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High school teachers tour mass timber building

A bolt in a bus tire, an educational sawmill stolen, and finding an alternative to steel-toed shoes – these are just a few unexpected occurrences that make organizing a tour eventful. But if there’s a group that thrives on being flexible and adaptable in their jobs, it’s high school teachers. In June, OFRI and the USDA Forest Service sponsored the Sustainable Forestry and Mass Timber Teacher Tour for high school teachers. The focus was on hearing from a diverse group of professionals in the architecture, construction and wood products manufacturing fields who are working together to design and build with wood in innovative ways. This summer tour also offered a welcome opportunity for teachers to spend time learning from each other and some community college partners.

The tour started at the World Forestry Center, which currently has a display on mass timber called The Future of Tall. Participants heard from TallWood Design Institute, a joint program between Oregon State University and the University of Oregon. This provided an opportunity for discussion on new and emerging workforce opportunities for students. 

The highlight was visiting a mass timber project that was in the process of being built by Skanska, a world-renowned construction company. Skanska graciously hosted our group and donned them in safety gear, including loud and clanging steel-toed shoe covers. It was a great fit to visit an elementary and middle school complex being built with sustainability and green building in mind, including mass timber products.  

Mass timber products, which include glue-laminated timber (glulam), cross-laminated timber (CLT) and mass plywood panels (MPP), create new jobs and a positive economic impact. With innovations in wood technologies, architects and engineers are now choosing wood for more building applications, including mid-rise and even high-rise structures. You can see many of these buildings around the Portland area, including the first tall-wood building in Oregon, Albina Yard. However, there isn’t much parking for a bus in that neighborhood, so the teachers on tour just got to check out pictures in the Forest to Frame publication.

The first day of the tour concluded at Multnomah Falls, including time to hike and dine in the historic lodge. Teachers enjoyed this time together, along with discussions around forest fires, recreation and the history of using wood products in Oregon. Luckily it was a beautiful summer night to enjoy the falls, an Oregon treasure, because a bolt had flattened our bus tire. 

The second day of the tour was hosted by our college partners, Mt. Hood Community College Natural Resources Technology program. Teachers received resources, curricula and hands-on experience related to teaching about state-of-the-art wood products, the role of carbon in forests, urban and rural forest management, and more.

The college’s Natural Resources Technology program has a portable sawmill for teaching students, who get to process a few urban trees each term. Unfortunately the sawmill was stolen just weeks before our scheduled tour. Luckily, the Wood-Mizer Company came to the rescue and brought a sawmill to the college for demonstration. Teachers enjoyed watching the process and thinking about how the applications of this small-scale mill applies to the larger manufacturing of wood products.  

As the tour and our time together concluded, we asked teachers to complete evaluations. One teacher provided us with this feedback: “I loved learning about the mass timber technology and thinking about how it applies to my students and classroom. I plan to expose my students to the variety of mass timber products and technologies. They can see some of the upcoming career opportunities in forestry/engineering/construction/architecture.”

Why does OFRI invest in these teacher tours? OFRI has been partnering with school districts and the Oregon Department of Education to advance a statewide Career and Technical Education (CTE) Program of Study for Natural Resources. OFRI’s role has been to provide professional development opportunities for teachers to learn about current industry practices and career opportunities for their students. In addition, the high schools need to align their CTE programs with college and trade school partners. This tour provided an opportunity for teachers to meet many of those needs. One teacher stated about the tour, “OFRI provides current and meaningful professional development, along with lessons that engage students and meet standards.”

For the forest,


Julie Woodward

Senior Manager

Forestry Education


Summertime and the living is easy

Who doesn’t love summer in Oregon? After making it through a cold, rainy winter and then a warmer (sometimes) rainy spring, we flock outside to enjoy some of the best weather in the lower 48. When the whole “staycation” concept came along, a lot of Oregonians were left scratching their heads. In summer, we’ve been staying near home and vacationing around Oregon seemingly since Lewis and Clark days.

This summer, I’ve developed a list of forest experiences that you can only get in Oregon. My plan is to check most of these off my list this summer, and I hope others will enjoy them too!

1.     Travel back in time at Oregon’s ghost forest. The ghost forest of Neskowin has around 100 stumps and snags from a 2,000-year-old stand of Sitka spruce. The stand was buried by an earthquake and is now a natural phenomenon unique to Oregon.

2.     Visit one of our amazing six state forests. Oregon has some beautiful state forests featuring trails, campgrounds, day-use areas, wildlife viewing and fishing. If you’re on the west side of Oregon this summer, chances are you will either travel by or through a state forest. Making a short detour to visit one will be something you won’t soon forget.

3.     Visit one of our 11 national forests. Yes, you read that right: Oregon has 11 national forests! From the southern border with California through central Oregon and up into eastern Oregon, you can choose from a wide array of forest types.

4.     Take a forest bath. I was skeptical about this one, but after doing a little research, I am game to give a forest bath a try. Basically, a forest bath is all about spending time in a forest and was popularized in the 1980s in Japan. All you have to do is walk 30-40 minutes in the woods to get some great stress relief. 

