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Grant helps institute chart market

Group wants less waste in forest products

ASHLAND -- A grant of $150,000 will enable the Rogue Institute for Ecology and Economy to determine whether environmentally friendly practices can support economically sound markets for forest products from Southern Oregon.

The grant for the forest-products center will come over two years from the Hitachi Foundation based in Washington, D.C., and affiliated with the Japanese electronics manufacturer.

Among the forest products envisioned are secondary manufacturing of wood products other than standard lumber and plywood, and such alternative nontimber material as mushrooms and medicinal herbs. Much of that material today is disregarded -- and discarded -- by large companies as waste.

I think the potential is there, Howard LaMere of the institute said Wednesday. It has been tried in other places, and the material is here. This is an opportunity to bring it all together.

It is definitely a new business, so we don't know how it will turn out. Our tasks are to do some more market research and get some preliminary product out there made from smaller trees and nontimber material.

Project manager Glen Brady said the grant will enable the institute to do three things:

Link the workers who gather forest materials in a network with those who develop and sell the resulting products.

Plan a future site that combines a log-sorting yard with product-marketing offices.

It's something we want to do, but I do not know how far we are going to get in creating the site itself, LaMere said.

Brady said the yard would enable workers to sort out desirable materials, such as larger-diameter trees within a load of smaller trees, or obtain lesser but potential commercial species such as incense cedar.

Analyze the market potential for wood and other forest products. An example LaMere mentioned was a recent order the institute filled from a Japanese pharmaceutical company for several hundred pounds of manzanita leaves. What we're looking at is to continue to explore those kind of opportunities, he said.

The Rogue Institute was formed in 1990 by a millworkers' union and three environmental groups seeking to reduce conflict over the future of Southern Oregon's forests and reconcile economic uses of forests with environmentally sound practices.

Delwin Roy, president of the Hitachi Foundation, said grants to the Rogue Institute and the Fishing Industry Cooperative Enterprises project in New Bedford, Mass., have the same goal.

Both projects build on local resources and infrastructure to help their communities move through major transitions in their economies, he said.

The institute is working with others to establish the new forest products center. Among them are the Applegate Partnership, Rogue Community College, Washington-based Shorebank Enterprise Pacific, Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development Inc., Southern Oregon Women's Access to Credit, the Wood Center, and Ron Hailicka Equipment Inc. of Butte Falls.