Colorado has millions of acres of pines throughout its forests that have been killed by an infestation of beetles. New Town Builders, a residential homebuilder in Denver, Colorado, has begun using salvaged wood from these trees for the structural framing of homes it is constructing. The company was approached about building a single demonstration home using wood from lodgepole pine trees which had been killed by the mountain pine beetle. New Town found that the wood was discolored but structurally sound and has now begun using the “blue wood” for all of their framing.

The past few summers have been particularly dry throughout the region, which provide ideal conditions for an outbreak of the beetles which have devastated the forests of lodgepole pine. The beetle kills the tree by tunneling under the bark and cutting off nutrients to the tree. The wood turns blue when the beetle exposes it to blue stain fungus. While this changes the appearance of the wood, it is structurally still perfectly good.

Finding a use for the wood helps to conserve other forests, and will help protect these forests as the dead trees are harvested rather than left as a fire hazard (which is doubly a cause for concern with the present dry conditions in the area). Colorado has more than three million acres of devastated timber forests.

Because of the dry conditions in the region, beetle-killed trees that have been dead for as long as 10 years may still be harvestable and usable. And New Town Builders is also now using regionally harvested material, rather than getting their framing lumber from more distant suppliers.

The company is finding that the blue wood is not significantly cheaper than other framing lumber. The trees still need to be cut down and transported, milled and graded like any other lumber, so there is little cost savings. But, New Town is taking advantage of a local resource and supporting local jobs at the mill that provides the wood, and transport is less expensive since the source is more local. It is hoped that other builders in the region will recognize the usability of this local resource and begin using it, as well.

Note: This should not to be confused with BluWood a coated, treated wood product.

Credits: CC BY-SA 3.0 Hustvedt (#1), USDA Forest Service (#3); New Town Builders (#2).