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Juniper bills signed into law

Posted by Renee Magyar on July 6, 2015

Two new Oregon laws will help turn environmental crisis into economic opportunity in Oregon’s high deserts

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News Release – For Immediate Release July 6, 2015

Contact: Renee Magyar, Sustainable Northwest, (503) 221-6911 x116 

Two new Oregon laws will help turn environmental crisis into economic opportunity in Oregon’s high deserts

Governor Brown signed two bills that recognize Western Juniper management effort is a win-win for eastern Oregon environment and job creation

Two complementary bills aimed at controlling the spread of native invasive Western Juniper and supporting new jobs and commercial markets for the wood became Oregon law on Wednesday, July 1. 

The Western Juniper Alliance (WJA) proposed the package of legislative requests which became House Bills 2997 and 2998. Together the bills encourage sustainable harvest and utilization of Western Juniper for ecological benefit and economic development and job creation in rural Oregon communities, as well as provide sustainable and locally produced wood products to the urban marketplace and green building sector. Both bills are funded with lottery funds.

“According to the state’s own economists, every new job created in Oregon’s hard-hit eastern counties is equivalent to 240 new jobs in the Portland area,” says Dylan Kruse, Policy Director for Sustainable Northwest, a non-profit based in Portland, Oregon that manages the Western Juniper Alliance and wrote and advocated for the bills. Sustainable Northwest restores forests, rivers, and rangelands for healthier habitat and clean air and water.

About HB 2997 - $250,000 total

  • Funds for cooperative efforts between businesses, agencies, and NGOs to improve the Juniper supply chain and conduct market development to grow the industry. This will introduce larger volumes of Juniper in green building markets and agricultural operations. ($250,000)

About HB 2998 - $900,000 total

  • Working capital in the form of loans and grants for Juniper sawmills and entrepreneurs to strengthen and expand their businesses and maintain and create jobs in rural communities. ($500,000)

  • Technical and business assistance to Juniper businesses to improve their financial viability, create strong operating plans, and maintain a durable and efficient presence in the marketplace. ($200,000)
  • Training programs for workforce development to ensure that jobs in the Juniper industry benefit rural communities suffering from high unemployment and poverty. ($100,000)
  • Funds for mapping analysis to make sure we have an identified and sustainable supply of Juniper that balances industry needs and environmental benefit, as well as inform future public and private land management needs. ($100,000)

Dan Nichols, Harney County Commissioner, says he has seen the benefits that a financial leg-up from the government can provide to struggling timber businesses in his county.  “It’s been almost impossible for some of these juniper harvesters and millers to get any sort of financial assistance to grow their businesses.  If they could have access to capital for buying additional equipment, they can hire more workers, which improves the economy across the region.”

Western Juniper is impervious to rot and disease, thus making it an ideal building alternative to cedars and redwood. The Western Juniper Alliance, formerly the Western Juniper Utilization Group created in 2013 as an Oregon Solutions project, is in the process of having Western Juniper certified as to its strength and durability so that it can be specified for use in signage, fencing, and other outdoor uses, further expanding the market for the product.

The Western Juniper Alliance was has brought together a diverse set of stakeholders including government agencies at all levels, environmental and conservation groups, Western Juniper harvesters, ranchers, trade associations and private businesses. The work of the WJA was highlighted at the 13th Oregon Leadership Summit of the Oregon Business Plan on January 6, 2015 at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, Oregon, with the airing of a video about the Western Juniper project, viewable at: https://youtu.be/KHcx9FOm8CU. Juniper utilization was included in the 2015 Leadership Summit discussion, under the “Improve Forest Health and Biomass Utilization” Inititative of the Oregon Business Plan. 

The Western Juniper Alliance is growing the market for Western Juniper as a way to sustain and cultivate new business opportunities by strengthening the Western Juniper supply chain. They also promote training programs to build a qualified workforce, and ensure that small businesses have the financial resources they need to grow and create jobs in rural communities. For more information, visit www.WesternJuniper.org

Sustainable Northwest brings people together to find common ground to build a regional economy based on land stewardship, and markets for sustainable wood and clean energy. They are committed to finding workable solutions to natural resource issues that benefit both people and nature. For more information about Sustainable Northwest, visit www.SustainableNorthwest.org

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