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Raise the Roof Oregon/Washington BLM



Raise the Roof

When a barn dies, what happens to it? Does it go to some big barn heaven in the sky? Or can we recycle and reuse it down here? Recently, the BLM put this question to the test when it decided one of its old barns was an excellent candidate to be an "organ donor."

story & photos by Ariel Hiller

At the BLM's Roseburg District in southern Oregon, we use a number of barns to store everything from field equipment and fencing supplies to irrigation materials and a fantastic woodshop which we created almost entirely from reclaimed and recycled materials. But when rot and decay caused the Middle Barn at our North Bank Habitat Management Area to lean further than Italy's Tower of Pisa, we knew it was time to send it to that great barn heaven in the sky.

Now at this point, other organizations might have simply pulled down the building only to fill big dumpsters with debris destined for a landfill. But the BLM is dedicated to conserving and protecting our natural resources. And we knew we could find a way to resurrect new life into this ol' barn.


We undertook what I've taken to calling the "Green Barn Project." And it serves as a role model for the kind of forward-thinking the Federal government is becoming known. By ensuring that virtually all our materials were recycled or reused to the fullest possible extent, we guaranteed that not only the wood and large metal would find new purpose in future construction, but that we'd also be recycling every piece of metal hardware to include small nails, brackets, screws, and roofing material. Nothing would be wasted! And so with the help of two long-term BLM employees, Kate Read and Randy Lopez, we created a plan to make our Green Barn Project possible. Their flexibility, ingenuity, and assistance made this effort possible.

Raise the Roof
photo by Ariel Hiller


An additional positive outcome of this project was that it provided jobs to Oregonians. We were very happy the bid went to an Oregon contractor thus boosting employment in our communities. Per contract, the BLM stipulated our all-important clause that all materials were to be recycled and reused. And by working directly with a local employer, we were happy to see they had a great understanding of the BLM's goal. After some 20 hours of labor to take apart the barn, they accomplished virtually 100 percent of our mission!


All lumber that was still useful was salvaged for reuse in other construction projects. This means that boards and beams which previously leaned at a 45-degree angle can now stand straight and tall holding up sound new structures. And what of the unsalvageable lumber? Our timing couldn't have been more perfect. With autumn arriving, folks need firewood. And recycling this type of wood means cutting fewer trees! Further, concrete items like old post anchors were crushed for use in construction fill on other projects. And after recycling the smaller pieces, the only items to end up in a landfill were a few fiberglass panels that had served as primitive skylights in the roof. Not bad!


So what's next? We're currently looking to get quotes on lumber and to work with Kate and Randy in creating a plan for a new barn. Hopefully by next summer! And for that project, we'd love for the BLM to engage local youth from the Wolf Creek Job Corps. In addition, the BLM's Roseburg District's very own Green Team is planning new ways to continually improve our local recycling program as well as to incorporate green cleaning products into our facility.

Our dedication to conservation isn't limited to the Green Barn Project. It's an everyday commitment.

Visit the BLM's Roseburg District online!