A public-private partnership in Wallowa County, Oregon is using market based solutions to help restore forest health and create jobs.
"Finding value in small diameter trees and biomass is critical to sustaining forest stewardship, to addressing the legacy of past forest management including over-story removal and fire suppression, and the risks from drought, pests and wildfire. With the loss of all of our saw mills, it's also critical to sustaining the local workforce, and our rural way of life. If we're successful, this biomass campus will be a first step in addressing these goals."
- Nils Christoffersen, Executive Director, Wallowa Resources
In the northeast corner of Oregon, a strong partnership has formed over the past decade between local businesses, a local non-profit, and the county government. Together they are creating innovative market solutions that are strengthening their rural economy and building a culture of environmental stewardship.
In 2001, the Joseph Timber Company closed its doors and critical jobs and infrastructure were lost to the community. In an effort to recapture these lost jobs and provide a boost to the local economy, Wallowa Resources, its for-profit subsidiary Community Solutions Inc., and fifteen local sponsors invested in a local wood manufacturing company and began construction on an integrated biomass energy campus.
Launched in 2005, this facility is designed to utilize the byproducts of local forest management and restoration on the Wallowa Whitman National Forest and private land in the Wallowa, Union, and Baker County region, and has become a hub of production for local forest products.
To ensure the success of the campus, Wallowa Resources and Community Solutions Inc. helped sustain the vision, concept, and leadership for this project. By coordinating strategic funding, they alleviated some of the risk and helped to attract private partners.
Integrated Biomass Resources LLC, a small locally owned forest products business, brought additional technical skills, experience, and financing to the venture. Between 2007 and 2012, they completed the merger and acquisition of all co-located enterprises into a single company, while expanding the membership in the LLC, increasing local ownership of the business.
In 2012, thanks to Wallowa County's acquisition of another sawmill that closed in 2007, the integrated campus will soon have a new home. This 70 acre site, once Wallowa Forest Products, will allow for an expansion of the campus and will incorporate features that increase its efficiency and effectiveness as an economic catalyst.
The integrated campus: A successful market catalyst
By incorporating diverse processing systems on a single site, multiple products such as heating fuels, firewood, post and poles, and landscaping timbers, can be efficiently produced, allowing for the utilization of a variety of local tree species and log sizes.
The expansion at the new site will incorporate a sort yard and merchandizing process that will further expand commercial markets for more various types of small logs and biomass. A 100kw combined heat and power biomass facility will bring on-site material efficiency close to 100% by using a local, renewable, reliable, clean burning, and cost effective source of heat and electricity for the campus businesses.
As the campus becomes more efficient and market opportunities for wood products expands, demand for a wider variety of logs and forest restoration by-products increases. This makes forest restoration more affordable and boosts the incentive to actively manage and restore more forest acres.
In addition to supporting increased forest health through restoration, the campus design provides four additional benefits: (1) reduced impact on the restoration site and costs associated with processing in the forest, (2) integrated and diversified marketing abilities to generate the highest value from raw material (3) diversity, stability, and predictability for the local economy, and (4) additional wood supply for other mills and regional customers of industrial forest products.
The integrated campus is not only an economic catalyst helping to create and retain jobs in Wallowa County, by utilizing small diameter logs that once had no market value, it is also helping to restore the region's forest land and create a resilient future for the community.