What's happening in the forest sector?

It’s Wildfire Awareness Month

Although the spring rain has returned, the unusually high temperatures we saw in the first half of May gave us a potential taste of what’s to come for the summer wildfire season. Unseasonably warm and dry conditions earlier this month have already led to more than 70 fires across Oregon, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry, prompting county-wide burn bans in several parts of the state.

In anticipation of the start of fire season, May is dedicated to wildfire prevention and preparedness. During Wildfire Awareness Month, homeowners – particularly those who live near forests in the wildland urban interface – are encouraged to take action now to get ready before fire strikes. 

There are four key things homeowners can do to help defend their home against wildfire and keep their family safe:

-Roofs: Keep roofs, gutters and eaves clear of all leaves, pine needles and other flammable debris.

-Vegetation: Remove all dead vegetation for a minimum of 30 feet around the house and other structures. Prune trees and keep your grass short to keep fire on the ground. Maintain a five-foot fire-free area closest to the house using nonflammable landscaping material and fire-resistant plants.

-Access: For the safety of your home and firefighters who respond in an emergency, consider access for large fire trucks. 

-Planning: Put together a “Go Kit,” register for emergency notification systems, and make a plan for where your family will go and how you will stay in contact in the event of an evacuation.    

For more information about how to make your home, property and forestland fire-safe, check out these short, informational videos OFRI has produced:

How to make your home and property fire-safe

Making your forestland fire-safe

There are also many additional resources to help Oregonians prepare for wildfire season, including: 

Keep Oregon Green

Oregon Department of Forestry

Oregon Fire Marshal

With all signs indicating that we’re in for another intense fire season this year, it’s important for all Oregonians to do their part to help prevent wildfires.

Erin Isselmann

Executive Director

Meet our new social media intern

My name is Autumn Barber, and I recently joined the Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) team as a social media intern. Soon, I’ll take over as the social media manager for the summer. 

What sparked my interest in this position was the ability to have creative freedom, as well as the opportunity to gain new skills in social media and public outreach-related projects. What brought me to OFRI specifically was my interest and appreciation for how green Oregon is. I lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico, from last June until January of this year. Living in the Southwest for six months really made me appreciate how green and lush Oregon is. By working with OFRI, I feel like I am able to work with content that I enjoy, while educating others on how to keep Oregon green. 

Autumn on a hike with her sister.

While I am working, I am also a third-year college student majoring in communications and attending the University of New Mexico (UNM) online. I attended Portland State University (PSU) for two years, spent the last year at UNM and am now transferring back to PSU in the fall to finish my bachelor’s degree. I will be the first in my family to graduate from college.

I am an Oregon native and grew up in Molalla. I graduated from Molalla High School and moved to Beaverton the day of graduation. 

Some of my favorite things include movies directed by Wes Anderson, interior design, Anthropologie candles, and coffee (especially caramel lattes). Oh, and Jeff Goldblum. In my free time you can find me hiking, going to rock concerts and planning my next weekend trip on Airbnb.

Please feel free to reach out to me and share any upcoming events, reports, blog posts or campaigns you would like OFRI to share on our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. You can reach me by email at [email protected] 

Autumn Barber
Social Media Intern


Every day is Earth Day in Oregon’s forests

I’m writing this blog on Earth Day, and Arbor Day is just a few days away. There’s one big thing I’ve learned in the past nine months, and that’s that Oregon’s forests, and the people who live, work and recreate in them, care about sustainability. The people I’ve met as executive director of the Oregon Forest Resources Institute include professional foresters, natural resource educators, wildlife biologists, conservation groups, hydrologists, loggers, timberland managers, firefighters and recreationists. Suffice to say they come from all walks of life, and from all across the state.

These days it’s pretty hard to find something most people agree about, but when it comes to Oregon forests, there is universal caring and concern for their future. That isn’t to say everyone is in agreement about how to handle the complex issues in forestry. But I’ve found that most Oregonians have a lot more in common than they might think.

One shared value relates to the beauty of Oregon’s forests. Our forests are part of what makes Oregon unique, and everyone wants to preserve the beauty of our landscape so future generations can enjoy and benefit from our forests.

