December 2, 2016

Sustainable Forestry Takes Root at the College

Sustainable Forestry Takes Root at the College
November 3, 2011

In yet another step toward becoming greener and more self-sustaining, the College is tapping into one of its most plentiful resources—trees. Nearly 2,000 of the 2,600 acres that make up the Elsah campus are covered in forest. Many of the trees—mainly black and red oak—are 100–130 years old and at the end of their lifecycle. Campus land steward coordinator John Lovseth and his team have launched a plan to harvest some of the dying trees and put them to use as building material.

First, trees that have fallen or are about to fall are identified. Next, a small portion of them—roughly 0.75 percent of Principia’s forest acreage—is carefully selected for removal. Then, with the help of Dan Bechtold of Dan’s Mercantile Company in nearby Godfrey, they’re milled on site using a portable wood-mizer saw. In the final steps, the wood is taken to Dan’s, planed into boards, dried and treated, and delivered back to Principia—ready to be used for projects to enhance the campus.

So far, benches, a sugar shack, a ranger shed, and a barn have been built using Principia’s own lumber. In the works is a beautiful, new gazebo that will serve as an outdoor meeting place for athletic teams, particularly cross-country runners and coaches.

Within a year, the College hopes to be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, in large part due to the work of former College professor Mike Rechlin, who began the movement toward sustainable forestry practices at Principia.

Lovseth is pleased to be putting Rechlin’s vision into action. He explained more about the project’s goals and benefits: “Our sustainable forestry plan makes sense economically and environmentally. We’re leaving plenty of older trees standing and on the forest floor to protect animal habitats and the natural decomposition process. But by clearing out some of the most aged trees, we’re ensuring the development of healthy new forest in their place. And the lumber produced provides a huge cost savings to Principia.”

  • Thomas B. Paton, C’1957

     Consider walnut trees.  Buy 6 year old ssaplings ($7.00 ea), plant 134 per acre and in 14 years time you have a four product cash crop – walnuts, walnut vaneer (furniture), walnut lumber (furniture) and walnut bark (an abrasive for cleaning jet engines).  and can be returned to the soil. Futures can be sold, Excellent learning experience for students, not only in forestry, but in the marketing.  Applicable to both the 2000 acres at Elsah  and the 200 acres bordering Mason Rd at the St Louis high school (Acs) campus. I heard (not confirmed) that each walnut tree is worth between 1 nad 4 thousand dollars
    Tom Paton, Primcipia College class of 1957

    • Clay Ford C’63

      Good idea, but risky considering the problems created by a monoculture. Besides aren’t walnut trees grown for their nuts grafted trees?

    • Thomas B. Paton, C’1957

      The same tree does not yield straight lumber and walnuts.  The nut bearing tree has many branches and it is not grown for the furniture industry.  Use the ratio 1/3rd to 2/3rds nuts to lumber.  Just graft the nut trees as stated or don’t grow the nut bearing tree at all.

  • Bradthurbr

    I don’t know much at all about forestry, etc., but I found the article about Prin’s 2000 acres of forests very interesting.  It seems to me that this is a very progressive step for the college to take.  I look forward to hearing more about these developments.

    Brad Thurber    C59

  • Thomas B. Paton, C’1957

      Ref: Walnut trees – A major caution:: Do Not mark the boundaries by nailing  or stapleing “NO TRESPASSING” or “POST   NO BILLS” signs or using barbed wire . Reason: It damages the vaneer. 
     Suggestion:  Install fences twenty feet away from the trees.  Also create  firebreaks to allow fire equipemt access.
    Tom Paton C’57 

  • Jennagorham

    This is very exciting to me.   Having an Environmental Science degree from Prin I have a hunch this will be great education on the applicability of forest management on a relatable scale for the students.  Congrats for making this a priority on campus.  Please post photos of in-process and completed work!

    Jenna Gorham C’94

  • David Kreutz

    I have purchased some of the college’s walnut, poplar, oak and hickory and love the idea of using local wood in my boats.  Today a Principia middle school boat building class came up to Elsah and visited my shop.
    They got to see the trees and the practical uses of this great resource.
    Here is a link to the Principia students visit:

    David Kreutz