The most underappreciated group of forest landowners in Oregon is families. At least, that’s my opinion. The green forests that fringe our valleys and cities, especially in western Oregon, are nearly all family forestland. (See the purple-shaded areas on the map below.) More than 60,000 families own forests between 10 acres and 5,000 acres. That acreage is the state’s definition for “family forestland,” although most own fewer than 100 acres.
Oregon’s family forests close to our cities and towns protect water quality and fisheries, and provide substantial amounts of prime wildlife habitat. And, unlike in other states where forestland is more easily developed into homes and strip malls, Oregon’s unique system of zoning and land-use laws protects forests and agricultural lands.Nearly 250,000 families own forests if you count large backyards of at least 2 acres of trees.
I’ve visited many of these family-owned parcels, and they are remarkable. Some people manage them almost like family parks; others manage them for spurts of timber income, generally timed to the needs of kids going to college or retirement. They are a place of refuge for those living on them – and the best ones are managed under a plan. Resources such as the Oregon Small Woodland Association and the Oregon Tree Farm System can help landowners get started.
There is a long heritage: Families own 15 percent of Oregon’s 30 million forested acres, and it is the lowest elevation, most productive forestland in the state. Many people can trace their ownership back to the Donation Land Claim Act of 1850 that brought settlers to the Oregon Territory. Interesting to me is that this pre-Civil-War legislation allowed settlers to get, at no cost, 320 acres of land; or married couples, 640 acres of land.
Today, women own more than 40 percent of family forestland, and they call the shots. Another interesting statistic is that the average age of a family forest landowner is 65. That means that a heckuva lot of this land will be changing hands fairly soon, and that is worrisome for both landowners and their families.
Fortunately for Oregon family forest landowners, there are tremendous resources that can help.
For instance, several years ago, OFRI teamed with state and federal resource agencies, inheritance experts andOregon State University to help build a program called “Ties to the Land,” now managed by the Austin Family Business Program within the OSU College of Business. It is a great place to get started if you are wondering how to manage generational succession. (Tip: Engaging the next generation is critical to building ties to the land.)
Just this year, OFRI has doubled down on its commitment to family forest landowners. In January, we teamed with many of the same state and federal resource agencies, known collectively as the Partnership for Forestry Education, to jointly launch a new website called KnowYourForest.org. Please cruise around this site to see how families can access resources of all kinds to help with their forestland.
Coming soon, OFRI will publish a new booklet called Establishing and Managing Forest Trees in Western Oregon. You can see a download of it now. This publication complements an earlier publication called Understanding Eastside Forests. You can also find a publication called the Family Forest Landowner Resource Guide, a new version of which will be published later this fall.
Many families cherish the wildlife on their lands, and this year OFRI has published a new booklet in its Wildlife in Managed Forests series, this one called Deer and Elk.
Other publications in the Wildlife in Managed Forests series include Northern Spotted Owl, Stream-Associated Amphibians and the capstone publication, Oregon Forests as Habitat. Together, these publications – along with workshops, tours and conferences – are designed to help Oregon family forest landowners understand the implications of forest-management decisions on wildlife.
If you are a family with forestland – and don’t have a plan – it is never too late to get started. If you are an urban dweller and wonder about the forests you see in the valley, take heart, for families just like yours are managing a lot of things you like about Oregon.
Director of Communications
Jamie Knight was named the 2013 National Outstanding Inspector of the Year at the National Tree Farm Convention on July 27 in St. Paul, Minn. Jamie was previously honored as 2012 Oregon Inspector of the Year and the 2013 Western Regional Inspector of the Year. Jamie is the first woman and first Oregonian selected to receive the national award.
Jamie, an Oregon Department of Forestry stewardship forester working in La Grande, completed 11 inspections in 2012, and has a long history of Tree Farm volunteering and other activities in support of family forest landowners and stewardship of Oregon’s forests.
Jamie has a number of duties for ODF in Northeast Oregon. She manages the Private Lands Forest Network, a private nonprofit organization that provides seedlings, cold storage for seedlings, tools and technical advice to landowners in northeast Oregon and parts of southeast Washington.
Jamie is also the local manager of the Blue Mountain Western Larch Cooperative Orchard. Still in its infancy, the cooperative’s goal is to grow grafted larch in an orchard setting and meet the seed shortfalls that are being felt in northeast Oregon and southeast Washington.
Jamie’s work includes many Tree Farm landowner visits and inspections. In addition, she has played a major role in assisting the two most recent Oregon Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year from northeast Oregon Chris and Donna Heffernan and Harry Merlo as well as host tours and help complete their applications for Western Regional Tree Farmer of the Year.
Inspectors are vitally important to the Oregon Tree Farm System. Nearly 900,000 acres on 764 properties are certified in Oregon as meeting the American Forest Foundation Standards of Sustainability for Forest Certification. All these properties have been inspected and certified by Tree Farm Inspectors.
More information on the Oregon Tree Farm System is available at www.otfs.org
Congratulations, Jamie! Oregon’s tree farmers are very proud of you!
