As the chair of the Oregon Sustainability Board, Secretary Brown is committed to traveling across the state to hear from every Oregonian about preserving Oregon’s natural resources, innovating for the future, and spurring economic growth.
In September, Secretary Brown convened a meeting of the Sustainability Board in John Day and Baker City and was joined by her fellow board members including Willamette University environmental law professor Robin Morris Collin and Trey Senn, director of the Klamath County Economic Development Association.
The first day of meetings took place on September 15 at the Grant County Regional Airport, which completed a noteworthy renovation last year. The airport now boasts a LEED certified, sustainable design that incorporates local and recycled materials. The retrofit has improved energy performance by more than a third.
The airport now doubles as an event and meeting center. Recently one of President Obama’s top advisers, Nancy Sutley, visited the Grant County Regional Airport on her trip to discuss the collaborative approach to forest health taken by Grant and Harney Counties, an approach that not only creates local, renewable energy sources but, also, creates local jobs.
During the first day of meetings, the Oregon Sustainability Board heard from the Blue Mountain Forest Collaborative and toured Malheur Lumber Company. Seeing new opportunity in this economic climate, Malheur Lumber Company started to manufacture pellet-burning boilers for sustainably harvested biomass. This investment in the future created at least six new jobs directly related to the new boilers. It has also resulted in the thinning of unhealthy and flammable forest growth.
Grant County Regional Airport features one of these innovative pellet boilers.
After a night at the haunted Geiser Grand Hotel in Baker City, the Board continued their work. Speaking with regional sustainability planners, they learned how historical preservation is at the heart of sustainability planning.
Fun fact: Over 100 Baker City buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places.
While visiting sites like the underground tunnels, the Board saw how locally sourced and recycled materials are incorporated into historical buildings during preservation projects. They learned about the money energy retrofits save as well as the local employment they engender – all while preserving some of Oregon’s most amazing gems east of the Cascades.
Baker City’s emphasis on preservation has paid off because tourism is one of its largest industries. With its colorful history, Victorian-style houses, and Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, Baker City is a site to see!