Mar 24 2015

Wood and Politics, tis the season to roll-up our sleeves

By Terry Campbell

Sustainable Northwest Wood is focused on transforming the wood products industry to improve natural landscapes while providing our customers with amazing products.  On a daily basis we do this by using business and economic tools, sometimes we need to request help from state and local governments to nurture a concept.  Oregon’s 78th legislative assembly began on Monday February 2, 2015 and there are two causes that are directly related to how we do business and why. 

Two House bills (HB 2997 and HB 2998) are focused on improving the supply chain for juniper.  Through loans and grants the state of Oregon will strengthen the juniper sawmilling business and allow those mills to potentially hire more rural Oregonians.   A favorite statistic that is used when demonstrating the importance of rural employment in Oregon goes like this: 1 job in Harney County is economically equivalent to 208 jobs in Multnomah County.  The take away here is that rural employment is very important and industries that provide rural Oregonians with an opportunity should be a priority. 

This cause along with many other positive environmental factors was reason enough for our President, Ryan Temple, to head to Salem, OR to testify on behalf of these House Bills.  He shared part of his testimony.  “Juniper utilization presents a unique opportunity to merge economic, ecological and community interests.  While the potential is tremendous there are still significant obstacles that must be overcome.  Juniper entrepreneurs tend to be geographically isolated, under-capitalized and daunted by the challenges of a fledgling industry.  However, with strategic support from NGO’s and public agencies a juniper industry can be established that creates jobs through the restoration of ecosystems.  It is encouraging to see stakeholders across political and ideological divides working together to take this movement forward.”

The second sustainable wood products related issue that is running through the legislature is centered on the concept of ‘urban lumber.’  Urban lumber as conceived in these bills is not just what we know as urban salvage (trees that die or are the result of windfall)  but it also puts an emphasis on planting trees in an urban setting for future use as lumber. House Bill 2985 creates policies to give urban lumber a legal framework and House Bill 2984 asks for funding to create an urban lumber pilot co-op model in Clackamas County. The co-op will make it possible for landowners in the county at all scales to plant trees, track them with GPS, and utilize the wood in the future. This program will not only stop the rampant waste of valuable natural resources but also reforest land and create hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity for generations to come.

Dave Barmon of Fiddlehead Landscaping is the champion of the urban lumber bills and his vision can be summed-up as, “I firmly believe that this program can revolutionize forestry not only in Clackamas County and Oregon but across the US and eventually the globe.”  A meeting to discuss the urban lumber bills has been scheduled for March, 2015.

We will continue to track the progress of these efforts and keep you informed.