High above the town of Bayfield, Colorado, on a ponderosa pine-forested mountain, Eric Husted harvests timbers the old-fashioned way—by selectively cutting trees and using a team of horses to remove each log individually. As a result, the ponderosa stand surrounding his home has become a healthy and fire-safe ecosystem, and he passes these same benefits on to his clients.

His age-old method not only promotes healthy forests, it supports the local economy and extols sustainable building practices. Eric and others who adhere to sustainable harvesting nurture healthy forests by selectively thinning the groves and promoting fire mitigation. They’ll examine a forest to determine if there’s usable lumber for milling or if the land is only suitable for fire mitigation and firewood harvesting. Either way, it becomes a healthier sanctuary. Thinned forests let in more light, enabling grasses to thrive and creating more grazing potential for elk and deer. Fire risk is also reduced, and the trees remaining have a better chance of surviving the inevitable fire that occurs without suffering the devastation caused by excessive underbrush.

If you’d like to consider using sustainable harvesting and building methods in your new home, look for a draft-horse logger local to your region and a builder that works with local materials.

The full story appeared in the Spring 2004 issue of Timber Frame Homes.

Hearthstone photo by Laurie E. Dickson