Ash Wood Utilization Options for Homeowners

Ash Wood Utilization Options for Homeowners Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Author(s): Heather Nobert
Portable sawmill processing ash log.

Emerald ash borer (EAB) poses a serious threat to ash trees in both communities and residential landscapes, killing 80% of ash trees in infested regions within 10 years of its discovery. In communities, standing dead and dying trees will pose a threat to people and property. Unless a homeowner is dedicated to treating their tree long into the future, most ash trees will die and need to be removed.

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Quarantines

Prior to determining how to utilize their ash wood, homeowners should understand the rules and regulations put in place by EAB quarantines. Quarantines are established in areas where EAB has been located in an effort to slow the spread of the pest to new areas. These state and federal regulations prohibit the movement of regulated items (see box below) outside of quarantine areas.

Regulated Articles
  • Ash nursery stock
  • Green lumber of all ash species
  • All other ash material: Logs, limbs, stumps, roots, and branches that are living, dead/fallen, cut 
  • All hardwood composted or uncomposted chips, bark, or mulch
  • All hardwood firewood or fuelwood

These restrictions apply to everyone who moves wood including private citizens, tree care companies, loggers, mulch providers, municipal tree crews, and wood product companies. It is important to understand the restrictions of the quarantine when moving wood to avoid fines or penalties. Visit eabne.info for the most current information regarding quarantine areas.

It is possible to obtain special certificates and permits from the Nebraska Department of Agriculture that allow the transport of ash wood out of a quarantine area. Certain criteria must be met before approval can be given. To learn more about compliance agreements, certificates, and permits, please contact the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.

Options for Homeowners

The wood from ash tree removals does not need to go to waste. It is important to communicate your desired use for the tree(s) to your tree care company so they can be removed accordingly. 

Logs and Lumber

Trunks and large branches may have value as logs to sawmills. Your tree may be a candidate
for sawing if it has the following characteristics:

  • at least 9 inches in diameter
  • at least 6 feet long
  • clear of branches, cracks, other defects
  •  has been dead for fewer than 12 months

If you’re interested in selling high-quality logs, a sawmill in your area can be found through the Primary Processors Directory available from the Nebraska Forest Service. It is recommended that mills be contacted prior to delivery to ensure that they will accept ash logs from urban areas.

Another option is hiring a custom sawmill firm to transform your ash tree into a memorable piece of furniture or lumber for your use. Ash wood can be used for custom countertops, cabinets, floors, furniture, or decorative pieces. Sawmills for hire can also be found in the Primary Processors Directory. 

Landscape Applications

All hardwood woodchips and mulch are regulated under the EAB quarantine because it is difficult to identify ash wood from other hardwood species. Chips and mulch, however, may move freely within the quarantine area. Chipping ash trees is an option for homeowners who want to incorporate the wood into their landscape or compost. Alternatively, logs may be sawn to produce landscape timbers.

Firewood

Similar to woodchips and mulch, all hardwood firewood is regulated under EAB quarantine. Fortunately, ash wood makes very good firewood. Homeowners can purchase or rent firewood splitters to make firewood for personal use. It is recommended that ash firewood is used within 10 miles of where the tree was felled.

Only hardwood firewood that is certified by NDA or USDA may move out of the quarantine under a Compliance Agreement. Hardwood firewood from outside the quarantine may enter a quarantine area; however, once it enters it becomes a regulated item and may not leave.

Additional Options

Photo of building that used urban ash lumber
University of Nebraska-Lincoln architecture students designed this orchard building using cross-laminated timber (CLT). The design also incorporated urban ash wood harvested from public trees in South Sioux City. 

If you are not interested in utilizing the wood for yourself but don't want it to go to waste, consider donating the wood to local woodworkers, schools, parks, or community organizations. Local organizations may have a need for raw material for benches, construction, landscaping, or to create decorative pieces. Wood waste may also be disposed at a local disposal site where it will generally be recycled into mulch or compost. It is important to remember that even though your ash tree has been transformed into furniture or another decorative piece, it is likely still considered a regulated article subject to quarantine restrictions.

Disposal

Not all ash wood removed due to EAB infestation will be utilized. In the event where utilization is not practical or desirable, please contact your local waste management official to locate approved locations for ash wood disposal, such as a landfill.

Regardless of how you choose to dispose of your tree, be sure that no ash wood leaves the quarantine area. Remember, not all areas within the quarantine are infested with EAB and by minimizing the movement of ash wood, the risk of EAB spreading to new areas can be minimized.