Reid Ahlf (General Manager)

General Manager ABCO Wood Recycling, Post Falls, Idaho   

A giant pile of slash sits near the north entrance to the Long Bridge in Sandpoint. The pile is made up of trees, limbs and stumps, removed to make way for construction of a byway around the community. ABCO Wood Recycling will grind the pile into hog fuel and then haul it off. Its eventual use: energy for a power plant, school or other facility in the region. The Sandpoint Byway project typifies ABCO’s efforts within the Inland Northwest of clearing land and collecting metal, cardboard, asphalt, concrete and urban wood waste for a number of recycled products, including hog fuel for energy, lumber, and landscape materials.

This cutting-edge method of removing and recycling provides an exciting new dimension to forester Reid Ahlf’s 30-year career in the forest products industry.

As general manager of ABCO since 2008, Reid oversees day-to-day operations of the Post Falls-based company’s five wood recycling facilities. “All recycled wood and biomass is ground for hog fuel and used as feed stock for electrical power, steam or heat generation in numerous facilities in the region,” he explains. “We have always known that there are additional opportunities for the use of wood waste and slash, but now the technology is beginning to develop to make this a reality,”  he adds. “We are in a position to take advantage of these growing markets, and we see a huge growth of opportunities throughout the country for bioenergy.

Throughout most of Reid’s career as a field forester for Idaho Forest Industries and, later, as  procurement manager for Stimson Lumber Co., he has seen the same products ABCO now collects and recycles burned in the woods or hauled off to landfills. According to the company website, “In the spring of 2004, Shawn Montee, a North Idaho native and forest enthusiast, saw an alternative way to dispose of wood waste. “Recycle it, don’t burn it or fill up landfills . . . With that came ABCO Wood Recycling.” Reid views the opportunity of managing a young company engaged in the use of this evolving woods-related technology much the same way he has plotted his own career—always furthering his knowledge, continually becoming adept at the ever-changing tools of his trade, and exploring toward new trends.

He suggests that anyone entering the industry should supplement forest science studies with business and computer applications, and, “as important as anything: good communications skills, both verbal and written.” All have been essential as Reid has worked his way up through the ranks from field forester through management. “As a field forester I have been responsible for managing company timberland, setting up and administering logging operations, overseeing site prep and reforestation and building roads,” he says. “As a procurement forester, I have been responsible for buying private timber, assisting landowners in the management of their timberland and purchasing and administering agency timber sales.”

His work has also included participating as an advocate for the forest products industry in communication and governmental affairs efforts for the region. “I try to tell people that are interested in our field to learn as much as possible in as many varied subjects as possible,” he advises. “Don’t get stuck in one narrow field in our industry, if at all possible.

The more varied one’s experiences, the better a decision maker you are.” So far, the only down side Reid has experienced to his career is spending less time in the outdoors while on the job. “The most surprising revelation is that when you first enter the woods, you’re in the woods every day,” the Western Washington native says, but as your career progresses, you learn that you end up doing other things than field forestry . . . you didn’t always understand that that was where your career was going to go.”

Reid, a lifelong outdoorsman who grew up in a logging town, makes up for this situation by knowing his continued professional efforts to help preserve a beautiful environment also allow him to enjoy recreational time riding his bike, cross country skiing, hunting and fishing within that environment. “The appreciation for the beautiful surroundings of North Idaho is what makes living in this area so rewarding,” he says. “I think all of this fits into the concept of actively managing forests to maintain a healthy environment, abundant wildlife habitat and a strong rural economy.”

Want to know more?

º An overview of ABCO Wood Recycling

º Wood: The Hot New Renewable Energy Source

º Forest Biomass

º Environmental and Energy Study Institute – Wood-based Bioenergy