What's happening in the forest sector?

Making clearcuts less ugly


Over the past several years, OFRI has surveyed Oregonians on how they view forest management. One consistent finding is that people don’t like clearcuts. Discussions during focus groups and informal visits indicate the main reason for these feelings is aesthetics: Most people consider clearcuts just plain ugly.

Learning about the natural forest cycle, and how clearcuts mimic natural disturbances such as fire, can help people understand clearcuts. But it still doesn’t help them like them. A better way to combat the negative perception of clearcuts is through visual management – a collection of concepts that help foresters plan timber harvests so they are more aesthetically appealing.

The concepts include:

  • Leaving residual patches of trees to visually break up the clearcut.
  • Avoiding straight cutting boundaries. Straight lines rarely occur in nature, and the human eye views them as intrusions.
  • Limiting the size of clearcuts, so viewers can see where they end. If a clearcut goes to the top of a ridge, the natural visual assumption is that it continues over the ridge top. If people see the boundary, they know where it ends.
  • Designing clearcuts that fit naturally into the landscape and the residual forest.
  • Cleaning up slash piles, trash and other debris.

Foresters can implement these visual management concepts using modern photo and visualization software that shows how the clearcut will appear from various angles and distances. This is especially useful to see how clearcuts will look from key travel corridors.

To help foresters learn these visual management tools, OFRI is co-sponsoring a pair of workshops with the Oregon Forest Industries Council, Washington Forest Protection Association and the Western Forestry and Conservation Association. The workshops will be held April 13 in Springfield and April 19 in Grand Mound, Wash.

The workshop will include teaching and reviewing visual management concepts and tools developed by Dr. Gordon Bradley, an emeritus professor at the University of Washington. Loren Kellogg, an emeritus professor at Oregon State University, will highlight some operational and safety considerations, and OSU professor Doug Maguire will discuss silvicultural considerations. We will also examine a local case study, and I’ll present the OFRI clearcutting survey findings.

Registration for the sessions in open; you can find detailed workshop information at the WFCA website. Please join us and learn what you can do to make our harvest units more socially acceptable.

For the forest,

Mike Cloughesy

Director of Forestry

Growing seedlings from seed has come a long way

Tree planting season kicked off last month, and Oregon landowners will plant some 40 million to 50 million seedlings again this year. But I have to say: The science of growing tree seedlings from seed has come a long way since my days in Pendleton as a Boy Scout.

My first scoutmaster was a U.S. Forest Service forester. He was a soft-spoken, pipe-smoking 20-something dressed in khaki that all us teenage boys thought was super cool.

We loved to hike and camp. The only thing was, we didn’t have tents. Someone figured out we could raise money to buy our own 8-foot-by-10-foot military-grade canvas field tents. They had no floors, just walls. We held dozens of fundraising events, but one in particular I remember was gathering fir and pine cones for seed extraction.

It comes easy to a 13-year-old to think like a squirrel. We quickly filled a couple dozen or more large orange sacks with cones. Then our leader explained that the cones would be dried and tumbled to extract the seeds. The seeds would be planted first in a nursery and then replanted in the forest after a timber harvest or fire. While not an entirely new concept, planting seedlings was quickly catching on as a forestry best practice instead of leaving “seed trees” for natural regeneration or spreading seed by hand or helicopter.

That was more than 40 years ago. Nowadays, the seed-to-seedling process is much more scientific. Foresters identify the best growing stock and use these “parents” to propagate “seed trees” in seed orchards. The orchards are organized by species, latitude and altitude in order to match the seedlings to where they’ll be planted. Seeds are carefully harvested in the fall and planted in low-elevation nurseries where they can be closely monitored, watered and protected from fire, frost, insects and disease.

A big winner in all this is the squirrels, who no longer have to compete with teenagers for the fattest, juiciest seed cones!

For the forest,

Paul Barnum

Executive Director


Forest Health in Oregon

Most of us are aware of some of the forest health challenges facing Oregon. We have seen news stories about catastrophic fires and huge bark-beetle infestations. We may have also heard about outbreaks of Sudden Oak Death or Swiss needle cast. We are especially familiar with the dead trees we are seeing in our favorite forests. However, we aren’t all up to date on how bad things are, what the trends are and what we can do about these challenges. An upcoming conference at Oregon State University will focus on the health of Oregon’s forests and the various threats our forests face.

Forest Health in Oregon: State of the State 2016 is geared to foresters, forest managers, conservationists, woodland owners, students and others with an interest in forest health. OFRI is co-sponsoring the event, Feb. 16-17. The conference will inform participants about the current condition of Oregon’s forests and the various factors that can harm forest health.

On the first day of the conference, participants will learn the latest information about how insects, diseases, fires, invasive species, wildlife, drought, storms and climate change, among other factors, are affecting forests in Oregon.

The second day will focus on the management of these threats and ways to mitigate the negative impacts. Speakers will discuss managing forests to minimize damage caused by insects, diseases and fire. A theme will be how to manage forests for resilience. The final session will feature perspectives of different forest landowners on how to manage for healthy forests.

Registration for the conference is $175. Student registration is free.

I am really excited about being part of this conference and having OFRI be a major sponsor, because the conference is promoting active management of our forests as the path to a healthy forest.

To learn more about the threats to our forests, visit OregonForests.org/ForestThreats. This page features OFRI’s new special report titled Forest Threats: Active Forest Management – Protecting Oregon’s Forests for Future Generations. It also includes a series of five videos on the forest threats of fire, insects, disease, invasive species and weather.

For the forest,

Mike Cloughesy

Director of Forestry


Mass timber rising

Last month we saw cross-laminated timbers installed at the Albina Yard project in Portland. It was the first use of U.S.-produced CLT in a building-wide structural system.

The first level of CLT (4,000 square feet) on Albina Yard went up in fewer than four hours. Last week, the second level was installed by a crew of seven in under two hours. Pretty remarkable, considering the contractor says it would have taken at least twice as many people two days or more to frame the same amount of floor space using traditional methods.

Albina Yard is a four-story, 16,000-square-foot creative office project in north Portland. Besides its snazzy design by LEVER Architecture, the project is most notable for being tangible evidence that the U.S. CLT industry is officially off the ground.

There’s been a lot of buzz around CLT and mass timber in general over the past several months in Oregon and around the country — and rightly so. Besides drastically improved speed of construction (and the savings that go with that), mass timber offers significant environmental benefits. This includes tremendous carbon-storing capacity. Half the dry weight of wood is carbon. It got there when the trees were growing and absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. That carbon remains locked up for as long as the wood remains in use (a nine-story wood structure in China is now 959 years old—nearly a millennium). The new trees planted to replace those that were harvested start the carbon cycle all over again.

According to a quick, back-of-the-napkin calculation I did, Albina Yard, which is small by commercial construction standards, stores about 80.5 metric tons of carbon. That’s equivalent to offsetting 295 metric tons of CO2 emissions.

A larger Portland mass timber building, Clay Creative (60,000 square feet), stores more than 1 million pounds of carbon. Its total of 457.5 metric tons offsets 1,678 metric tons of CO2 emissions. “An additional 3,574 metric tons of CO2 emissions were avoided by using wood rather than concrete and steel,” says Dr. Jim Bowyer, an expert on the subject at Dovetail Partners, Inc.

That, more than anything, makes me feel pretty good about the potential future for our planet.

Interested in taking a deeper dive into the current state of affairs for CLT and the mass timber movement? Don’t miss the upcoming Mass Timber Conference in Portland, March 22-24. Details here


Timm Locke, Director of Forest Products

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