For the forest,
Director of Forestry
Photo: Tom Martin (AFF President), Jamie Knight (2013 National Outstanding Inspector of the Year), Joe Arington (2013 National Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year) and Brad Sorgen (Stihl Chainsaws, award sponsor.)
My niece Makenna is an all-American 13-year-old girl living in Salem. She enjoys playing volleyball and basketball. She is an honor student and active with her church youth group. She is also an avid deer hunter. She started going on hunting trips with her dad when she was old enough to walk. When she was 12, she shot her first deer at more than 200 yards. She says that she loves seeing deer and elk in the forest, but hunting gave her even more appreciation for their speed, agility and ability to hide. Her favorite part of hunting is not the final act of shooting the animal, but the time she spends with her dad.
Big game hunting is an important heritage that provides an opportunity for multiple generations to share a tradition and connect to the land. Just over a century ago, most states had issued moratoriums on big game hunting due to scarcity of animals from uncontrolled hunting. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and numerous other organizations have spent millions of dollars on habitat restoration and reintroduction. Forest landowners and forest sector organizations in Oregon also spend time and money investing in wildlife habitat and research. Many forest landowners have a love-hate relationship with the deer and elk that are present on their lands. They love seeing the majestic animals and may be avid hunters themselves. But deer and elk can cause havoc and destruction of trees, especially newly planted forests. In 2012, more than 70,000 acres of private timberland were impacted by deer and elk damage, as reported by the Oregon Forest Industries Council.
A recent publication by OFRI, Wildlife in Managed Forests: Deer and Elk, took a closer look at the challenges of managing for sustainable deer and elk populations, along with other desired forest outcomes. Research is questioning the impact that management changes on federal forestlands may be having on deer and elk distributions and whether the changes are placing more pressure on private landowners. The answer is not simple, but the publication offers some of the latest scientific findings and possible solutions for land managers. The Starkey Project, located in northeastern Oregon, began to conduct long-term research on specific management questions in 1987. The publication offers advice on thermal cover, information about winter and summer forage, and responses from deer and elk after fuel reduction projects.
Oregon is a special place with our four deer and two elk species. Whether you will enjoy tracking them this hunting season or viewing them from one of our premier reserves, the most important thing that many Oregonians can do to promote wildlife habitat is to keep forestland as forests.
From the woods,
Forest Education Program Manager
I recently attended a conference on “Wildlife in Managed Forests” sponsored by OFRI, the Oregon Society of American Foresters and the Oregon chapter of The Wildlife Society. Speakers discussed current research on wildlife damage and wildlife habitat enhancement projects across western Oregon and Washington. There was far too much interesting stuff to relate in this space, so in this post I’ll focus on one recurring theme of the meeting: dead wood.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to maintain a wildlife-friendly forest is to retain dead wood as snags (standing dead trees) and down wood (logs on the ground).
Nearly 100 species of animals in Oregon – mostly birds – use snags. First, birds such as woodpeckers forage on insects living in these trees and then excavate cavities in the trees for nesting. Later, these cavities are used by other birds and mammals for nesting and shelter. Raptors such as hawks may also use snags as perches, from which they can prey on voles or other mammals.
With snags, the rule of thumb is “bigger is better” – smaller-diameter snags will only be used by smaller animals and do not last as long. So if scattered trees die on your property, consider leaving them for wildlife, keeping safety in mind. Snags can also be created artificially during harvest. Mechanical harvesters can top trees up to 20 feet or so, and so can create a snag out of a tree with a defect down low but a merchantable top. The second-best option, if you cannot safely cut the tree up high, is to fell the tree and leave the defective portion in the woods where wildlife will use it. Now it has become “down wood.”
Just a few days after the workshop, I visited a landowner near Rainier. A small harvest had just been completed, and the logger had left a big, defective log alongside the unit. The owner wondered, could it have been sold as a pulp log? Should she see if someone wanted it for firewood? I suggested that the log was already providing value, and probably more than what might have ended up in her wallet from these potential uses. Down wood is used for cover, travel corridors and breeding spaces, and is especially important for amphibians such as newts.
The naturally regenerated alder in the background had come in after a harvest that had left little to no wood on the ground. The foreground will soon be planted back to conifers, which will take decades to reach a size that will provide a new source of snags or down wood. By carrying over some down wood like the log in the photo from one forest generation to the next, a landowner can ensure some continuity of these wildlife-friendly habitat elements. Consider not disturbing down logs that are already in your forest. They’re playing an important role – and besides, your equipment may take a beating if you try to move them or run them over!
Have you created or left snags or down wood on your property? Do you have evidence of wildlife using these structures? I would like to create a photo gallery. Send me a photo of dead wood in your forest with a description of how it came to be or what wildlife you think is using it. If I get enough responses, I’ll share them all in a future article.
For more information on managing for wildlife, check out “Wildlife in Managed Forests: Oregon Forests as Habitat,” published by OFRI. You can find it and many other publications about forest wildlife at KnowYourForest.org.
OSU Extension Forester
Columbia, Washington and Yamhill Counties