Merkley, Wyden welcome federal investment in Oregon to reduce wildfire risk

Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden Friday announced nine federal grants awarded across Oregon that support innovation in the state’s wood products industry — creating jobs in rural Oregon, advancing research at Oregon State University and the University of Oregon, and reducing wildfire risks and improving forest conditions statewide, according to a news release.

The U.S. Forest Service grant program was created by the Timber Innovation Act; Merkley worked with Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) to mobilize a bipartisan coalition, including Wyden, to successfully advocate for the bill’s inclusion in the 2018 Farm Bill. The bill in part created the Wood Innovations Grant program that provides funding to accelerate the adoption of emerging wood technology for building construction. Merkley and Wyden advocated with the Forest Service for Oregon communities, companies and universities to bring a significant portion of the $7.62 million in grants from the program.

“We have been working to establish Oregon as a hub for mass timber products, using local timber and bolstering our forest products economy,” said Merkley, who serves on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds innovation grant programs like these. “We’re supporting innovative manufacturing that creates jobs in rural parts of the state and lays the groundwork for future sustainable tall wood building construction across America. These projects demonstrate that Oregon is a thought leader in the wood products industry.”

“Oregon always stands at the forefront of innovation, and I’m glad the Forest Service has recognized the creativity and hard work throughout our state when it comes to expanding markets for wood products and boosting markets for renewable wood energy,” Wyden said. “These grants will help to generate jobs in rural communities such as Prineville, Hood River and Pendleton and at the OSU and the U of O as well. And the benefits from the work done by all these grants will ripple out statewide with lower wildfire dangers, improved forest health and more.”

“Wood Innovation Grants are critical to our efforts in developing innovative mass timber and wood building solutions,” said Anthony S. Davis, interim dean at the Oregon State University of College of Forestry. “Thanks to Sen. Merkley’s and Sen. Wyden’s continued support, we have the ability to discover and test Oregon grown and built wood products that will provide sustainable construction alternatives while improving the lives of Oregonians.”

“These funds will allow us to expand the uses for mass timber products by developing applications that will increase the resilience of multi-family housing units using Mass Plywood Panels made by Freres Lumber of Lyons, OR to provide for both energy and seismic retrofits and by employing genomic analysis of microbial communities on wood surfaces to demonstrate their suitability for increased deployment in healthcare facilities,” said Kevin Van Den Wymelenberg, professor of architecture at University of Oregon and Director of the Institute for Health in the Built Environment and the Energy Studies in Buildings Laboratory.

Oregon has been at the forefront of developing mass timber products, including cross-laminated timber, mass plywood products, nail laminated timber, glue laminated timber, laminated strand lumber, and laminated veneer lumber. In addition to creating this grant program, the Timber Innovation Act establishes a new research and development program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture that focuses on developing the application of mass timber products for building construction; analyzing the safety of tall wood buildings; identifying building code modification for wooden buildings; and calculating the environmental footprint of wood buildings.