Woodcutters wanted

Terrance Meyer and Washington Woodland Cooperative aim to produce a better class of firewood and forest products.

Terrance Meyer of Rockport wants to improve the firewood market in the Upper Skagit Valley, lessen smoke pollution from home fireplaces, and give forest owners a financial incentive for cleaning up forest waste (a fire hazard) on their lands.

Meyer is the director for Washington Woodland Cooperative (WWC), a newly formed nonprofit that initially will run a firewood bank and wood enterprise center. Its goal is to address the above three challenges and provide solutions. A similar program is up and running in Kendall, in eastern Whatcom County.

“The idea is in these foothills communities, we tend to have high unemployment, lots of wood resources, and skilled people with wood,” said Meyer. “And like Kendall, we end up burning wet wood, leading to poor air quality.”

Meyer has secured a U.S. Forest Service Wood Innovations Grant, which will pay for expenses to get the venture up and running, but not for equipment. Meyer has found a home for WWC: He’s leasing a portion of the old Janicki Logging shake mill site at the corner of Russell Rd. and SR 20 in Birdsview, which includes a large pole building where he’ll set up operations.

How it works
Meyer will model the co-op after the historic Oregon Woodland Cooperative, which was begun in the 1940s and survives to this day. Back then, the cooperative was a strategy for small forest landowners to get reasonable prices at the local lumber mills. Today it’s a way for those same small landowners to get more from their forested land than simply milled lumber.

Washington Woodland Cooperative will accept firewood at any stage (from logs to split quarters) and at any moisture level, from any co-op member who has paid their $50 membership fee. The co-op will dry the wood, sell it, and then pay the woodcutter or forest landowner.

“We’re basically a service to the upriver woodcutters to ensure their wood is dry,” said Meyer. “We do the marketing and sales, and because the co-op margin is so small, the cutter is getting almost the same price as they were before.”

Some of the dry firewood is carefully bundled, labeled, and sold at wholesale for $4 per bundle. WWC just landed a supplier in Seattle, which will help increase sales volumes. The niche product has a proven track record, said Meyer, who was involved in the Oregon Woodland Cooperative and made decent money doing what he called “relatively easy, good work.”

The co-op should make dry firewood accessible to everyone, cutting down on air pollution and making homes more comfortable.

And it’s not a competitor, Meyer adds. “The whole point is not to put existing firewood suppliers out of business; it’s to complement them and provide a market.”

Firewood buyers will be able to get their hands on the quality firewood in a variety of ways. They can use low-income energy assistance vouchers through Community Action. They can volunteer at the wood bank and get firewood as compensation. They can use the co-op as a “bank”: Bring in wet firewood and walk away with some smaller quantity of dry firewood. Or they can purchase the firewood outright, just like they would anywhere else.

—J. K. M.

Sidebar:  Join the co-op

WWC Dir. Terrance Meyer is looking for ethical woodcutters and forest landowners who want to join the co-op. Members control the co-op, which dries and sells the wood, then pays the woodcutters accordingly.
For more information, call Meyer at 360.855.8768.

Terrance Meyer and Washington Woodland Cooperative aim to produce a better class of firewood and forest products.
Washington Woodland Cooperative’s Upper Skagit home is the former Janicki Logging shake mill at 7628 Russell Rd. in Birdsview (across SR 20 from Birdsview Burgers and Grandy Creek Grocery). WWC is leasing three acres of the 21.55-acre site, and will set up shop in this covered area after securing its perimeter with chain-link fence. Roof and site repairs and improvements are under way; Meyer said there’s an immediate need for a forklift, a culvert, gravel, firewood donations, and volunteers to fix up the site and building.

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