A big threat to the beauty we all enjoy in Oregon’s forests is wildfire. There are no simple solutions to this threat. Sometimes in the face of such complex challenges, people decide they can’t be part of the solution. I find it actually helps to become more involved, so I encourage you to check out these volunteer opportunities in Oregon.

Another shared value relates to the economic benefit forests bring to rural Oregon. Many of Oregon’s rural communities depend on wood that is harvested from local private forests for family-wage jobs in wood products manufacturing. Oregonians from the urban centers around the state also benefit from this wood, through new residential and commercial construction and the jobs they create.

Finally, if you’ve met both a forester and a recreationist, the one thing the two have in common is their love for the outdoors. Foresters manage timberlands with an eye toward the next generation, because a tree that’s planted and cultivated now will grow for decades to come. In much the same way, a recreationist will hike, bike or camp on a particular trail or campsite and clean up as they leave, because they want to return with their children and grandchildren. In both cases, the old saying “Look to leave a place better than you found it” is quite appropriate.

It’s a great sentiment to have as we celebrate Earth Day, and one that foresters, forest managers, landowners and others who help care for forests take with them every day as they work to sustain our forests – for all the benefits they provide – well into the future.  

Erin Isselmann
Executive Director 

Mass timber going mainstream

These exterior (above) and interior (below) renderings of Sidewalk Labs’ Quayside Development planned for Toronto, Canada’s waterfront are representative of the scale to which some of the world’s most forward-thinking brands are embracing mass timber. Images courtesy of Sidewalk Labs.

Along with more than 1,500 other people from 28 different countries, I spent most of the fourth week of March taking part in the 2019 International Mass Timber Conference, produced jointly by Forest Business Network and WoodWorks/Wood Products Council. For the fourth year in a row (since the event’s inception), it was held in Portland, which organizers referred to as “the center of intellectual capital for mass timber.”

As was the case every other time, the conference brought together most of the world’s leading advocates for and practitioners of mass timber construction. This time around, though, things were different. The mood in the convention center had evolved from, “Just think what we might be able to do,” to something more like, “Look what we’re doing and let us show you how we’re doing it.”

What makes me most optimistic about what’s to come is that mass timber has moved into the mainstream. No longer is it just a unique new way to build, experimented on by a few architects, contractors and developers. Some of the world’s most popular, thought-leading brands, including adidas, Sidewalk Labs, Microsoft and Google, have jumped all-in. These companies are not just major brands. They are cultural paradigm-changers. And they all are embracing mass timber in a big way – for the most important of reasons. They recognize that climate change is the biggest challenge we face as humans, and they see the tremendous potential mass timber offers as a significant contributor to solving the climate change challenge.

Sidewalk Labs rendering

Here’s a summary of what’s in store:

- Microsoft: Multiple mass timber structures make up the renovations to Microsoft’s 643,000-square-foot, 32-acre campus in Mountain Park, Calif. Their primary motivator for using mass timber is sustainability.

- Google: They’re embracing mass timber and other sustainable technologies in order to use their purchasing power and influence to drive scalable sustainability solutions.

- Sidewalk Labs: A sister company to Google, under the Alphabet umbrella, Sidewalk Labs seeks to use mass timber throughout an 800-acre mixed-use community it is developing in Toronto, Canada. Known as Quayside, the development seeks to “combine forward thinking urban design and cutting edge technology to radically improve urban life.”

- adidas: With its North American headquarters right here in Portland, adidas has chosen mass timber for two buildings totaling 467,000 square feet on its campus in North Portland. Corporate Real Estate Director David Remos cited sustainability and employee well-being as primary drivers behind choosing mass timber.  

 “We want to impact things that are scalable. Scalable sustainability.”

– Michelle Kaufman, head of research and development for the built environment, Google


All of these large companies are putting their money, and their social leadership, into something they truly believe can be a world-changer: mass timber.

The 2020 International Mass Timber Conference will be held in Portland again next year, March 24-27. Can’t wait to see what happens then.

Timm Locke

Director of Forest Products


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