Oregon’s abundant forests provide us with many reasons to be thankful. Oregon contains nearly 30 million acres of forestland, which is almost half the state. We depend on our vast forests in many ways. Here are some of the top reasons that I am thankful for Oregon’s forests:
Oregon’s forests provide clean water
Forest soils provide natural filtration to keep streams clean and water quality high. Some 35 municipal water systems in Oregon source their drinking water from forested watersheds.
Oregon’s forests clean our air
Trees absorb carbon dioxide (CO2), removing and storing the carbon while releasing oxygen back into the air. In the U.S., carbon stores in forests and forest products are estimated to offset 10 to 20 percent of total fossil fuel emissions.
Oregon’s forests provide habitat to fish and wildlife
All of Oregon’s forests – whether they’re mostly new growth, old-growth or somewhere in between – provide habitat for an array of wildlife. Some species, like migrating songbirds, are dependent on young forests, while older forests are vital to species like the northern spotted owl. We also depend on our cool forest streams to provide habitat for native salmon.
Oregon’s forests provide family wage jobs
Over 61,000 Oregonians work in the forest sector. There are a wide variety of jobs – from forestry, logging, millwork and cabinet-making to engineering, hydrology, business management and academic research. The average annual wage for forest sector jobs is $54,200, which is roughly 6% higher than the average annual wage for all Oregon employment.
Oregon’s forests provide recreation opportunities
There is an endless list of recreation opportunities in Oregon’s forests. Hiking, fishing, camping, picnicking and bird-watching are among the top recreational pursuits that Oregonians enjoy. Recreation takes place on Oregon’s 11 National Forests and six State Forests, and many private forest landowners provide access to the public for recreation.
Oregon’s forests provide sustainable wood products
The wood that is sustainably harvested from Oregon’s forests goes into many products that we interact with every day. The home you live in, the cabinets in your kitchen, the wood in your flooring, and the table that you’ll gather around with family and friends for Thanksgiving are likely constructed with wood.
As I reflect on Oregon’s forests, I am grateful for all the social, environmental and economic benefits that they provide.
Much has been written about the positive benefits of learning outside the classroom. Research has linked outdoor, experiential learning to children’s physical, emotional and cognitive development. A recent study in Frontiers in Psychology adds to the evidence. The study found that students who participated in an outdoor education program as part of their science curriculum reported significantly more intrinsic motivation to learn, and felt more competent.
Unfortunately for many students, these outdoor experiences aren’t accessible – due simply to the high cost of bus transportation. When budgets get tight in a school district, field trip funding is often the first thing to be cut.
This inability for schools to afford busing is often all that stands in the way of more Oregon students getting outside to experience Oregon’s forests. In response, the Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) has long been a leader in committing funding to help schools overcome the financial hurdle of offering field trips. In a simple process, teachers apply online through our website for K-12 educators, LearnForests.org, and are approved by email for field trip funding. The district is responsible for billing OFRI after the trip has taken place.
I’m proud to say OFRI’s bus funding program helped make it possible for 25,000 students and their 5,000 teachers and parent chaperones to take part in forestry education programs outside the classroom, in just the past year. Multiply that number by the years OFRI has provided funding, and it’s more than half a million students who have had the opportunity to get outside to learn!
One program that leverages OFRI resources is our partnership with Oregon State Parks’ Ticket2Ride program. When a school requests funding for a trip to a forest in an Oregon state park, the Ticket2Ride program is often available to fund it.
We’re fortunate in Oregon to have many quality outdoor forestry programs, including OFRI’s Oregon Garden Natural Resources Education Program, Forests Today and Forever in Lane County and Port Blakely’s program in Molalla, to name a few. I’m happy OFRI is able to help students participate in these and other programs – they help build a lifelong appreciation for Oregon’s forests and natural resources.
Director of K-12 Education
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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:
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,
Director of Forestry
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,