Juniper a go!

Posted by Renee Magyar on March 12, 2014

Meet the folks helping us get juniper off the ground

Where there was once only grass, juniper is now spreading

Last year we helped launch a new coalition focused around the problem of juniper in eastern Oregon. Juniper is a native tree that has gone rogue, pushing out other plants and wildlife, lowering the water table (it's a thirsty plant), and transforming grasslands into desert.  A century of fire suppression and climate change are among many factors contributing to juniper's excess proliferation. Whatever the reasons, the plant is acting more like an invasive species than a native son.

So we've hired a team to help us figure out how to keep juniper in check. The strategy is two-fold: harvest juniper and increase its supply, and create more market demand for juniper wood products.  

King and Zach Williams are a dynamic father and son duo
King and Zach Williams are a dynamic father and son duo

Working on the supply side are King and Zach Williams of King, Inc., a natural resources and land management consulting company serving the Northwest region. They will be tackling the issue on a number of fronts. First, they'll work with the many players in the field - from conservation groups to businesses to federal agencies - to develop a set of standards for the removal of juniper. With input from all the players, they hope that these standards will determine how juniper is cut to maximize benefits for local land restoration as well as job creation.

A lot of juniper sits on public land, but goes untouched. "If a federal project doesn't include juniper in its plan, then it can't be harvested. So we're trying to get the standards by which the federal agencies propose their projects to include juniper as one of their items," King says. He and Zach will work with the Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Service, and US Fish and Wildlife Service to increase juniper harvest on federal lands.  

Juniper has also spread on plenty of private land, so Zach and King will identify landowners who are onboard with juniper removal, and find ways to finance private projects through various state and federal financial assistance programs.

Finally, King and Zach will work to build an interactive map, which federal agencies, harvesters, and landowners will use as a tool to identify optimum areas for juniper harvest.

In her free time, Nancy Hamilton enjoys taiko drumming
In her free time, Nancy Hamilton enjoys taiko drumming

Nancy Hamilton is a jack of organizational trades. She loves finding new ways to solve old problems, and she helps her clients manage a variety of issues and challenges. She also cares deeply about the future of our planet. A self-professed "wood and water geek," she's concerned about things like the state of our forests and the supply of water.  

Nancy enjoys bridging the gap between disparate groups, so the juniper project is right up her alley.  Like King and Zach Williams, she'll be working with the many public and private stakeholders involved in this project. She's excited to bring these interests together and find a way to promote more uses of juniper and on a larger scale. "It's great as an outdoor wood. Farmers, ranchers, nurseries, wineries, and breweries use it because it holds up well to the elements," Nancy says.

Nancy will help create a brand that tells the story of juniper and how bringing this wood to market turns a Northwest challenge into an Oregonian success. Indeed, creating a viable product will ameliorate the health of Oregon's landscapes, restore wildlife habitats (especially for sage grouse), and spur local economic growth. She looks forward to expanding this fledgling industry.

Nancy, Zach, and King all share a passion for conservation and for turning challenge into opportunity. Juniper is a medium for doing just that, with incredible potential to go being a problem to becoming a solution. "Juniper has gone from hundreds of thousands of acres to 9 million acres," Zach says, "and we need to use it in an ecologically responsible way." All three are working very hard to make that happen.

We welcome these three partners and look forward to the work that lies ahead.  Check back on the blog to hear about the progress of the juniper project over the course of the year.  In the meantime, feel free to browse the juniper products already available and for sale at Sustainable Northwest Wood.