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Sustainable Northwest receives $64,990 USDA grant for first-ever Western Juniper certification

Posted by Renee Magyar on October 21, 2014

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 21, 2014

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Renee Magyar, 503-221-6911 x116

Portland, Oregon – Sustainable Northwest today announced it was awarded $64,990 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Business Enterprise fund to determine the structural characteristics and properties of Western Juniper (Juniperus occidentalis), a tree native to the western U.S. These funds were secured as a result of a 1:1 match from the State of Oregon provided by the Oregon Dept. of Transportation and Business Oregon. The project will conclude with a report on the wood’s engineering design values, which will inform engineers, architects, and other agencies that purchase wood for a variety of applications.

Sustainable Northwest President, John J. Audley, says he’s pleased to receive the grant, as certification will spur demand for the wood, which has created environmental problems in Central and Eastern Oregon. “The unchecked spread of Western Juniper is threatening wildlife habitat, and ranching and farming business viability east of the Cascades. This tree’s only natural enemy is wildfire and it must be selectively removed to improve grazing, increase groundwater supplies, and restore habitat for sensitive species like sage grouse.”

This project is a component of the Western Juniper Alliance (WJA), formerly known as the Western Juniper Utilization Group, an initiative launched by Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber as an Oregon Solutions project in July 2013. WJA is a collaborative effort managed by Sustainable Northwest in partnership with state and federal government agencies, businesses, and other organizations, to restore ecosystems in eastern Oregon, and create jobs in Oregon’s rural communities by harvesting unwanted Western Juniper. Lack of certification has been a roadblock to increasing market demand for Western Juniper, which has slowed down efforts to create more rural jobs.

All major wood species in the marketplace go through a certification process, which includes a series of rigorous tests to examine the wood's characteristics, including durability, structural strength, aesthetics, and best use applications. Testing will take approximately one year, the testing will result in a “stamp of approval” that juniper has been verified by industry professionals for safety and standard usage.  Western Juniper has never before been tested through this official grading and certification process. 

The studies will be conducted at Oregon State University in collaboration with West Coast Lumber Inspection Bureau. These entities will be responsible for developing design values for Western Juniper wood for possible application in guard-rail posts, sign posts, decking, landscape timbers, school play areas, joists, sill plates, and porch posts. And, because Western Juniper is inherently rot resistant due to its natural oils, it is a non-toxic alternative to pressure-treated lumber. 

Sustainable Northwest’s Western Juniper Program Manager, Dylan Kruse, says that juniper certification will also have a beneficial impact on Oregon’s economy. “Information about the uses for Western Juniper simply has not been available for potential purchasers.  Certification will provide market credibility and will lead to growth in the Western Juniper industry – creating and retaining jobs in eastern Oregon.” 

Sustainable Northwest restores forests, rivers, and rangelands for healthier habitat and clean air and water. By bringing people together to find common ground, they are building a regional economy based on land stewardship. 2014 marks their 20th Anniversary. For more information about Sustainable Northwest, visit www.SustainableNorthwest.org

To learn more about Western Juniper, watch this short video: http://youtu.be/niUUc3Z_Wnw

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