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Trees to Tap – Keeping Drinking Water Safe

The Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) recently released a new special report titled Keeping Drinking Water Safe. It summarizes Trees to Tap, a 30-month study led by Oregon State University’s Institute for Natural Resources (INR), which OFRI commissioned to provide the public with the latest science examining forest management’s impacts on drinking water sources in Oregon.

The study was led by Drs. Jon Souder, Kevin Bladon, Emily Jane Davis and Bogdan Strimbu of the OSU College of Forestry with able assistance from Jeff Behan of the INR. The final Trees to Tap science review report is being published by Oregon State University Extension Service, and is expected this fall. However, the OSU team has made available the “working papers,” which are essentially the final manuscripts of each chapter before they go to the OSU editor.

The Keeping Drinking Water Safe special report, Trees to Tap Science Review Working Papers, a stand-alone chapter on Findings and Recommendations and a Study Summary are all available on the Trees to Tap webpage on OFRI’s website.

The Trees to Tap study focused on four main areas of concern that were identified by a statewide steering committee as the major ways forest management could impact drinking water sources. These include:


- sediment from forestry operations

- forest management chemicals

- water quantity

- organic matter and disinfection byproducts

The Trees to Tap study identified three main forestry activities that have the potential to impact drinking water:

- timber harvest

- forest roads

- chemical application

Timber harvest

Timber harvest reduces canopy coverage and disturbs soils, which can cause erosion and trigger sediment movement until replanted tree seedlings or vegetation reach sufficient size. The sediment risk is clearly related to the type of harvest operation, and is impacted by geology, soil, topography and rainfall patterns. In the short run, timber removal can increase stream flows, which can erode stream banks, saturate soils and scour stream beds, remobilizing sediments from past logging and natural disturbances. Contemporary logging practices are designed to lessen disturbance to the forest floor, and to minimize the possibility of sediment entering streams. The great news is that they work.

Forest roads

Research consistently indicates that unpaved forest roads are a primary source of sediment entering streams and estuaries in forested watersheds. Over the years, best management practices have evolved for forest road design, placement, construction, maintenance, decommissioning and reclamation. Three examples where significant improvements have been made to reduce the amount of sediment entering streams are:

- actively routing runoff away from streams and toward buffer areas

- improving stream crossings by installing bridges or culverts, to keep road traffic from directly crossing stream channels

- upsizing culvert diameters to increase their flow capacity and reduce the likelihood of failure

Forest chemicals

The use of chemicals in the forest raises public concerns about their effect on plants and animals, adjacent properties and downstream community water supplies. Herbicides are the most common chemicals used in Oregon’s forests. Forest landowners use herbicides to aid the re-establishment of tree seedlings following timber harvest. The total number of treatments on a seedling plantation range from one to four. Herbicides are administered in a controlled application either on the ground or by air. However, chemicals can potentially get into water directly by accident, drift during application, volatilization after spraying or through storm water runoff.

Foresters must follow strict rules laid out by a variety of state and federal regulations, as well as the Oregon Forest Practices Act. All of the rules are important and must be followed responsibly for the health and safety of people, aquatic life and drinking water.

Learn more

There is a lot of information contained in the Trees to Tap study, and OFRI will be making a major effort to communicate it. A good place to start to learn more about Trees to Tap is on our webpage devoted to the study.

I will also be giving a presentation on Trees to Tap via Zoom for the Washington County Small Woodlands Association on July 22 at 7 p.m. This meeting is co-sponsored by OFRI and is free and open to the public. Join us here.

A thank you

Finally, I would like to give a special shout-out to Paul Barnum, former OFRI executive director who contracted with us to write the Keeping Drinking Water Safe special report. Well done, Chief.

For the forest,

Mike Cloughesy

Director of Forestry

Are fireworks safe this summer?

Like most Oregonians, I’ve been spending a lot more time at home this spring. One thing I’ve noticed on the weekends is the frequent use of fireworks in my neighborhood. I live in southwest Portland, and I don’t think my neighborhood is particularly unique. I’m used to seeing this around holidays like New Year’s Eve, Memorial Day, Labor Day and Fourth of July, but usually this doesn’t happen the rest of the year. I’m sure people are bored and looking for a little fun in their backyard or cul-de-sac.

The issue is that these aren’t normal times. We’re heading into fire season in Oregon, and it looks like this year will be very challenging. I’m worried that the increased use of fireworks will lead to an increase in human-caused fires this summer. Wildfires can start in a campground, on a neighborhood street and even in a backyard. One factor all these situations have in common is proximity to trees.

I know that during this global pandemic many of us don’t want to hear one more thing we can’t or shouldn’t do right now. I understand that feeling, and I miss seeing my friends, going to church, volunteering and just the general sense of freedom of movement.

