What's happening in the forest sector?

A forest-based economy

The Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) recently published a new report and a website that quantify how significant forests are to Oregon’s economy. A full report and a summary report can be downloaded here. The 2019 Forest Report underscores how timber harvest and wood products manufacturing are tied to a thriving forest sector – the part of the state economy derived from forests. Here are some highlights of the information included in the report. 


Oregon’s forest economy is really driven by the wood products industry. Wood products manufacturing begins with the harvest of timber as logs on forestland in Oregon. But not all forests are the same when we talk about how much timber is harvested from them. That’s often dependent on who owns the forest.


Ownership vs. harvest


While the federal government manages about 60% of the forestland in Oregon, only about 13% of Oregon’s timber harvest happens on federal land. About 78% of the total state harvest comes from private timberlands, which account for 34% of Oregon’s forestland.


Forestland ownership.


This relationship of timber harvest to ownership has not been constant over time. The graphic below, from the OFRI publication Oregon Forest Facts 2019-20, shows how timber harvest has changed over the past 37 years. 


Overall, Oregon timber harvest has declined from about 8 billion board feet in 1985 to about 3.8 billion board feet in 2017. The big driver in this decline has been reduction in federal timber harvest since the adoption of the Northwest Forest Plan in 1994. Federal timber harvest has declined from over 4 billion board feet in 1985 to about 500 million board feet in 2017.


Oregon timber harvest.


Wood products manufacturing


Timber harvested from Oregon forests is used to make a wide range of products, generating income and employment for many rural communities. Some examples include:


*Softwood and hardwood lumber and plywood

*Engineered wood products

*Composite wood products

*Posts, poles and timber


*Biomass energy



Most of the facilities that make these products are located in western Oregon, close to the state’s main timber stocks. In 2013, Oregon wood processing facilities received more than 3.7 billion board feet of timber, 94.5% of which was harvested in Oregon.


How Oregon wood is used.


The number of sawmills in Oregon decreased 53% from 1988 to 2017, and by 38% from 2003 to 2017. While the number of sawmills has declined, it may not necessarily be because of declining industry. The decrease can also be partly explained by changes in mill efficiency, timber supply and industry consolidation.


Number of wood processing facilities in Oregon.


No. 1 in the nation


In 2017, Oregon sawmills produced more than 5.4 billion board feet of lumber, continuing the state’s longtime status as the nation’s top softwood lumber producer. Annual lumber production in Oregon has increased by 33.7% from 2010 to 2017. This shows excellent and sustained recovery since the Great Recession.


Softwood lumber production.

The following table from Oregon Forest Facts 2019-20 shows how Oregon softwood lumber production compares with the other top lumber-producing states for the past six years:


Softwood lumber production in the United States.


The full Forest Report and summary contain a lot more information about Oregon’s forest economy. To find out more, visit TheForestReport.org.


For the forest,


Mike Cloughesy

Director of Forestry



It’s Forest Products Week

Trees are amazing. They help filter our air and water and absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, while also providing wildlife habitat and cool shade on a hot day. It’s no wonder wood and the myriad other forest products that come from trees are amazing too.

In recognition of the value of forest products derived from responsibly managed U.S. forests, Congress has designated this week, the third week of October, as the 2019 National Forest Products Week. The week has particular significance here in Oregon, which has long led the nation in the production of softwood lumber and plywood.  

There are plenty of reasons to recognize the importance of forest products. Most are items that are part of our daily lives. Lumber, paper, toothpaste, chewing gum and hairspray are just a few of the diverse array of products that use trees. 

A particularly great reason to appreciate forest products is their environmental value over alternative materials. Wood comes from a local, renewable resource – trees – and requires less energy to produce than steel, concrete or plastic. It also stores carbon, which can remain locked away for decades in commercial buildings and homes constructed with wood. That makes forests and wood products crucial to solving the climate crisis

So, let’s take a moment before the week is through to appreciate all that forest products do for us – from providing places to live, work and play to helping combat climate change by storing carbon in the long term. Pretty amazing, if you ask me. 

For the forest,

Erin Isselmann
Executive Director


Prescribed burning 101

When I first heard the term “prescribed burning,” I pictured a doctor’s prescription pad written with instructions on how, when and under what conditions to direct the intentional start of a fire.

