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Recycling juniper 'weeds' a thriving biz for Prineville man

By Joe Burns
Published On: Feb 28 2013 02:30:36 AM CST
Updated On: Feb 28 2013 11:37:36 AM CST

You see them everywhere around Central Oregon, juniper trees. But ecologists consider it an invasive species and are looking for ways to remove millions of acres. One Prineville man has a way to get it done while making some money.

PRINEVILLE, Ore. -

You may not realize, it but ecologists consider juniper trees a pest across the landscape of Central Oregon.

Over the past century, they have over taken millions of acres.

But a Prineville man says he has a way to use junipers -- and make some money.

Lance Romine has been making homes out of juniper in Prineville for the past 14 years.

And you could say he's making art and helping to restore the watershed at the same time.

"As you look at this, all you see is richness and beauty," Romine said Wednesday. "And that's my big selling point -- I guess I love that."

Romine makes many things out of juniper, an invasive species that has invaded the High Desert region.

"If you look at a photo of the Prineville Valley 100 years ago, you won't see a juniper tree on the hills," Romine said. "All the rims are just sage and grass -- and now it's all juniper."

A tree many say doesn't have a useful function, Romine uses to his advantage.

Romine, who also uses pine and fir, says he has built 30 to 40 homes, with a quarter of them being made out of juniper.

"Once they saw the character of the juniper, it was kind of an easy sell," Romine said.

Romine doesn't use any old-growth junipers, but instead the second-growth generation -- ones that he says are impeding the grasslands.

"We aren't after that gorgeous 800-year-old juniper," Romine said. "It's an art form itself, so you leave those there. We deal with the ones that are a littler uglier."

And he turns the ugly ones into creations, from homes and cabins to a sauna shaped like a whiskey barrel.

"You hate to see it go in firewood or fence posts -- that's kind of been what the whole thing is," Romine said. "I'm not big into wasting a chunk of wood or species. If it can serve a purpose, then why not?"

So he's making homes, just one way to help stop the juniper invasion on the high desert.

"I think you have to be stewards of the land and utilize what god gave you and he gave us some pretty nice stuff," Romine said.

Junipers consume a lot of water, one tree can suck up as much as 40 gallons a day.
So with every tree Romine cuts down that much more water is left over for streams and rivers.

If you would like to learn more you can visit his website at http://www.lineshack.net/

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