5.     Take a hike in Forest Park. For the Portlanders among us, this is a great place to consider for that forest bath. Forest Park is one the country’s largest urban forests. So if you really can’t leave town, you can still spend time in a forest!

6.     Visit the World Forestry Center. The World Forestry Center is located in Washington Park, right next door to the Children’s Museum and The Oregon Zoo. Maybe you’ve wondered about the World Forestry Center after seeing the signs on Highway 26 leading out of Portland? The Discovery Museum is a great place to visit and learn more about the importance of forests and trees in our lives.

7.     Mountain bike in the Willamette National Forest. Some of the best trails in the southern Cascades are found in this national forest. Make sure you pick the trail that matches your experience level.

8.     Hang out in a hammock under a tree in Bend. I am probably not the right demographic for the new Loge Camp in Bend, but if you like bunking with a group of friends in a shared room and spending the evening in a hammock under the stars and trees, then this is the place for you. It also comes complete with free events, pool and Wi-Fi.

Erin Isselmann

Executive Director

In pursuit of fishers

I have always loved walking through the woods looking for wildlife. As a wildlife biologist, I get to do this a lot. Most of the time, I’m looking for northern spotted owls at night. But recently, I got to join Brent Barry, a research wildlife biologist with Oregon State University, to look for fishers – during the day!

Fishers are furry, forest-dwelling carnivores about the size of a housecat. A member of the weasel family, fishers are only found in North America. A small population lives in southern Oregon forests, although they once roamed across a larger part of the state, and Brent is involved in a fisher monitoring project located on the Klamath Plateau. Our goal was to check the traps he’d set, document known fisher den sites and retrieve the motion-sensing cameras that snap a photo whenever wildlife passes nearby. I had never seen a fisher in the wild, so I was supremely excited about the day.

Setting up a trap to catch a fisher.

In the photo above, you can see the live trap where we were hoping to find a fisher. Bait is used, and it smells terrible. Worse is a special scent that attracts fishers (and sometimes skunks, I’m told), but it is so strong that it’s usually stored in the bed of a pickup truck. It’s really gross.

After we finished checking the traps and none had fishers in them, I tried not to be too disappointed that we didn’t catch anything. We then met the rest of the crew and went to document known fisher resting and denning sites. This is important to document so we can begin to learn about fisher habitat needs. I work with many landowners who manage forests within the range where fishers live, and they want to know how best to provide fisher habitat on their forestland.

While out in the field with Brent and his team, I learned that fishers need multiple denning and rest sites within their home range. We found the site shown in the photo below and took all sorts of measurements to add this site to the collective database biologists are building about fishers. This den site had fallen over, as older standing dead trees, or “snags,” are prone to do. But it could still be used on the ground by a lot of different species, including fishers. 

Brent investigating a den site.

Next, we removed all the motion-sensing cameras that had been up all season. Biologists have gained a lot of information about fishers through these cameras. This includes their habits, the predators that eat them and even how they move their young. Forest managers and landowners can use this information to help provide the critical features fishers need on the landscape to survive.

I learned a lot spending the day with Brent, and I hope I get to go again! Since this field day, I’ve helped OFRI develop a publication, part of the Institute’s Wildlife in Managed Forests series, on fishers and Humboldt martens, a related species of forest carnivore. If this blog has piqued your interest in fishers, you can learn a lot more about these animals and ways to manage forests to provide habitat for them in this new publication. I invite you to download a copy here.

Fran Cafferata Coe

Cafferata Consulting

Oregon Forest Resources Institute contract wildlife biologist 

Teachers on tour

In the next two weeks or so, most Oregon schools will release students for the summer. For many kids, the summer provides a much needed break from the classroom. There really is nothing like Oregon in the summer. Having lived in New England, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles, I can tell you that I would take a beautiful summer day in Oregon over any of the best that these three places have to offer.  


Just because the kids are out of school, that doesn’t mean that teachers are off for the summer as well. Many teachers use the summer months for professional development, including continuing education, workshops and conferences.


As a leading natural resources education organization, the Oregon Forest Resources Institute takes advantage of teacher availability in the summer to organize an annual high school teacher tour. At the end of June, OFRI will host thirty high school teachers from across the state on a two-day tour with the goal of increasing teacher knowledge of mass timber construction.  


The teachers will tour mass timber buildings in the Portland area, visit the World Forestry Center, and learn about mass timber manufacturing, design and construction during educational sessions at Mt. Hood Community College. This tour is part of OFRI’s broader effort around the development and support of career technical education (CTE) programs and ensuring strong linkages between these programs and Oregon’s network of community colleges.  


These teachers don’t have to devote two days of their summer to learning, but they do so because they care about the students in their programs and want to be able to set them on a path for success. At OFRI, we look forward to this opportunity every year, and this year is no different. We are eager to spend time with these high school teachers and learn as much from them as they learn from us.


For the forest,


Erin Isselmann

Executive Director

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