What's happening in the forest sector?

New videos and website highlight changes to forest laws and regulations

Since March, OFRI has been focusing our educational efforts on explaining the coming changes in forest laws, regulations and practices that stem from the Private Forest Accord (PFA), an agreement between timber companies and environmental groups to make changes to the Oregon Forest Practices Act (OFPA).

We’ve already created materials for small forest landowners, an audience we know is paying attention. But we’re also focusing on the general public. This audience may have noticed some headlines back when the PFA negotiations were publically announced two years ago, or when new legislation proposed by the PFA was signed into law earlier this year – but overall the public appears to be largely uninformed about the changes, and how they’ll shape the future of forestry in Oregon.

Educational videos

Our first big effort is a set of new educational videos going out to the general public. In July, OFRI assembled a team to create these videos, which highlight how a variety of Oregonians who care about the forests have found common ground to expand streamside habitat protections for fish and aquatic wildlife. A camera crew filmed both recreational actors and real forestry professionals, playing in the forest as well as working in and along streams in Oregon’s Coast Range. Watch the 30-second video here.             

Forester standing next to tree with flag on it

To film the video, several forestry professionals who work for timber companies in Oregon joined us in the forest. Jenniffer Bakke, a wildlife biologist from Manulife, joined us in the stream to gather water samples and catch a few invertebrates. David Dougherty, a forester from GreenWood Resources, guided us through the underbrush to flag some trees in the protected streamside habitat zone. And Rachel Kennard, a forest engineering specialist from Weyerhaeuser, climbed through a culvert with our camera crew to gather some measurements.

All three lent great expertise to the project, and all represent businesses that signed the PFA agreement and participated in the negotiations that led to the recent OFPA changes.

Forest engineer standing in a culvert

In August we released the new video through a digital public outreach campaign. Unlike most years, OFRI is splitting our educational media campaign between two seasons. We plan to run our introductory video this fall, followed by a larger campaign next spring, which will add new videos to the lineup. All the videos in the campaign encourage viewers to visit OregonForestLaws.org.

Screen capture of OregonForestLaws.org website

Educational website

With these changes coming to Oregon forest laws and regulations, OFRI also thought it was the right time to completely rebuild OregonForestLaws.org. The website is geared toward the general public. It offers an overview of the Oregon laws that regulate forestry practices such as logging, road-building, and using chemicals in the forest to control unwanted vegetation. Each site section summarizes current laws and regulations, to help Oregonians gain a base-level knowledge of the measures that protect clean water, fish and wildlife habitat, and more elements on Oregon’s timber-producing forests. There are specific callouts that highlight the changes in forest laws and regulations that came from the PFA’s work.

Users can dig deeper if they want, including  reading the full PFA report, OFRI’s Oregon’s Forest Protection Laws – An Illustrated Manual, or even lists of endangered or threatened species protected under federal and state law. The site also lets visitors ask a forester questions about Oregon forest laws and regulations. We collect the questions and ask our staff foresters or partnering foresters to craft answers that will clearly explain current laws and regulations. We really hope this feature gets used; feedback like this helps us gauge what the public is wondering about, and what level of understanding they have about contemporary forest practices.

We welcome you to share the new video and website with your colleagues and community. We know public awareness about the PFA in particular is quite low. But it was a monumental shift in Oregon’s forest practices, and OFRI is doing what we can to give these changes the attention they deserve.

Jordan Benner

Senior Manager, Public Outreach

Teacher workshop highlights fire education

Arriving early at the fire station in Rogue River to set up for the FireBright Teacher Workshop, we were surprised (and a little nervous) to find the room occupied by personnel in white coats administering to a large number of people lying on beds. We appreciated the generosity of the Rogue River Fire Department letting us use the room, so we were happy to wait until the Red Cross blood drive ended to set up for our workshop.  

After that, things went as planned and together with the Oregon Natural Resources Education Program, the Oregon State University Extension Service, Oregon Department of Forestry and the Southern Oregon Forest Restoration Collaborative, OFRI’s K-12 education program hosted a successful summer teacher workshop on fire this past June.

