Western juniper, although native to Eastern Oregon, has become invasive and overtaken upwards of 9 million acres of rangelands, using up water in an already dry landscape, according to a press release from the land management team. Mature trees can consume nearly 30 gallons a day, and crowd out native plants needed by both wildlife and livestock. An Oregon State University study showed that cutting juniper quickly restores watersheds and improves streamflows, which in turn improves grazing for cattle and habitat for species such as the greater sage grouse and mule deer.
When Ritter landowners identified the spread of juniper as one of the greatest threats to the health and productivity of their lands, the group began to wonder if a sawmill might be the answer.
“Everyone wants to get rid of juniper, but removal is both expensive and difficult,” said Executive Director Patti Hudson. “Then once it’s cut and on the ground, what do you do with it?”
Read more at the Blue Mountain Eagle.