Colorado beetle-kill wood headed for Haiti

A prototype of a wood-frame shelter stands on a street in Haiti. Former regional Forest Service chief Lyle Laverty said he's in the process of finalizing a contract to build about 10,000 temporary shelters using beetle-killed wood from Colorado for the framing.

Former U.S. Forest Service official working with U.S. aid group to provide temporary shelters for Haitians displaced by January earthquake

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Wood from beetle-killed trees from Colorado will soon be on its way to Haiti to be used for building temporary shelters for more than 100,000 people displaced from their homes by a powerful January earthquake.

Most of the homeless people are living in temporary refugee camps, including a concentration of about 20,000 crammed into an area the size of Invesco Field, said Lyle Laverty, a former U.S. Forest Service leader who now heads up The Laverty Group, consulting on forest management issues.

Laverty said he’s been working with the U.S. Agency for International Development to finalize large contracts for the delivery of beetle-killed wood to provide frames for the simple structures. An initial contract for 600 units will be finalized March 11, with a larger order for 10,000 units in the works, pending final approval from the aid group. The overall cost of the assistance project could amount to about $15 to $17 million.

Laverty recently spent three weeks in Haiti with the Salvation Army working on relief efforts with a focus on finding ways to build temporary shelters as quickly as possible. The initial challenge was to get the various nongovernmental groups to agree on the basic design for the shelters.

“You just can’t describe the conditions these people are living in,” Laverty said Thursday at an early morning meeting of the Summit County forest health task force. Along with providing the basic materials for building the 10 by 20-foot and 10 by 14-foot shelters, he said there’s a huge need to train Haitians in basic carpentry skills so the units can be assembled. The shelters are designed to house an average of five people.

The wood will be milled into two-by-fours and four-by-fours in Montrose, trucked to Houston and then shipped to Haiti. The shelters are simple rectangular structures with corrugated roofs and plastic siding. Based on setting up a sample structure in Virginia, Laverty said it’s estimated it will take about four hours for three people to build one of the shelters.

Even on full delivery of wood for 10,000 shelters, it won’t put a significant dent in the supply of beetle-killed timber in Colorado, but it’s a start.

“We’re not talking about a gazillion board-feet,” Laverty said, referring to the traditional unit of measurement for wood forest products. But it is a start, and highlights how the use of Colorado beetle-kill timber from public lands can help with the Haitian recovery efforts, he added.

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3 thoughts on “Colorado beetle-kill wood headed for Haiti

  1. Seems like a wise and community-minded use of our beetle-killed wood. I understand that beetles and their eggs die when the tree dies, right? Is the wood safe for use in homes here, too, or is it not strong enough for permanent structures?

    1. It is safe for homes and there has been continued discussion of how to use the beetle kill wood locally. Many of the trees are small diameter so you can’t get many 2x4s from them. Basically, it’s not very viable commercially to harvest lodgepole for construction lumber.

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