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Five ways to enjoy Oregon’s forests in winter
01.09.2024

Winter is a crucial time for Oregon’s forests. The season’s cloudy, wet and cold days foster the explosion of new growth we see in spring forests by invigorating trees and plants with plenty of moisture. Winter is also the height of tree-planting season in Oregon’s forests. This timing capitalizes on the cool weather conditions that promote the root development of newly planted seedlings. 

While winter is a dormant time in the forest, it can be just as magical as other times of year – from seeing the trees dusted in snow to watching the mist rise from the canopy, or hearing the pattering of raindrops as they make their way through the branches above. Here are five ways to enjoy the winter forest experience during the coming months:

Evergreen trees with snow on the ground.

Hiking 

Make your way into the Cascade Range to enjoy abundant snowfall, and marvel at the natural beauty and serenity of winter. The western Cascades boast towering Douglas-fir trees while the eastern side is dominated by ponderosa pine forests with their striking orange trunks. Both regions are likely to receive snowfall at higher elevations, so you’re likely to experience a winter wonderland. The Mt. Hood, Willamette, and Deschutes national forests along the mountains have beautiful trails open during this time of year, making the perfect day-trip hike. Just be sure to be prepared to drive in winter weather, and check road conditions and for trail closures before you head out. 

 

Dog running in front of two people snowshoeing.

 

Snowshoeing 

While you’re in the snow-covered mountains, why not give snowshoeing a try? Most ski shops rent snowshoes at affordable prices. With snowshoes, hiking snowy trails becomes easier than ever. Visit this link from Travel Oregon for more information on snowshoeing through the Cascade Mountains.

 

Waterfall surrounded by snow and evergreen trees.

Waterfalls

Winter rains replenish our watersheds and river systems, and waterfalls burst with new might from all the rainfall. Smaller waterfalls can be found in almost any forest with keen enough eyes. Multnomah Falls, Sahalie Falls and Tumalo Falls are a few popular destination waterfalls in Oregon’s forests. We recommend visiting these early in the morning or in the evening, as their popularity means traffic and parking can be challenging. Silver Falls State Park, east of Salem, is a standout with its famous Trail of Ten Falls

 

Lone skier on a snowy slope.

 

Skiing 

Drive along any road in the Cascades during the winter, and you’ll be sure to find Sno-Parks and resorts that are prime for skiing. The abundant snowfall during the winter creates dense, thick snow perfect for hitting the slopes. Mt. Bachelor is just one popular ski and winter outdoor recreation resort near Bend. A few Sno-Parks are prime spots for snowmobiling – if that’s how you roll! Most Sno-Parks and forests have a website where you should check weather conditions and allowed activities before adventuring out. 

 

Hiker and dog walking in snow along tree-lined road.

 

Visiting an urban forest

Winter can be a difficult time to travel to forests in remote areas of our state. Luckily, many Oregon cities have lots of forested or tree-lined trails that you can visit in urban areas. Take a walk along Portland’s Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park, or a bike ride through Eugene’s Alton Baker Park. Or, you could bundle up and venture into Forest Park in Portland or Mt. Pisgah outside of Springfield. Most urban forests feature paved paths and well-designed forest management by urban foresters for easy public access.

Whether you’re a seasoned forest adventurer, or just looking to enjoy the cool breeze and mist, Oregon’s forests are full of surprises all year round.

Trey Pokorney
Social Media and Outreach Intern

 

Supporting the next generation of natural resource professionals
08.23.2023

Excited, but unsure of what to expect, I boarded a plane on July 22 and traveled to New Brunswick, Canada, to represent Oregon at the NCF-Envirothon — North America’s largest high-school environmental education competition. I would later find out that it’s nearly impossible to know what to expect at this event, which hosts about 300 high-school students and their teachers and chaperones for a week-long competition totally focused on natural resources. 

