NewLife Gains Full Production

NewLife Forest Restoration has ramped up production at its new engineered wood products plant in Bellemont, Ariz., while also increasing forest restoration work in service of its 4 Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI) Phase 1 Forest Service stewardship contract that seeks to thin and treat more than 300,000 acres at risk of wildfire on the Kaibab, Coconino, Apache-Sitgreaves and Tonto national forests.

At Bellemont, the operation is currently processing low-grade cants into 1 in. lumber that’s chopped and fingerjointed and a portion is edge-glued and/or face-glued, while using structural and non-structural glues depending on the application, according to Ted Dergousoff, CEO of NewLife. They are presently using cants because the sawmill with log breakdown hasn’t been built yet.

The EWP plant is part of a much larger 425,000 sq. ft. formerly vacated facility (10 acres under one roof) that NewLife purchased in 2020. It is divided into three sections—one for the currently operating EWP plant, and the other two for the sawmill and planer mill to be built. Dry kilns will also be located on the grounds. The operation has rail access and is situated on I-40, a major truck route.

NewLife has designed the scale of the plant to accommodate upgrading products, not just from its own mills, but also from other operators in the area. In this way, many parties can work together on forest restoration, enabling the industry to scale up in the state.

Dergousoff expects NewLife’s multiple operations to be fully built by the end of 2022. The sawmill will have an annual production capacity of 120MMBF, 100% ponderosa pine, with emphasis on boards (both solid and engineered) and low-grade specialty solid items.

The sawmill will handle a mix of large and small logs, and its plan to maximize value will help offset costs incurred processing and handling the large amounts of biomass the contract is generating.

Awarded the Phase 1 contract in 2013, NewLife had struggled initially considering the state’s timber infrastructure had almost disappeared following federal timber sale cutbacks in the 1980s and ‘90s, and the company was starting from scratch in setting up harvesting and processing capacity. New Life had initially planned a greenfield sawmill at a site in Williams, Ariz., but switched to Bellemont after a large former paper products finishing plant industrial building became available.

The sawmill will handle a mix of large and small logs, and its plan to maximize value will help offset costs incurred processing and handling the large amounts of biomass the contract is generating.

NewLife has tripled the size of its forest restoration operations in light of these developments with three forest thinning crews now active and a fourth crew mobilizing. Each crew is capable of restoring 2,000-2,500 acres per year. NewLife plans to gradually increase to 25,000-plus acres of restoration capacity over the next 18-24 months as it completes installations at Bellemonte.

NewLife and its partners are operating a total of nine harvesting crews in Arizona with a combined capacity of 20,000 acres per year. In 2023, they will ramp up to more than 17 forest restoration crews with more than 40,000 acres per year of restoration capacity. The company and its partners plan to hire more than 300 skilled workers across manufacturing and forest harvesting in the next 12 months.

The 4FRI is a groundbreaking forest health effort seeking to reduce wildfire risk on 2.4 million acres across four Arizona national forests. A larger Phase 2 contract covering the restoration of up to 600,000 acres over 20 years is expected to be awarded soon. NewLife is reportedly one of several entities interested in gaining the contract.

“I do think that the only way that forest restoration can work is with a vertically integrated process,” Dergousoff says, emphasizing NewLife’s capabilities “to make it all work in unison with a goal to maximize value.”

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