Jumping juniper: Sustainability bigwigs to help manage proliferating wood

Posted by Renee Magyar on August 14, 2013

Article and photo collection, by Sustainable Business Oregon

The Western Juniper Utilization Group hopes to manage these trees to preserve and improve the environment, and create jobs.

By Andy Giegerich

Sustainable Business Oregon editor

An effort by two Oregon sustainability titans to better harvest and utilize juniper from public lands has earned approval from the state's top rungs.

Gov. John Kitzhaber has designated the Western Juniper Utilization Group as an 'Oregon Solutions' project, meaning it will collect $262,000 "to unlock the potential of rangeland restoration and juniper harvested from public and private lands." The strategy will bring more wood options to builders or those looking for biomass materials.

Kitzhaber named Neil Kelly Co.'s President Tom Kelly and Martin Goebel, the former Sustainable Northwest chief, as the project's 'co-conveners.' They'll work with businesses, environmental groups, tribes and government agencies on juniper harvesting solutions.

"Expanded job opportunities related to utilization of juniper beyond the initial work created by the restoration projects themselves merits greater attention," Kitzhaber wrote in an Aug. 6 letter backing the idea.

Kitzhaber plans to sign a formal declaration backing the notion Friday in Burns. Harney County and other Eastern Oregon locales are homes to proliferations of juniper. Within the last 150 years, the population and acreage covered by western juniper has increased as much as ten-fold, according to Oregon State University researchers.

The Oregon Solutions Network provides economic assistance to various state regions based on specific community needs.

Along with Harney County, the Juniper group will work in Crook, Deschutes, Gilliam, Jefferson, Klamath, Lake, Malheur, Morrow, Sherman, Wasco and Wheeler counties.

Along with improving juniper harvest methods, the group will develop a statewide marketing campaign promoting the wood and establish a revolving fund for juniper- based small businesses.

The efforts will avoid old-growth juniper removal and attempt to protect habitats for such species as sage grouse. It will also, though take into account the manner in which juniper can help spread wildfires and cause erosion.

Older juniper can dry out soils, which eventually takes away food from various wildlife including deer and elk.

Click here for a look at juniper in Eastern Oregon, as well as potential uses for it in the building realm.

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