After almost 24 hours of travel due to delays and missed connections, I arrived at Mount Allison University, the site of the competition. I was tired, but still excited to observe and participate in the event. 

Forty-nine teams from across the U.S., Canada, China and Singapore had traveled to this year’s competition, held July 23-28. Each of the participating teams, which are composed of five high-school students, won the Envirothon competition in their region, qualifying them to advance to the international competition. This event would test their knowledge of soil and land use, aquatic ecology, forestry, and wildlife management through written tests and interactive stations. This year, these topics featured New Brunswick’s natural resources. The teams also took tests and prepared oral presentations on this year’s current issue: “Adapting to a Changing Climate.”

The Oregon team from Logos Public Charter School in Medford won the 2023 Oregon Envirothon in May. OFRI organizes and sponsors the statewide qualifying competition, which is held at The Oregon Garden in Silverton each spring. 

To prepare for the NCF-Envirothon, the Logos students — who called their team “Rogue Pack Alpha” — arrived in New Brunswick the week before the competition to train and become familiar with the region’s natural resources. Their teacher, Christopher Van Ness, had scheduled time for them to work in the field with representatives from the Canadian Forest Service and the Canadian Wildlife Service. 

The first day of the competition was an extensive team training day. All students went through a trial run of the test stations. The next day was the real thing. As team members boarded the buses to the testing site, they were not allowed any electronic devices. Wednesday, the teams took a day off and enjoyed a field trip to the Bay of Fundy. 

Thursday was prep day for the oral presentation, and teams were sequestered separately and given the current-issue topic. They had six hours to prepare a 20-minute oral and visual presentation on the issues surrounding saltwater marshes in the Tantramar region, which is between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. To give you a sense of how serious this competition is, students were provided with pencils and only allowed to bring a water bottle. All bags were searched before students went into sequestration to ensure no team had an unfair advantage. 

On Friday morning, the last day of the competition, the teams gave their presentations in front of five highly educated and experienced judges. I watched from the audience when the Oregon team presented, and they did a great job. It was hard to believe they only had six hours to prepare for a presentation on such a very complicated topic. 

The week ended with an award ceremony, and the Oregon team placed 13th overall.

Envirothon’s vision is to create future conservation leaders. Watching and listening to students at the competition showed me the level of commitment, talent and knowledge they possess. It’s easy to imagine these students in leadership roles! I’m proud that OFRI supports and sponsors the Oregon Envirothon program to raise up the next generation of natural resource professionals.

Norie Dimeo-Ediger
Director of K-12 Programs

 

Understanding nesting seasons of protected bird species is part of good forest management
06.05.2023

I love being in the woods. I don’t care if it’s just for a moment, or weeks at a time. As soon as my boots hit the dirt, I feel a sense of connection I don’t feel anywhere else. I imagine many of us who work in the woods feel this way – even if we don’t get out there as much as we would like. 

As a wildlife biologist, when I’m among the trees I particularly tune in to the birds you can find in the forest. I like hearing them, seeing them and observing their behavior. In my job I spend quite a bit of time with foresters, loggers and others who work in the woods, helping them understand which kinds of birds have special protections under state and federal law – things they must consider when planning a timber harvest or other forest operation. 

There are several species of birds called out in the Oregon Forest Practices Act, which regulates forest management practices on state and private forestland. These species require protections when forest operations could conflict with nesting. Each species has a different biology, and therefore different protections based on how and when they nest and the needs of their young.  

Bald eagle perched in a tree.

I recently helped the Oregon Forest Resources Institute’s Wildlife in Managed Forests program develop a new publication for forest landowners, managers and operators to help them understand the varied protections for bird species required by the Oregon Forest Practices Act. The Wildlife in Managed Forests: Forest Practices Act Reference Series outlines these protections for a variety of bird species. It describes specific protection requirements for each of the nine bird species featured in the pamphlet, including a chart showing the critical nesting times when special protections are required for the species. 

