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Habitat Home Comes Full Circle

A new Habitat for Humanity home in Hibbing is not only an example of a community project to build affordable housing, but it is also a model of how a community can produce and use wood products from sustainable forestry.

The home was built by the Full Circle Project of the Minnesota Sustainable Forestry Initiative implementation committee as a way to promote Minnesota-grown timber from SFI-certified sources. The project committee worked with Habitat for Humanity to ensure that the home was built from mostly locally grown products; used energy-efficient construction, insulation, and appliances; and went to a family in need of low-cost housing.

The SFI program bases its certification on measurements that include protection of water quality, biodiversity, wildlife habitat, and other natural resource concerns. It has certified more than 150 million acres of forest across North America, including nearly 6.5 million acres in Minnesota.

Donations of products and services by local businesses made the Full Circle Project possible. The project began in January 2008, when Tom Bakk donated aspens from his tree farm. Logger Cliff Shermer harvested the trees, then the Ainsworth mill in Cook processed the timber into oriented strand board to sheet the home's roof and exterior walls.

A few weeks later, red pine logs were harvested from the tree farm of Keith Nelson near Eveleth, who likewise donated the trees. The East Dhu Sawmill in Mountain Iron milled the timber to use for the home's walls. Richard Ostman, a tree farmer in Cook, donated ash trees for interior trim, also milled at East Dhu Sawmill. All of the wood from Minnesota tree farms met the SFI standard at every step of the process, helping to ensure that these well-managed forests can regrow trees for future generations to use.

In June local Girl Scouts, tree farmers, and other volunteers replanted the trees harvested from the Bakk tree farm, as part of the full circle of sustainable use from forests, to products, to home, and back to forest.

In October Kelli Ritz and her daughter, Kleryssa, who both worked on every stage of the project, moved into their SFI-Habitat for Humanity home.

"It's amazing to see all the work that went into it," said Ritz. "Seeing how we cut down the trees in January, and they're up on the wall already."

"Sustainable forestry and the wood industry make positive environmental and economic contributions to Minnesota's citizens every day," said Keith Jacobson, DNR forest products utilization and marketing program leader. "The Habitat for Humanity home in Hibbing is one great, highly visible reminder of some of the benefits of producing and using wood products from sustainable forestry."

Gustave Axelson, managing editor


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