Dave Wager attended this year's Enviropreneur Institute in Bozeman, MT. He is the owner, artisan, and forester for Tree Ring Pens, LLC. Prior to launching Tree Ring Pens, Dave spent ten years conducting Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) endorsed certification assessments on more than 100 forest management operations covering over 25 million acres of forestland across 16 countries.
Q: What are “Tree Ring Pens” and where does the wood supply come from?
A: Tree Ring Pens are fine writing instruments crafted from dated tree ring cores. Each pen includes the full chronology (first through last annual ring) of a tree’s life. Through these annual growth rings, each pen shows 100+ years of natural history. As children we learned we could figure out how old a tree was by counting its rings. To foresters and scientists tree rings serve as an encyclopedia of past forest and climate conditions, providing information on tree growth rates, climate patterns, forest fire history, and many other ecological topics. The Tree Ring Pen was created to share this unique resource through a commonly-used object. The wood for Tree Ring Pens comes from forest restoration projects in western Montana—specifically projects that aim to restore old growth forests.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for the Tree Ring Pen and how does it relate to forest restoration?
A: My idea for the Tree Ring Pen was born more than a decade ago while conducting dendrochronology (tree ring) research as part of my master’s degree. People seemed fascinated by the information and history imbedded in tree ring cores, and I had been thinking of ways to share tree rings in a wood product. One evening, while working in a dendrochronology lab, it dawned on me that tree rings could be displayed in a wooden pen. The idea for Tree Ring Pens sat on a back burner until I discovered an opportunity to wed it with the need to thin overstocked forests in the western U.S. As a result of nearly 100 years of fire suppression, some forests, including rare old growth stands, are unnaturally dense, and are more susceptible to fires and insect/disease mortality. Without restoration treatments, old-growth forests in dry regions of the West are at considerable risk. Removing the encroaching conifers through forest thinning is needed to restore and help protect remaining old growth forests.
Q: Does the purchase of a Tree Ring Pen contribute to future forest restoration projects?
Dave Wager in action
A: Tree Ring Pens are crafted out of small understory trees that are adding unnatural stress to old growth trees. Thinning out the small diameter trees improves the resiliency of the old growth stands. The aim is to direct Tree Ring Pen restoration efforts at small patches of old growth that are being ignored because they lack the economies of scale that make restoration thinning economically viable. A significant portion of the remnant old growth forests are in remote locations, steep terrain, and/or small isolated patches. Remnant old growth stands exist today, in part, because they were too inaccessible or too steep to be logged economically when widespread logging of old growth forests occurred. Ironically, the same cost challenges that explain their existence also serve as an impediment to their conservation. By crafting a fine product that displays tree ring history, the low value of the small diameter trees can be greatly enhanced to provide the necessary economic incentive to accomplish restoration. Additionally, Tree Ring Pens LLC is donating 5 percent of the purchase price of the sale of each pen to organizations working on forest conservation and restoration.