasts are heavier and less expensive than similar products from commercial outlets such as Home Depot.
Mountain Pine started out processing about 30 logs per day, and with the help of funding from the Moffat County Local Marketing District, funded through tax-levied dollars, the facility has jumped up to 300 logs per day.
The marketing district funding was used to purchase a scragg mill to cut the logs into standard pieces of lumber and a dust collector to gather and emit sawdust from the production area. While it may look like the system moves relatively slowly, the operation employs about nine workers and produces roughly $9,000 worth of products per day, Jones said.
And he has another expansion in mind, aiming to create additional jobs, more wood byproducts, and complete the facility by adding a viable wood waste system.
The Forest Service recently announced funding for the 2023 Wood Innovations grants to help accelerate the wood products market, and Mountain Pine Manufacturing is applying for $160,000 from the federal grant program, along with $160,000 in matching funds for a project total of $320,000.
The funds will primarily be used for a debarker machine and a secondary wood chipper, which will help process the wood waste left over from the standardized lumber cuts, as well as build capacity to produce other viable products from the beetle kill wood.
“We can’t even give the scraps away for free — even as firewood,” Jones said, adding that one way they’ve been able to recover the wood scraps is to cut them into small wood stakes. However, even for that product, there is a limited market.
“One of the things I want to do is recover as much as I can from this wood,” Jones said.
A portion of the funding will be used to improve Mountain Pines’ firewood processing system in hopes of making firewood available to residents who need it to keep their heat bills manageable. According to Jones, the facility has had to turn away over 300 residential customers because it didn’t have an efficient way to produce firewood.
WoodStraw is another product that can be created from wood scraps, as well as from less desirable subalpine fir trees, but the facility needs to grow its capacity in order to go into mass production.
WoodStraw can be used as an alternative to agriculture straw, rolled erosion blankets and hydro mulch — all materials that have traditionally been used for erosion control. The traditional materials have their own downsides to which WoodStraw claims to provide remedies.
Jones said that WoodStraw has the potential to become a mainstream, daily-use product in the next few years, and if that happens, it could create up to 16 new jobs here in Craig.
Because WoodStraw is created using reclaimed wood, it also could help repurpose thousands of hazard trees from the forest each year.
As erosion control, WoodStraw can be applied over snow, frozen ground, steeper slopes and doesn’t require water to apply. As a natural material, it also helps enrich the soil and allows for new vegetation to start to grow through the surface. But the WoodStraw also doesn’t carry seedlings that could spread invasive weeds.
Jones said his vision is to get the Craig facility up and running, as well as see other facilities throughout the region get mobilized. Together, he said the mid-sized facilities could provide enough WoodStraw to help prevent flooding and mitigate erosion on a larger scale.
For more information on Mountain Pine Manufacturing, visit MPineM.com/index.html.
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