Sixteen educators from high schools and community colleges around the state participated and took advantage of the opportunity to learn about wildfire topics that included, ecology, causes of wildfire, the era of “megafires,” and natural resource careers.  They toured the Garner Complex, site of the 2018 wildfire, and were taken to OSU’s Collins Demonstration Forest near Gold Hill. While at the two sites, they learned about the tools of the firefighting trade, fire incident command systems, and forest resiliency to fire through management and mitigation strategies. The intent of the tour was to show the participants how to incorporate and apply knowledge of wildfire related to Oregon forests, forest practices and community resources into their classroom curriculum.

Teachers touring a forest

The tour served as professional development for the teachers to learn about a high school curriculum called FireBright. Created by OSU Extension, the Oregon Department of Forestry, Southern Oregon Forest Restoration Collaborative and Keep Oregon Green, the aim of the curriculum is to give students an understanding of fire in our forests and how it impacts communities. It also has a strong career and community engagement element, and gives students the understanding of the skills that are needed if they choose to pursue a wildfire-related career.

The curriculum consists of five modules or units. Among the topics the modules cover are an overview of contemporary wildfire issues, including the threat of megafires (extreme fires that devastate large areas) and how they impact forest health and communities. Another module helps students understand the ecological and historical basis for the current challenge of addressing the longer, more intense fire seasons the West is experiencing due to climate change and other factors. This includes highlighting the causes of wildfire and mitigation strategies. 

Teachers doing an experiment

Lastly, the curriculum looks at wildfire from the perspective of the community and provides students with the knowledge and tools to help their community prepare for wildfire. It also examines natural resource and wildland firefighting career pathways.

OFRI has been a partner throughout the process, designing and implanting phases of this curriculum, and there is a plan to offer a similar teacher workshop in conjunction with the FireBright modules in eastern Oregon next summer. 

One of the reasons we’ve supported the curriculum and hosted this workshop is because, even though it was developed for southern Oregon, it is applicable to other areas of the state. Not only is it well written and aligned with educational standards, but the topics it covers, such as megafires and their impact on forest health, community wildfire preparedness and mitigation strategies, and the impacts of longer fire seasons, are not unique to southern Oregon unfortunately. Students from across Oregon would find value in its lessons too.

Norie Dimeo-Ediger
Director of K-12 Education Programs

There are many ways to manage a forest

There are more than 70,000 forestland owners in Oregon. These landowners all have unique goals for their forestland and strategies to reach those goals. 

Through our public surveys, we’ve learned that many Oregonians don’t understand how many different forest landowners there are across the state, or the variety of management styles they use. In other words, they know there are forests managed for timber production in Oregon, and they know there are also forest reserves that protect sensitive wildlife habitat or valued recreation sites. But they may not be aware that most Oregon forest landowners fall somewhere in between these two ends of the spectrum, or that landowners often manage their forests for multiple uses such as timber, wildlife habitat, recreation and carbon storage. 

Forestland owner standing in his forest

For the past year, I’ve had the privilege to have traveled the state, listening to forestland owners tell their management stories as part of a new OFRI video series called Different Forests. Different Goals. The educational video series is intended to introduce Oregonians to a wide variety of forestland owners managing forests in all corners of the state, and detail how their management strategies vary from each other. Together, these videos show a range of seven forestland objectives being achieved in different ways, including:

•    fire resiliency
•    carbon storage
•    certified tree farm
•    songbird habitat
•    forestland grazing
•    threatened species habitat
•    multiple uses

When looking at these management strategies, each forestland owner profiled in the video series is distinct from one another, but also from adjacent forestland owners. In a couple cases, the landowners and their neighbors started with very similar plots, but chose different goals and management strategies, resulting in side-by-side properties that look different and provide different benefits. Together, the collection of these differences gives the larger forested landscape its variety.

Three people standing in the forest

So, in many ways, no two stories were alike. But what I also found is that they were all quite similar. All of the landowners we interviewed for the videos care deeply for their forests. They all acknowledged that their way wasn’t the only way. They could have chosen different goals and reached them with success, but the goals and management styles they chose were the right decisions for them. They all put in the work, and tried to make their lands better than they found them. They also relied on a community of experts, neighbors, professionals, educational materials and more to achieve their goals.

