Forester Friday features an Oregon forester with an interesting or unique contribution to the forestry field. This series is meant to highlight and recognize these stories.
Forestry is predominantly thought of as being a profession set out in the woods, far from cities, but what about forestry in urban settings? This week’s Forester Friday highlights urban forester Casey Clapp, a development tree inspector for the city of Portland.
Casey is responsible for reviewing and permitting street-tree work associated with housing or commercial development in Portland. Some of his daily responsibilities include assessing street trees for health and structural condition, and balancing whether they should be preserved or removed to make way for urban development. He works with public entities such as the Portland Bureau of Transportation and Bureau of Environmental Services, as well as private sector contractors and property owners, to manage removals, pruning and planting of street trees during their construction projects. He also does emergency response work when needed to help clear streets of downed limbs and trees during storms.
In addition to job experience, education has played an important role in Casey’s career. He attended Oregon State University for a bachelor’s in forest management, and continued on for a master’s in environmental conservation at the University of Massachusetts. In addition, he became a certified arborist and qualified tree-risk assessor through the International Society of Arboriculture.
For this profile, Casey answered a series of questions about his forestry story via email. Here are some of his responses.
What is your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of my work is being a top resource for the city and citizens when it comes to our urban trees. Many folks in the city are concerned about the loss of urban canopy, and it’s my job to be on the front line fighting to retain and protect trees and their growing spaces within the city. It’s very satisfying to me to represent the people of the city and fight to protect a resource that is so important to everyone.
What drove you or why did you decide to work in forestry?
My main drive was a love and passion for trees and forests. I could not learn enough about how trees functioned, both as individuals and as a forest. Ecology, biology, physiology and taxonomy – all these subjects fascinated me, and the question of how they interact drove me to continue to learn as much as I could. In traditional forestry, the objectives range from extracting forest resources to management for fuels reduction. In urban forestry, the main objective is managing urban trees for risk and for the ecosystem services they provide to the city and citizens. With my current position, I get to apply the science of trees to complex situations to make the best call for the good of the people and the tree, and this real-world problem-solving is very satisfying.
What is something you want people to know about your job and/or the impact of your job?
I want people to know that it is not simply filled with tree-huggers hoping to save every tree in the world. Trees are an extremely important component of whatever ecosystem they’re in, including the urban ecosystem. My job is to manage trees as a resource, both in an ecosystem sense and also in a cultural sense. Sometimes this means retaining a tree, and other times it means removing it and replanting a new one. The long-term impact of the work I do will hopefully be seen in 40 years when fully treed streets grace all parts of the city and help maintain it as a comfortable place to live in the face of climate uncertainty.
What is your favorite outdoor activity in Oregon?
My favorite outdoor activity in Oregon has got to be backpacking and camping. I love to strap everything I need onto my back and walk into the wilderness for days at a time. Oregon wildernesses are some of the most outstanding places in the nation, and hold such unique, beautiful landscapes that it’s impossible to not be stunned by them. As a fan of our forests and the plants in them, getting as far into the wilderness as possible affords me the chance to see plants and environments that one just can’t find anywhere else. My favorite place in Oregon is the Eagle Cap Wilderness in the Wallowa Mountains of northeastern Oregon. If you haven’t been, this area is one of most unique ecosystems in the state, and the beauty just can’t be beat.
If you know an Oregon forester with an interesting or unique story we should share, email OFRI Social Media Intern Autumn Barber at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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