Senator Merkley and USDA leadership: Oregon can unite through rural-urban partnership

Posted by Renee Magyar on June 29, 2015

Federal officials see firsthand the benefits of an integrated approach to forest stewardship with rural and urban businesses


News Release – For Immediate Release June 29, 2015

Contact: Renee Magyar, Sustainable Northwest, (503) 867-0839

Portland non-profit and subsidiary business show Senator Merkley and USDA leadership that Oregon can unite through rural-urban partnership

Federal officials see firsthand the benefits of an integrated approach to forest stewardship with rural and urban businesses 

Portland, Oregon – Sustainable Northwest and Sustainable Northwest Wood hosted Senator Jeff Merkley, USDA’s Under Secretary for Rural Development Lisa Mensah, and Oregon State Director for Rural Development Vicki Walker on their first stop on a day of visits to USDA Rural Development’s community and economic development projects.

The day kicked off in the morning of June 29, 2015 at the Sustainable Northwest Wood lumberyard, where participants saw how strong rural-urban partnerships are the key to a thriving green building supply chain, where sustainable wood products suppliers in Oregon provide wood to urban markets.   

Western Juniper was featured on a tour of the lumberyard as an example of how a dual approach to economic development with responsible ecosystem management can be profitable. Western Juniper is a native tree that is behaving like an invasive species, lowering the water table, and transforming grasslands into desert. Careful removal will improve grazing conditions, increase water supplies, decrease wildfire risks, and restore habitat for sensitive species like sage-grouse and mule deer. Utilization of the tree has tremendous potential to create jobs in milling, transportation, and processing. Sustainable Northwest Wood stocks Western Juniper fencing, decking, landscape timbers, and other specialty products. 

Senator Jeff Merkley shared his support for boosting small Oregon wood products businesses that practice sustainable land stewardship, “Much of our state continues to struggle with the problems that Western Juniper creates on the ecosystem and the economy of central and eastern Oregon. But what’s happening here at Sustainable Northwest is great news for rural Oregon, and it’s good for the health of our forests and rangelands.”

“Sustainable Northwest is dedicated to uniting rural and urban Oregon by facilitating sustainable forest management, new rural businesses, and associated urban distribution facilities like Sustainable Northwest Wood” said Tom Tuchmann, Sustainable Northwest’s Interim President.  “We would like to thank Senator Merkley, Under Secretary Mensah, and State Director Walker for their hard work and support for our efforts.” 

The Western Juniper Alliance (WJA) is an initiative launched in July 2013, and managed by Sustainable Northwest. Working with nearly 40 state and federal agency partners, business leaders, and non-profit organizations, the WJA is restoring ecosystems in eastern Oregon through economic development.

USDA Rural Development has provided important support and key funding for the Western Juniper project, including a grant that is allowing Oregon State University’s Oregon Wood Innovation Center to test the wood for its engineering and structural properties.

Western Juniper’s range has expanded by as much as ten-fold in parts of the state, with upwards of 9 million acres now present across eastern Oregon. A century of fire suppression, grazing practices, and climate change are among the factors contributing to juniper’s excess proliferation. The tree has natural properties that make it resistant to decay, and is used as a local substitute for cedar or redwood in exterior applications. Learn more about Western Juniper in this short video:

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, and markets for sustainable wood and clean energy. They will be hosting an event on September 10, 2015 at the Sustainable Northwest Wood warehouse, featuring Western Juniper. For more information about Sustainable Northwest, visit

Sustainable Northwest Wood is a for-profit subsidiary of Sustainable Northwest. Founded in 2008, they are a lumberyard that offers only sustainable, restorative, and FSC® certified lumber products that are harvested and milled in the Pacific Northwest. They are guided by the mission of supporting small mills in rural communities, and bolstering sustainable economic development and job creation. For more information about Sustainable Northwest Wood, visit