Two people standing in the forest

That was refreshing. Too often we hear voices supplying opinions about the “right way” to manage forestland – for carbon, for fire, for sustainable wood products – with an assumption that there is one correct “prescription,” or set of forest management activities aimed to achieve specific goals. The landowners I talked to didn’t feel that way; I didn’t hear them talk about how other landowners should be managing their forests. They were excited to tell their stories, and I greatly appreciated the invitation to tour their lands and witness their enthusiasm.

Filming in the forest

Please enjoy the videos, which are available on our YouTube page, and share with anyone who might like to learn more about the many types of forest management happening around the state.

Jordan Benner
Senior Manager of Public Outreach 


Supporting outdoor learning

In 1957, a field science program called “outdoor school” was launched in Oregon that gave students in fifth or sixth grade the opportunity to move outside their school classrooms to learn while immersed in nature.

Over the decades, outdoor schools have been places for students to learn about the natural world. It’s a unique chance for kids to experience firsthand the connections among living things and biological systems, such as watersheds or riparian forests. Instead of learning these concepts from a book, students develop critical thinking skills by asking questions in the field, and then working together to investigate, measure and report their discoveries. Topics students study in outdoor schools typically include soil, water, plants, animals, habitats and natural cycles. Often, natural sciences specific to the local community and economy are highlighted as well.

In 2016, Oregon voters passed Ballot Measure 99, authorizing state lottery funds to provide all fifth- and sixth-grade students in Oregon access to a week of outdoor school. This new source of funding, which is distributed to Oregon school districts for outdoor school by the Oregon State University Extension Service Outdoor School Program, allowed outdoor schools to expand across the state, and the demand increased for high-quality educational resources and programming that helps students learn about natural environments. That’s when the opportunity arose for OFRI’s K-12 forest education program to partner with outdoor school. 

In Oregon, forests are the setting and backdrop for many outdoor school programs. Knowing that forests feature prominently in many students’ outdoor school experiences, OFRI supports outdoor school in a variety of ways, including by serving as an ex officio member of the OSU Extension Outdoor School Advisory Committee. We also provide educational materials and other resources to outdoor schools and, in the Salem area, help host a non-residential outdoor school that doesn’t require students to spend the night away from home.

Using forests as a living laboratory engages students in profound ways. It not only helps connect them to classroom learning, but also gives them concrete, on-the ground experiences they can draw on throughout their lives. Direct experiences with nature through programs such as outdoor school have been shown to improve students’ overall academic performance, self-esteem and community involvement.

To support these important learning experiences, OFRI recently created a new educational resource called Investigate the Forest that’s designed specifically for outdoor school programs. The Investigate the Forest journal pages were developed to guide students in learning about Oregon’s forests while they explore the outdoors. The journal pages offer hands-on, student-centered ways to study the forest or other natural environments just outside their door. The journal pages may be used before, during or after attending an outdoor school program, to enhance students’ understanding of Oregon’s forests and how they’re a vital resource. 

You can download the full journal or individual pages covering topics such as tree identification, wildlife habitat and wildfire prevention from the new outdoor school resources page on our forest education website for K-12 educators, LearnForests.org

OFRI is also a partner in the non-residential outdoor school program called PAWS (plants, animals, water and soil). PAWS Outdoor School is organized by a coalition of agencies and organizations dedicated to environmental education and offers unique, top-quality outdoor school experiences. PAWS provides a multi-day outdoor school experience at various sites throughout Marion County.  Over the course of four days, students rotate through different field sites, which include The Oregon Garden, Oregon 4-H Center, Minto-Brown Island Park and Keizer Rapids Park. Salem-Keizer elementary schools attend the program in the fall, and schools from other districts attend in the spring.

From its beginning in 1957, outdoor school has come a long way. During the 2018-19 school year (the year before COVID-19 impacted K-12 education), 37,965 students (81% of eligible fifth- and sixth-grade students) attended outdoor school. This means that during that school year, Oregon’s fifth- and sixth-graders cumulatively spent 148,887 days outside. For many of these students, it was their first chance to experience the wealth of natural resources in our state. OFRI is proud to partner with this important program that makes such an impact on young Oregonians. 

Norie Dimeo-Ediger
Director of K-12 Education Programs

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