I would guess my first impression of prescribed burning isn’t all that different than most Oregonians. Starting a small controlled fire to help prevent a larger fire doesn’t seem very intuitive. In reality, using fire to fight fire is a practice that has been in use for hundreds of years. Native Americans successfully used fire to clear away brush and debris and rejuvenate the forest.

The main goals of prescribed burning are:

·         Removing excess fire fuels such as dry brush and sticks from the landscape

·         Creating firebreaks that help prevent wildfires from growing out of control

·         Maintaining the many plant and animal species whose habitat depends on periodic fire

One type of prescribed burning used in Oregon is broadcast burning. A fire is ignited to burn along the ground in areas with a more open forest canopy. This type of prescribed fire is typical in eastern Oregon. In western Oregon, you’re more likely to encounter pile burning. Pile burning is burning slash piles of woody debris that are produced after logging. These piles are set aside after a timber harvest and are burned when wind and weather conditions permit.

It isn’t a good idea to start a prescribed forest burn whenever you want, and burns are regulated by the Oregon Department of Forestry to minimize smoke intrusion into populated areas. The conditions that need to be lined up for a prescribed burn to be as safe and controlled as possible include weather, wind and location. You’re not likely to see a prescribed burn taking place during the summer months in Oregon; this is when wildfire risk is high and a prescribed burn could easily get out of control. Likewise, if the winds are kicking up a prescribed burn doesn’t make sense, because the wind can send the fire in unintended directions.  

While they might not require a doctor’s approval, prescribed burns are a useful tool in a forest manager’s toolbox to not only reduce the risk of wildfire, but also improve overall forest health.

For the forest,

Erin Isselmann

Executive Director

Water, wildlife and eDNA

When The Wildlife Society advertised a workshop in Southern California to learn more about eDNA, I didn’t immediately jump at the chance. I’m a wildlife biologist native to Oregon, and I didn’t think traveling to SoCal in late July sounded like a very good idea. But I clicked on the link anyway. I’m so glad I did!

eDNA (environmental DNA) is a relatively new technique scientists are using to look for wildlife in ecosystems where they’re hard to locate. eDNA comes from biological material that species have shed. You can use scat to learn about an individual species, or shed material to learn which species are using a habitat. I’ve been conducting surveys for many species of wildlife, using a variety of protocols, for more than 20 years, but I’ve never used eDNA to do it. I learned that eDNA is best used when there isn’t any other way to find the species. For example, there might be such low numbers in an area that traditional surveys wouldn’t detect the species – but by looking for evidence of their DNA, you can find them.

Two people by a body of water. 

To learn how to collect eDNA, we had the amazing opportunity to head out to The Nature Conservancy’s Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve. It’s a place dedicated to preservation, located adjacent to Vandenberg Air Force Base outside Lompoc, Calif. (Yeah, I had to look it up!)

It seems pretty simple to collect eDNA; you use a mix of hoses, filters, pumps and poles – it didn’t look a lot different from my backpacking water filter. However, you must be super-careful not to contaminate the sample. When I tried it, I felt like I needed at least seven hands to do everything right. But it got easier. And when you’re done, you’re left with a tiny test-tube-looking filter that you keep on ice and send to the lab. They “run it” and tell you if evidence of the species you’re looking for was found in the sample. Easy.

But I’m a practical person, and I work with foresters and land managers. Is this useful for us? Do we want to wait for samples to be run through the lab? And what about “false positives”? In regard to the latter, I learned that there really aren’t false positives, and it’s so incredibly unlikely that something or someone is going to “dump” eDNA into your research area that no one worries about that. OK, whew! So how can I use it?

One immediately useful way eDNA is and can be used is to determine the upper extent of fish use in forest streams. This seems like a very good idea to me, as we’re still lugging in backpack-style fish “shockers” and literally shocking the fish to see if they’re present. It’s an accepted method and doesn’t hurt the fish. But with new technology, we may have other methods to learn if fish are using the stream, with less impact on them.

More research is needed to determine the efficacy of eDNA, and we need to work with regulators so everyone is comfortable with the data. But as new technology becomes available, this may be another accepted method to learn about the species we manage. If you want to learn more about wildlife species in Oregon, check out the Wildlife in Managed Forest publication series. (https://www.oregonforests.org/publications)

Fran Cafferata Coe

Cafferata Consulting

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