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USDA Rural Development toured Sustainable Northwest Wood

Posted by Renee Magyar on November 4, 2014

Directors of the western states toured our warehouse to learn how markets for Western Juniper can restore eastern Oregon.

USDA-tours-SNW-Wood
USDA Rural Development directors surrounded by stacks of Western Juniper. Photo by Terry Campbell, Sustainable Northwest Wood.

​We were honored to host USDA Rural Development western states directors last week for the first stop on their tour of rural development projects in the region.

Participants were interested to learn how growing markets for Western Juniper, a thirsty and aggressive native tree that is out of balance in the ecosystem, can help bring the species back in check. Sustainable harvest is not only good for the land, water tables, and wildlife habitat, but has potential to create much needed jobs in struggling eastern Oregon counties. 

Eric Mortenson, a reporter for the Capital Press, also joined the tour and published the following article. Read the original article here

USDA officials tour Portland juniper wood business

PORTLAND — Improving the market for western juniper wood products could result in a cascading effect that helps solve one of the west’s most vexing environmental problems, a touring group of USDA Rural Development directors learned Wednesday.

A combination of federal grants and public-private collaboration has created a burgeoning market for juniper products ranging from landscape timbers and signposts to decking, butcher block and siding. Half a dozen Rural Development state directors toured a Portland business, Sustainable Northwest Wood, to learn more about the Oregon project.

Tamra Rooney, director of operations for the business, said juniper sales are growing at 50 percent a year and will approach $500,000 in 2014. “We can sell juniper all day long,” she said.

Buyers like juniper for its strength and appearance, and it is naturally rot resistant and doesn’t have to be chemically treated. It’s proving popular as row end posts for organic vineyards, and the Portland Parks Bureau uses juniper posts as well, Rooney said.

“The word is really getting out,” she said.

Increased juniper sales could pay off in unexpected ways for rural producers.

Removing juniper — Oregon alone has an estimated 9 million acres of it — allows native sage and grasses to recover and improves habitat for greater sage grouse, which is up for endangered species consideration in 2015. Hawks and other sage grouse predators perch in western juniper trees, which also suck up prodigious amounts of water — up to 30 gallons a day, by some estimates.

If sage grouse are listed as endangered, it could bring severe grazing restrictions and regulations for western cattle ranchers.

A USDA grant announced in mid-October will pay for Oregon State University and the West Coast Lumber Inspection Bureau to certify juniper’s engineering values. Such certification is required before state agencies such as the Department of Transportation can use juniper posts for signs, guardrails and other uses.

Thank you to USDA Rural Development, and the State of Oregon, Oregon Department of Transportation, and Business Oregon for providing matching funds to study the engineering properties of Western Juniper.