One thing to keep in mind with fireworks is that even though they can be purchased legally, that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of accidents. I experienced a very close call when my kids were little, and ever since I have had a great amount of respect for the professionals who put on fireworks shows safely. I was sitting on a blanket on the Oregon coast and watching a public fireworks display. Nearby many people were setting off their own personal shows, and they definitely rivaled the public one. I didn’t realize how close we were to a personal show until a firework went off about 50 yards away from me and my family. Instead of going straight up in the air the firework shot sideways, and I heard it whiz between me and my daughter. I looked over at my husband and we quickly left the beach. Since then, I don’t go down to the beach or out on the street to enjoy the Fourth of July fireworks. I watch them from a safe distance.

This year going to a beach or park to watch a community-hosted fireworks show isn’t going to be an option, because it would be hard to maintain the social distancing that’s required to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. It’s sad that we won’t have public fireworks displays this summer, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe to get close to a private display. Instead, I’m thinking of some fun alternatives to enjoy a fireworks-free summer this year. Here are a few ideas:

- play a game of flashlight tag

- use a camp stove to make your favorite s’mores

- have a red, white and blue water-balloon battle

- enjoy red, white and blue glow sticks

- think of the stars on the U.S. flag as you stargaze on the Fourth of July

I know these probably won’t replace a good old-fashioned fireworks display, but hopefully next year we will have our fireworks again and we’ll appreciate them even more.

For the forest,

Erin Isselmann

Executive Director

Take time for a walk in the woods

In the midst of navigating through uncertain times and all the changes that have impacted our daily lives, taking a walk in the woods is one thing you can still do. Not only will you come away with a deeper connection to our natural environment, but there are some amazing health benefits as well.

A walk in the woods can leave you feeling restored and rejuvenated. Exposure to forests strengthens our immune system, reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, increases energy and improves our mood. The Japanese call this shinrin-yoku, which means “forest bathing.”

As Oregonians, we have an abundance of opportunities for getting out into the forest. Nearly half of Oregon is forestland and we are home to 11 national and six state forests. Portland is home to Forest Park, which is one of the largest urban forests in the United States. Eugene is home to Hendricks Park, which provides visitors a chance to walk among 200-year-old Douglas-fir trees, ferns and wildflowers.  

However, given the unprecedented crisis we face with the coronavirus outbreak, it’s imperative that while we enjoy the forest, we also adhere to the requirement to maintain physical distance and follow state and local guidelines. 

As counties begin to enter Phase I re-opening, please check online before you venture out to your favorite forest hiking trail. There are restrictions in place to limit crowding, and operations could change during the day.

No matter where you live in Oregon, the opportunity to take a walk in the woods – while still maintaining appropriate distancing – is easy to find. Take advantage of this no-cost opportunity to improve your health and well-being.

Erin Isselmann
Executive Director


Forest learning via webinar

It seems that only a few months ago, I was a Zoom novice, or Padawan. Now I feel I’m approaching at least Zoom journeyman level, and strive to become a Zoom master. It’s amazing what a pandemic can do to change the way you do business.

There’s a lot going on in the webinar world for woodland owners in Oregon. In this blog, I want to talk about three webinar series that are ongoing or just starting. The cool thing about webinars is, you can attend live or view recorded sessions after the fact.

Tree School Online

Oregon State University Extension Forestry and Natural Resources is working with the Partnership for Forestry Education under the leadership of the Oregon Forest Resources Institute to bring you this 15-week webinar series. You can participate in many of the classes that were set for Tree School Clackamas, which was canceled due to the pandemic, along with some new classes developed exclusively for Tree School Online. These FREE webinars are held every Tuesday until July 28. There is a 10 a.m. and a 1 p.m. webinar each Tuesday. More information, including a webinar schedule and registration, is available here.

You can find recordings of all the Tree School Online webinars that have already happened, as well as other educational videos for forest landowners developed by the Partnership for Forestry Education, on the Know Your Forest YouTube channel.

Oregon State University Extension Fire Program Webinars

The newly formed OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Fire Program, for which I’m proud to serve on the advisory committee, has also started a new webinar series featuring presenters from OSU, the Oregon Department of Forestry, Keep Oregon Green Association, Firewise USA and others. Two of the webinars have already taken place, but a third on fire-adapted communities and the Ready, Set, Go! program is scheduled for May 22. More information, including webinar descriptions, registration and access to previous programs, is available here.

Maintaining a Healthy Forest in an Uncertain Climate – Webinar Series

A new OSU Forestry and Natural Resources Extension webinar series for forest landowners and managers, “Maintaining a Healthy Forest in an Uncertain Climate,” is being produced by the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center. The series runs Wednesdays from 6 to 7:30 p.m., beginning June 10 and ending July 15. The webinars will be offered live, giving viewers a chance to ask expert presenters questions in real time. While this series has an ecological focus on southwestern Oregon, landowners from all areas of western Oregon are welcome to attend. More information, including a schedule, webinar descriptions and registration, is available here.

ALL THESE WEBINARS ARE FREE FOR ALL PARTICIPANTS. They are also all being recorded, and will be available to view online soon after the live sessions.

So when the pandemic is getting you down and you need to learn some forestry, follow the advice of a master and “Use the Zoom, Padawan.”

For the forest,

Mike Cloughesy
Director of Forestry

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