This photo is of a 1,600 year old western juniper tree, believed to be the oldest one in Oregon. It can be found on Horse Ridge outside of Bend. The photo was used in an article by Miller, Bates, Svejcar and Pierson (see “Biology, ecology, and management of western juniper (Juniperus occidentalis)”. Junipers are the most human of trees because they come in all shapes and sizes, and can overcome incredible obstacles. And like humans, overpopulation is a problem.
A project supported by the Harney Soil and Water Conservation District and other local agencies is fighting juniper encroachment. With the discussion of climate change it seems counterproductive to cut down trees, but juniper is proof that too much of anything is not good. An Oregonian (2013) article stated only 3 to 5% of today’s juniper was present during frontier days and its range has expanded 1.5 percent per year.
These trees consume 40 gallons of water daily and push out sage and native grasses used for sage-grouse habitat and a food source for deer, antelope and elk. Juniper can be a fire hazard.
But juniper has its uses. Toward winter’s end wild birds will eat the berries. The tree’s canopy keeps the ground below clear for some wildlife. Predatory birds like to perch on juniper trees to seek out prey (which is another reason to remove the trees found near sage grouse habitat). Juniper posts can withstand weight and be used to support heavy agriculture vines. Anyone walking into the Round Barn (both Peter French’s and the nearby visitor center) can see that juniper is both beautiful and functional for construction purposes. Juniper boughs can be used for Christmas wreaths. Three distillers in Bend are turning juniper berries into gin (the word gin is a derivative of juniper) . The berries can also flavor game meat and sauerkraut dishes or be brewed as tea. Juniper oil is used in cosmetics for anti-inflammation properties. Years ago it was used to treat kidney and digestive disorders and used to sterilize surgical equipment.
Juniper has its place, and for HSWCD and partners, the goal is to keep it there.
For further information, please check out the following:
To view a Paulina rancher’s efforts to make her land a safe haven for sage-grouse, see https://nrcs.maps.arcgis.com/apps/Cascade/index.html?appid=fca69d22a7f440888bc830ba66a1ef1a
And to view the publication listed at the beginning: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/42740730_Biology_Ecology_and_Management_of_Western_Juniper_Juniperus_occidentalis