What's happening in the forest sector?

Climate change report adds urgency to restoration efforts

A pair of reports released earlier this month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture adds urgency to calls by Oregon’s political leaders to step up the pace and scale of forest restoration. View the U.S. Forest Service summary here.

Based on a compilation of more than 1,000 studies on climate change, the department foresees a potential doubling of the area burned by wildfires over the next 25 years. Moreover, the reports warn that insect infestations could produce more damage than fires.

It’s an ominous but predictable warning.

Even if climate stayed constant, the American West would still face the prospect of more wildfires and insect outbreaks. That’s because a century of fire suppression, as well as a lack of active forest management on federal land the past two decades, has created millions of acres of unnaturally dense forest stands at risk of uncharacteristically severe wildfire.

OFRI knows this subject well. Our 2010 report, Federal Forestland in Oregon – Coming to Terms with Active Forest Management of Federal Forestland documented the establishment of national forests in Oregon, described the events that led to their current state, and identified the severe fire risk facing the more than 11 million acres of dry national forests east of the Cascades and in the southern interior.

In 2012, OFRI collaborated with statewide partners to publish a new study, National Forest Health Restoration: An Economic Assessment of Forest Restoration on Oregon’s Eastside National Forests. That report answers the question posed by Gov. John Kitzhaber and legislative leaders: “If Oregon were to double the average number of acres treated annually to benefit and restore forest ecosystem health on Oregon’s dry-side national forestlands, then what would that cost and what would be the economic benefit?”

The answer? Every $1 million spent on restoration will generate $5.7 million in economic returns. Plus we can potentially avoid the fires predicted by the Department of Agriculture report, protecting our precious clean air and water, and stopping the sacrifice of wildlife.

Rep. Greg Walden, whose district covers eastern Oregon, stated in OFRI’s 2010 report, “… You don’t solve a problem by ignoring it. Federal forest health has been ignored long enough by government policy for us to take stock of the results: staggering unemployment in rural Oregon, catastrophic wildfire, massive bug kill and threatened habitat and watersheds.”

Solving the federal forest crisis may require help from the state. The governor’s budget proposes $4 million of lottery-backed bond proceeds to fund the implementation of forest collaborative projects to restore forest health and increase timber supply to mills in central and eastern Oregon. It’s a proposal that deserves serious discussion, especially in light of this new Department of Agriculture report on climate change.

In a companion summary to the 2012 national forest health restoration assessment, Gov. Kitzhaber had this to say: “Doubling restoration activities can have a positive, lasting impact on the health of dry-side forests and rural communities. Now is the time to act.”

For the forest,

Paul Barnum
Executive Director

Forestry's "Green Revolution"

Stories about old growth preservation and battles over forestry on public lands often make the news. However, the really big news in Oregon forestry is the wood-production yields private landowners are achieving on their lands. Just as significant are the efficient methods Oregon mill owners are using to manufacture the building materials we all need as the country emerges from recession.

In a recent article in Oregon Humanities, Green Revolution historian and agriculture expert Robert Paarlberg writes that we can't feed the world by just using organic farming; we also need to use high-yield practices such as nitrogen fertilization, genetic improvement and irrigation. Similarly, Paarlberg says this about forestry: "If you don't invest in developing improved trees, managing forests, even fertilizing forests the way some companies do, and replanting those forests in a sustainable way, our need for timber and for pulp is going to lead to the destruction of natural forests."

Forestry’s Green Revolution is taking place on Oregon’s large private timberlands, or those consisting of more than 5,000 acres. Companies owning these lands use the latest high-yield forestry techniques – including tree improvement, improved nursery and reforestation practices, weed control, and fertilization – to produce the lion's share of our forest products. According to OFRI’s freshly released Oregon Forest Facts and Figures 2013, large private landowners have about 19 percent of Oregon's forestland, but produce about two-thirds of our annual timber harvest.

