What's happening in the forest sector?

Full speed ahead into the 21st Century

Five years ago, when I began as OFRI's second executive director, I made a pledge to the OFRI Board of Directors that our public education efforts would become more digital. We had to, in order to stay relevant. Clearly, the explosive growth of the Internet, mobile devices and e-publishing demanded that OFRI keep up with the times. 

This month, we're announcing our first-ever mobile application for smart phones and tablets. Oregon's Forest Facts & Figures, which we publish in hard copy every two years, is our most popular publication. Now you can download it as a free mobile app for iOS and Android platforms. 

In addition, as OFRI watchers know, we've grown our Internet presence to four websites: OregonForests.org for the general public, LearnForests.org for formal and nonformal educators, KnowYourForest.org for forest landowners, and TheForestReport.org for people interested in economic information about the forest sector. In April, these four sites combined saw an average 6,000 monthly visitors. 

Also this month we learned that DHX Advertising, the Portland firm we hired to write and design OregonForests.org, won a Hermes Creative Gold Award from the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals. This is wonderful recognition for their work, and that of the OFRI staff, as we join hands to tell the story of Oregon's amazing forests.

Paul Barnum
Executive Director

‘Dancing on the deck…’

“We cannot afford to continue business as usual,” said Kent Connaughton, regional forester for the US Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Region, comprising 25 million acres of national forests in Oregon and Washington, and the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

Connaughton keynoted the Oregon Society of Oregon Foresters’ annual meeting in Pendleton, April 24-26. His topic: “The future vision for eastern Oregon forests and forestry given the challenges and changes.”

According to Connaughton, 5 to 6 million acres of national forests in Oregon and Washington are in urgent need of active management to restore forest health and fire resiliency. The current rate of response is inadequate to the problem – meaning that, despite good intent, “we’re just dancing on the deck,” Connaughton said.

Left unsaid was, the deck of what? But I inferred he meant the deck of a sinking ship.

The OSAF confab took place at the Wildhorse Resort, located at the base of the Blue Mountains, where Connaughton said 1.26 million acres could benefit from active management.

The regional forest chief has initiated a strategy for increased action in the Blues, including the Malheur, Ochoco, Wallowa-Whitman and Umatilla national forests. The strategy includes:

  • an internal group of experienced Forest Service leaders to lead the effort
  • an energetic coordinator to implement it
  • a dedicated interdisciplinary scientific team to conduct environmental analyses and explore innovative ways to increase the pace and scale of sustainable, active forest management

Connaughton said he regards the Blue Mountains as a “gateway” to a broader discussion of forest restoration in the Pacific Northwest region.

One key to moving past “business as usual” and the gridlock over forest management is the use of collaboratives, Connaughton said. While he warned that these community-based groups are not a magic bullet, he said they have been helpful in building a common ground for moving forward at a landscape level, which he defined as areas of 10,000 to 15,000 acres. Doing so will require broad public support at the local, state and national levels, he said.

In a recent letter to Gov. John Kitzhaber, Connaughton wrote: “As described in the state’s National Forest Health Restoration Economic Assessment for Oregon, I believe a partnership with the State of Oregon is ripe to advance our collective desire to increase the pace and scale of management. I am hopeful a new business model can generate creative new approaches to funding, increased planning efficiencies, and collaborative alignment needed to achieve this outcome.”

To which I can only add: “Aye, captain.”

For the Forest,

Paul Barnum
Executive Director


Photo: Even the Oregon Trail, located on Emigrant Hill in the Blue Mountains east of Pendleton, has become choked with dense stands of fir and lodgepole pine where once stood widely spaced ponderosa pine amid grassy fields. Early settlers negotiated the highly treacherous seven-mile, 2,000-foot elevation drop into the Umatilla Valley.

Reliance on timber is a statewide phenomenon

Who knew? We certainly didn’t before doing a study.

We tend to think of forest-sector jobs as being located in rural Oregon, and indeed most of them are. After all, managing forests generally means you’re out of urban environs. But not so evident is how those jobs send economic waves through Oregon’s urban areas, too.

The Oregon Forest Resources Institute recently released the 2012 Forest Report. This data-rich resource identifies numerous interesting facts and statistics about forest-sector employment. The study identifies a total of 76,000 forest-sector jobs statewide and breaks this total down into the many and various categories of work.

A table in the report ranks the percent of each county's employment that can be attributed to the forest sector. It offers no huge surprise when it lists the most timber-reliant counties in Oregon as Lake, Jefferson, Crook, Yamhill, Douglas, Clatsop, Grant, Union and Linn counties. All have more than 10 percent of their total jobs in the forest sector. Typically, these counties have always been identified among the timber-reliant.

However, when we rank counties by the total number of forest-sector jobs in each county, surprisingly, we get a different list of timber-reliant communities. Paradoxically, the top five counties in terms of total forest-sector employment are the five most urban counties in Oregon. Multnomah, Lane, Marion, Washington and Clackamas counties combined comprise about 48 percent of the forest-sector jobs in Oregon. While these may not be traditionally thought of as timber-based counties, there is an amazing level of economic impact from the sector in these places.

And, it probably has always been that way. Timber harvest and primary manufacturing of lumber and plywood is often found in rural areas. But when you look at a broader definition of forest-sector jobs, including management, regulation, and secondary manufacturing of windows, doors, cabinets and engineered-wood products, then urban areas must also be counted as “reliant.”

It is also useful to look at these data as a way to compare the relative importance of forest-sector jobs county by county. For example, one forest-sector job in Lake County, the county with the largest percentage of forest sector jobs, is roughly equivalent to 125 jobs from all employment categories in Multnomah County, which has the largest number of forest-sector jobs.

In other words, all parts of our state are “timber reliant” in one way or another.

There are a number of ways to look at these numbers, but any way you slice it, the forest sector is a major employer in many of Oregon's counties and a major contributor to the state’s overall economy.

Proud to be employed in the forest sector,

Mike Cloughesy
Director of Forestry

It’s springtime – get out the snowshoes!

Spring heralds the arrival of showers, flowers and outdoor activities. But for those who love the mountains, it’s a great time to get out and enjoy what could be the final snowshoe outing of the year. Bluebird days and fresh spring powder offer a respite from the allergen-filled Willamette Valley. A brisk snowshoe workout combined with a picnic lunch is – in my opinion – the perfect weekend outing.

An outing my wife and I enjoy, either winter or summer, is the trail to Mirror Lake in the Mt. Hood National Forest. The trailhead is accessible directly from Highway 26 and the hike is relatively easy, so it receives heavy use from late spring to late fall. Late in the winter, however, the parking lot gets snow-bound, so you have to park east at Mt. Hood Ski Bowl and snowshoe nearly a mile to the trailhead. It’s still worth it. Don’t forget your Sno-Park Permit, $3 per day or $20 annual, available at many ski shops and gas stations.

From the trailhead to Mirror Lake is about 1.4 miles, with an elevation gain of 780 feet. You can extend your trip by either trekking around the lake or up nearby Tom Dick and Harry Mountain – or both!

As you’re hiking or snowshoeing, remember to practice good stewardship by staying on the trail, packing out your waste and leaving no trace of your visit. That will ensure a positive experience for the next visitor.

For a pretty good YouTube of the snowshoe version, visit Oregon Exploration’s video

Paul Barnum


Photo: Lenticular cloud hovers over Mt. Hood (taken near Mirror Lake, March 2012).

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