One way the chart can be used by operators and forest managers is to review it prior to planning timber harvests, to understand when birds aren’t nesting. That’s because if your logging operation is near a known active nest, it’s best to plan harvests outside that bird species’ nesting season. 

Understanding the Forest Practices Act protections for certain forest-reliant bird species is sometimes confusing, because the law requires very specific protection measures for species such as the northern spotted owl and osprey – while not for other species such as the golden eagle and marbled murrelet. This has a lot to do with whether the bird species is listed under the federal Endangered Species Act, and whether specific forest practice rules have been established for a species. OFRI’s new reference series that outlines these differences clearly will be incredibly helpful for anyone owning or managing an Oregon forest where these species can be found. 

Northern spotted owl perched in a tree.

You can download the Wildlife in Managed Forests: Forest Practices Act Reference Series from the publications page on OFRI’s website, and hard copies can be ordered as well – for free! 

I encourage anyone who works in the woods to review and keep this publication handy. I use this information all the time. 

Fran Cafferata 
Certified Wildlife Biologist®
Cafferata Consulting

Photo credits:

Header photo: Sara Duncan

Northern spotted owl photo: Eliana Pool  

Haunted by the ashes
05.30.2023

I didn’t truly know how wildfires affected Oregon until I visited an art exhibit where I could visually and sonically experience the impacts of fire. I’ve heard about wildfire devastation on the news and from friends, but have never experienced them firsthand. Sarah Grew’s “Ghost Forest” and Jon Bellona’s “Wildfire” transformed a gallery into a haunting, ethereal space of warning. The art installations ran from April 24 to May 4 at the University of Oregon’s LaVerne Krause Gallery.

When I walked into the gallery, I immediately felt a chill down my spine. I was struck by the sound of crackling fire, which I couldn’t hear from outside the space. Then the fragile “ghost trees,” photographs printed on suspended panes of glass, cautioned me to walk carefully around them. The sensitivity of navigating the space made me think of the how dramatically Oregon forests and the ecosystems they house can be reshaped by fire. The ghost trees were carbon-printed images from the 2020 wildfires that devasted our state and other parts of the West, intermixed with historical forest photos. The prints were made using wildfire ash Grew collected from various forest fires across the Western U.S., including 2020’s Holiday Farm Fire, which burned more than 174,000 acres of state, federal and private land in the McKenzie River Valley east of Eugene. Grew muddled the ash and mixed it with binders to create a material that could print images. She then arranged the ghost trees in the gallery to mimic a real forest, with all its twists and turns. At first the ghost trees hanging from cables enveloped in glass overwhelmed my mind. Each photo was facing a different direction, and it was hard to take in. Viewing each image required careful consideration. I accidentally bumped into one and the entire cable started to move, startling me. 

Black and white photos suspended on wires and speakers mounted on the wall.

The “Ghost Forest” exhibit was accompanied by another art installation, “Wildfire” by Jon Bellona. “Wildfire” is an exponentially sonic exploration of being in the middle of a wildfire. The intense sounds of crackling fire coming from speakers mounted on the walls took me by surprise, and at one point became so loud that I stepped out of the gallery for a moment of quiet. 

I had to recognize this privilege. For many Oregonians, the loud, suffocating and frightening wildfires in 2020 were a reality that will affect their lives for years to come. More than 4,000 homes were destroyed in the Labor Day fires, and many forest landowners saw the trees they’d cared for go up in smoke. The social, ecological and economic impacts of these wildfires bear repeating. 

The “Ghost Forest” and “Wildfire” exhibit was an exceptional and grounding experience, and a reminder for Oregonians as we enter another wildfire season to do everything we can to prevent and prepare for wildfire. 

For wildfire prevention tips, I encourage you to visit Keep Oregon Green’s website. I also encourage you to learn more about the art installations I experienced, at the following links:
•    “Ghost Forest”
•    "Wildfire”

Trey Pokorney
Social Media & Outreach Intern

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