In addition to managing some of the world's most highly productive forestland with an emphasis on wood production, these private foresters rely on the latest research from Oregon State University's College of Forestry, one of the world's premier forestry research colleges. Most Oregon timber companies are members of OSU Forestry Research Cooperatives, which include the Center for Intensive Planted-Forest Silviculture, the Northwest Tree Improvement Co-op, the Hardwood Silviculture Co-op, the Vegetation Management Research Co-op, the Swiss Needle Cast Co-op and the Watersheds Research Co-op.

These member-funded and member-directed research cooperatives play an important role in forestry’s Green Revolution in Oregon. More information is available at the OSU College of Forestry website.

In Oregon, we should be proud of our private forest landowners and the way they manage our forests to produce the wood products we need as a society and the jobs we need as a state. We should also be proud of the research that is making this possible.

May the forest be with you.

Mike Cloughesy
Director of Forestry

Just the facts, please

“You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.”

That was the opinion of Sen. Daniel Patrick “Pat” Moynihan of New York, who served in the U.S. Senate from 1976 to 2000, and who passed away in 2003.

Of course, facts can be slippery. I recall a quote ascribed to 19th-century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, popularized by American author Mark Twain: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

So it’s with a sense of humility that OFRI offers its biennial publication, Oregon Forest Facts & Figures, now available from our resource library. Data in this book comes from state of Oregon and federal reporting agencies, plus other authoritative sources. It has been thoroughly reviewed by contributors and contains nearly three pages of citations.

This year’s edition is informed by OFRI’s 2012 Forest Report – an examination of the forest sector and its significance to Oregon’s economy. With $12.7 billion of economic impact and 76,000 direct jobs, the state’s forest sector is the most important traded sector in rural Oregon. To download the full report or an executive summary, or to watch a video, visit TheForestReport.org.

One of the more interesting facts, in my opinion, is that the total amount of forestland acreage in Oregon has held relatively constant for more than 30 years. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s due in large part to our state’s unique system of land-use laws and comprehensive planning, which steer development away from forest and agriculture.

Whether you’re searching for facts about forest ownership, harvest, jobs, lumber and housing sales, forest protection rules, forest fires, or protecting salmon and water quality, you can find it in this pocket-sized fact book. It’s one of our most popular publications.

And get this: In early March, OFRI intends to publish its first-ever mobile application – an interactive electronic version of the 2013 Oregon Forest Facts & Figures. The app will work on the major mobile platforms.

Oregonians are nothing if not passionate about their forests – there’s no shortage of opinions about their care and management. However, at the end of the day, we believe that opinions are best informed by facts.

For the forest,

Paul Barnum
Executive Director

When it comes to hygiene, paper towels win hands down

Who has patience for hot-air hand dryers? Jerry Seinfeld even joked about them: How wonderful, he said, a device that allows you to spend even more time in a public restroom!

It’s true. They take forever. But more important, when it comes to hygiene, “paper towels are superior,” according to a study published last summer at Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

In the midst of cold and flu season, and with a dangerous influenza bug going around, it’s worth reiterating the health virtues of paper towels.

The Mayo study and another report on the topic from the University of Westminster in London both found that paper towels are more hygienic than electric dryers.

Because it takes four or five times longer to dry your hands under a typical electric hand dryer than it does with a paper towel, most people walk away with hands still wet, or they wipe them on their clothes. And because germs are transmitted more easily to and from wet skin, hand-washing – normally a widely accepted way to cut the risk of catching a bug – ends up being less effective.

The Westminster study found that paper towels remove more germs from your hands as you rub them dry. And here’s a surprise: People using air dryers ended up with more bacteria on their skin than those who used paper towels.

Furthermore, a recent Wall Street Journal article that reported on the Mayo study suggested that the electric dryer may use more energy than it takes to make a paper towel.

Besides being better for hygiene, paper towels are quieter than electric dryers. And they come from a thriving renewable resource: our abundant forests.

Calli Daly
OFRI Board Vice Chair

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