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Proposed bill would boost Oregon juniper harvests

Posted by Dylan Kruse on January 15, 2015

Capital Press coverage of progress with the Western Juniper project: legislation to support the project is anticipated.

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Juniper logs await milling in eastern Oregon. Markets for the wood are helping restore grasslands and the local economy.

​By Eric Mortenson, Capital Press

Read the original article here

Removing western juniper improves rangeland conditions, including habitat for greater sage grouse.

Oregon’s work to improve rangeland habitat and jumpstart rural economies by removing western juniper could get a boost when the Legislature opens its 2015 session in February.

Legislation drafted by the Western Juniper Alliance would allocate $900,000 for a loan and grant program for juniper harvesting and manufacturing businesses. The money also would fund business planning help for small mills or logging outfits, provide worker training and map the location of high-quality juniper stands. The Western Juniper Alliance is a coalition of industry, government and environmental representatives convened by Sustainable Northwest, a Portland non-profit that works to resolve environmental and rural economic problems.

Dylan Kruse, Sustainable Northwest’s policy director and manager of the alliance, said District 27 Rep. Tobias Read, D-Beaverton, will sponsor the bill. Kruse said a broad coalition now supports the idea of speeding the pace and scale of juniper removal.

Junipers encroach on much of the arid West, crowding out sage and native grasses and sucking up prodigious amounts of water, according to experts. Cutting western junipers has a cascading benefit: It makes more water available and it improves grazing for cattle and habitat for greater sage grouse, which is a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act this year. Multiple cattle ranchers in Eastern Oregon have signed on to voluntary habitat conservation plans that include provisions for juniper removal.

Meanwhile, at least three small mills in Eastern Oregon have found fledgling markets for juniper poles, posts, decking and landscape timbers. Sustainable Northwest Woods, an offshoot of the non-profit, buys from the mills and operates a specialty lumber yard in Portland.

Kruse said adding mill or logging jobs in Eastern Oregon, combined with the range and wildlife habitat benefits, make juniper projects a “no-brainer.”

“It’s holistic approach for land management,” he said. “This is one of the rare win-win-win situations that we have.”