Newsletter: Western Juniper Forum '97



Western Juniper Forum '97: Making Progress

from the Western Juniper Newsletter, Vol. 2, No. 1, Summer 1997. 

The ad hoc Western Juniper Steering Committee hosted a well-attended "forum" on April 21st in Bend at the Shiloh Inn. Over 140 people attended, ranging from land owners and land managers, to wood products manufacturers and resource conservation organizations. The one-day affair was organized around concurrent sessions featuring commercial/industrial and science/management topics.

In his opening remarks, Larry Swan, U.S. Forest Service, stated that: "The integrated approach of the ad hoc Western Juniper Steering Committee is the only public/private collaborative partnership of its kind in the U.S. It is directly involved or has links to projects involving everything from woodland biology to marketing in three states. There are other localized efforts, but none with such a wide scope or geographic coverage."

Larry summarized for the group examples of progress which has been made since a similar Western Juniper Forum was held in 1993:

  • Communication - There is now a periodic Western Juniper Newsletter, which has original articles in every issue addressing the wide range of issues involved in developing an environmentally sensitive and sustainable industry. The mailing list has expanded from about 150 people four years ago to over 700 today. In addition, a wood products extension agent is now based in Eastern Oregon, a western juniper Industry Facilitator has been hired using Oregon lottery funding, and both commercial and non-commercial web sites have been established.
  • Partnerships - The number of private companies and landowners, and public agencies and offices who have participated in western juniper projects has probably doubled, to over 100.
  • Funding - Direct commercialization and economic development assistance has increased from a few thousand dollars from the U.S. Forest Service to a total of over $350,000, mostly from the Oregon lottery. A similar amount of in-kind donations for specific projects makes the total investment well over $0.5 million dollars. Direct assistance to biological research projects focused on western juniper woodlands has not increased to the same extent. Due to the diligent efforts of a few key scientists, however, it is probably safe to say contributions have gone from a "few thousand" to "tens of thousands".
  • Scientific Research - The number of research projects underway related to western juniper woodland ecosystem science has increased from perhaps 5-10 in 1993, to over 20. Considerable progress has also been made in better defining the physical and mechanical properties of western juniper, as well as its drying and manufacturing characteristics.
  • Commercialization Results - There has been a significant change in marketing focus, from substitution for other species to value-added niches. For example, the first order for a line of store fixtures was recently received (over $7,000) and will soon be shipped to over 35 locations across the U.S. "Niche fiber markets" are also being explored.
  • Education and Training - Although still informal, the network of demonstration sites and projects, often tied to on-going research, has expanded from around five to close to 10.

According to Larry, probably the most significant indicator of support for the efforts of the ad hoc Western Juniper Steering Committee, is that Forum '97 has 10 sponsors who are contributing cash to keep down costs, compared to just one in 1993. The sponsors include all major Federal land-managing units in Oregon (BLM and U.S. Forest Service) as well as one from Northeastern California (Modoc National Forest).

Larry stresses that: "There is a huge amount more to do - but we have made and are continuing to make real progress in almost all areas related to environmentally sensitive and science-based management of western juniper woodlands, as well as commercial use of products derived from management activities."