I’m pleased to join you today to recognize the remarkable resourcefulness and collaboration you’ve shown on this critical project to find uses for juniper from sagebrush restoration projects. The action plan you’ve created will benefit sagebrush habitat, ranchers and other landowners, and local communities.
It’s also a strong reflection of the kind of approach to solving problems that is so often the nature of communities in eastern Oregon. I have come to believe that bottom-up economic development is the most effective strategy we have to create the economy of the future, and I think what you’ve accomplished here is a great example of that.
This Oregon Solutions process has created a high-level, neutral table for discussion and consensus building around restoring sagebrush habitat and using juniper trees in restoration projects.
The implementation of your action plan will provide new economic opportunities to timber and wood products industries throughout Oregon, and provide another resource for biomass energy-related uses. And as a result, it will put more people to work by building on the skills and know-how that already exist in your communities.
I understand how important small businesses are in rural communities. Contactors are providing direct jobs and services to complete the restoration work, and more jobs are being created in small Eastern Oregon sawmill operations and then delivering juniper products to customers and retail outlets.
We need to continue to tell this story that invasive juniper needs to be removed from both public and privately-owned lands to improve grazing conditions, discourage the spread of invasive weeds, improve water supplies, and restore available habitat for sensitive species like the sage grouse.
Thank you to everyone part of the WJUG – business owners, environmental groups, the Counties, the Burns Piaute Tribe, and academic and government representatives who are committing time, energy, and expertise to developing a solid and viable action plan for juniper utilization as a part of restoration work across your landscape.
I appreciate the work of each of all the members of the team.
I want to thank the Association of Oregon Counties for requesting this project and its ongoing efforts to connect juniper utilization with the work of the Sage Grouse Conservation Partnership.
Special thanks to Tom Kelly and Martin Goebel for convening the group. Their ability to keep everyone talking and working together is a model for the convening role that we can learn from. One of the gratifying aspects of some of our Oregon Solutions projects is the urban-rural partnerships that have developed. I want to commend Tom for taking time from his business in Portland to help us tackle challenges in rural Oregon.
Thanks to Harney County Commissioner Dan Nichols and Wheeler County Judge Chris Perry for their leadership, and to the Wood Products Center at OSU and Business Oregon for their longstanding efforts to find opportunities for products that utilize juniper from restoration projects.
Your efforts are helping to build supportive and productive relationships with federal agencies to help support sage grouse conservation and strong, viable communities in sagebrush country. This integrated action between federal, state, and local governments is a model we need to replicate wherever we can.
I appreciate the initial funding for the Group from USDA Rural Development (Vicki Walker-$15K) and Business Oregon ($50k challenge grant). I hope others will step forward.
Finally, I want to thank our Oregon Solutions Project Manager Elizabeth McNannay for a job really well done.
We are not done – you are not done. But I’m confident that as you implement your action plan, we will see improved rangeland and healthy sagebrush habitat, coordinated restoration efforts that provide good jobs for you and others in Eastern Oregon, and expanded opportunities for products made from juniper removed as a part of restoration projects.
Again, thank you. I’m pleased to celebrate with you today the signing of this Declaration of Cooperation and exciting forward progress for rural Oregon communities. I invite all WJUG members to join me up here as we sign and make this significant milestone official.