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2014 Year in Review, and a look forward

Posted by Renee Magyar on December 22, 2014

This year marked our 20th anniversary, and it was a very good year indeed.

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The winter holidays are often a time for reflection and setting goals for the coming year. 2014 was Sustainable Northwest’s 20th anniversary and we celebrated some significant accomplishments.

We built a foundation of trust in our first two decades by collaborating with rural land stewards, partner non-profits, natural resource management agencies, and local leaders. Our Forest, Energy, Water, Rangelands, and FSC Group Certification programs continue to provide strong solutions to natural resource issues, for the benefit of both people and nature.

Here are just a few highlights from 2014. 

As managers of the Western Juniper Alliance, we launched a market for Western Juniper, a native invasive tree that is taking over grasslands in eastern Oregon, impacting ranching livelihoods and habitat for sage grouse and other important wildlife. Designated as an Oregon Solutions project by Governor Kitzhaber in 2013, we're already seeing an uptick in sales of the wood, which is directly benefitting participating millers and harvesters. This project also has strong federal support from USDA Rural Development. Learn more about this project at www.westernjuniper.org

Sunset on the Klamath River. Photo by: Linda Tanner, via flickr
Sunset on the Klamath River. Photo by: Linda Tanner, via flickr

Partnerships and dedication to balanced ecological and economic restoration reached their peak in the Klamath Basin in 2014. The Klamath Tribes and irrigators, long at odds over short water supplies in the Upper Klamath Basin, signed a landmark water sharing agreement in April designed to increase instream flows for fish, significantly boost streamside restoration efforts on private lands, and offer greater water certainty for irrigators. New legislation entered by the Oregon and California Senate delegations--the Klamath Basin Water Recovery and Economic Restoration Act of 2014--to enact the suite of now three Klamath agreements passed a huge hurdle when it was approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in November. Despite the very best efforts of all partners, the House of Representatives did not take up the bill this year. As the year closes, the Klamath coalition continues to work together to advance the bill again in 2015, as well as implement solutions in the agreements that do not require new legislation for federal funding. After more than 10 years of working toward long-term progress and peace on the Klamath, we expect to see this forward momentum continue.

Workers milling boards at the Malheur Lumber Company. Photo by: Sustainable Northwest
Workers milling boards at the Malheur Lumber Company. Photo by: Sustainable Northwest

As a result of a 10-year Forest Service stewardship contract for logging and restoration projects on the Malheur National Forest, Malheur Lumber Company announced in May 2014 that it would introduce a second shift for the first time since 1998, adding 20-30 jobs to the business – a significant number in a town of just over 1700. The stewardship contract was applauded by conservation groups and the timber industry alike as it can restore the health of the forest and bring jobs back to the community. This contract is the culmination of seven years of facilitated dialogue and collaboration where Sustainable Northwest brought opposing sides together to find agreement, and laid a foundation of trust, respect, and good will. 

A biomass cluster system
A biomass cluster system

We're expanding our biomass work in Idaho and Washington, looking for suitable projects to model the biomass clusters that are currently seeing success in Oregon. A biomass cluster is a closed loop system where a community that harvests wood waste, chips and sawdust from nearby forest restoration projects and milling operations, turns that material into fuel to generate heat and energy for itself and possibly other communities. Converting municipal building heating systems from oil or propane to locally produced biomass is helping communities become energy self-sufficient and is saving thousands of dollars for counties with tight budgets. 

We provide access to green markets for wood products businesses.
We provide access to green markets for wood products businesses.

We saw strong growth in our Group FSC Certification program, with the addition of 24 new members this year. This brings the total of sustainability-minded wood products businesses receiving access to green markets and technical support from our group to 61. One of these members is our own Sustainable Northwest Wood, that was honored this fall with one of the first Leadership Awards from the Forest Stewardship Council for leadership in building materials supply in the West. 

Looking ahead

We certainly won't be resting on our laurels after this year. Here's a preview of some of the exciting projects on the horizon for the coming year. 

Over the next three years, the Blue Mountains of eastern Oregon are slated for an enormous restoration project – over 600,000 acres. To ensure this scale of restoration is possible, it will be our role to keep the forest collaboration machine running smoothly for this region as well as the other national forests in the Northwest that participate in the collaborative process.  

In southern Oregon, we are helping the Klamath Tribes secure federal funding for a portfolio of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects that can help them save money on power for their businesses and homes. 

We’re building on our forest work in John Day by creating a new John Day Basin Partnership of local stakeholders to more quickly realize healthier native species, watersheds, and water-dependent economies. The group will develop a comprehensive restoration plan and leverage it to secure new funding for projects and local groups. 

Stay tuned in the new year to learn more about how these projects develop. Together we can create a thriving Northwest with strong communities, vibrant economies, and healthy and productive landscapes.