A Steamboat Springs-based business has found a way to process a wildfire hazard into a product that helps to rehabilitate forests. Rogue Resources Inc. recently launched a product that uses waste from beetle-kill trees and turns it into a mulch that prevents erosion after forest fires.
Wood-strand mulch is a form of ground cover that prevents erosion by protecting soil until vegetation can re-establish itself, Rogue Resource chief financial officer Trent Jones said. The mulch provides an earth-friendly alternative to agricultural mulch, which can contain noxious weeds, pesticides and chemicals, he said.
“When you send ag-mulch 2,000 miles away and somebody spreads it around, you end up getting weed seeds in those bales of straw or hay,” Jones said.
The wood-based mulch is also an economic way to utilize waste from dead trees, he said.
“It’s a totally new way to work with beetle kill,” Jones said.
Rogue Resources is a large-scale logging company that removes hazardous beetle-kill trees. In the past, the company attempted to create commercial-grade wood from the dead lodgepoles they collected, but found there was just too much wasted material from the process to make a profit.
“We ran a sawmill for a few years and it basically bombed,” Jones said. “We got to the point we just couldn’t get rid of the trees — or at least get good value out of them.”
But the company was resilient in its effort to find a suitable use for the beetle-kill trees. In 2012, they reached a licensing agreement with Forest Concepts LLC — a small business in Washington State that has been using woody debris and downed logs to enhance wildlife habitat.
The Colorado company put a local spin on the Forest Concepts product by using wood from dead lodgepole pines to create their mulch — which launched just weeks ago. The straw, which is essentially small, narrow wood strands of relatively uniform size, is created by shearing lumber through specialized machinery.
“We think that doing this with beetle-kill trees is an awesome use,” Jones said.
The mulch has a great potential throughout Colorado, including Summit County, Jones said. It can be used by private and public agencies for burned-area emergency response, and rehabilitation for mining, construction and road maintenance.
The Colorado State Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture and The Conservation Fund contributed to Rogue Resources’ business endeavor.
Tim Reader, a forester with the Colorado State Forest Service, was a decision-maker in the Forest Business Loan process. He said he was impressed with Rogue Resources concept to turn beetle-kill lodgepole pines into an environmentally friendly, cost-effective erosion relief product.
“There is a number of challenges businesses face to find the money to purchase and upgrade equipment,” Reader said. “The loan helps them become more productive and mechanized by giving them access to capital to make improvements to their business.”
Rogue Resources touts their Wood Strand mulch as being more effective at controlling erosion than agricultural straw, because it lasts longer and requires less material to do the job.
“There was a lot of science and engineering involved in making it, but at the end of the day it is a very simple product,” Jones said.
“You are taking a dead tree and you are turning it into a prod that helps you regrow a new tree,” Jones said. “It doesn’t seem like rocket science.”
For more information about Wood Strand erosion control mulch call Trent Jones with Rogue Resources, Inc. 970-879-0962 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.