What's happening in the forest sector?

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Thanksgiving is this week. Our family, like most families, has plenty of traditions surrounding Thanksgiving. Many of them are food-related – the brining of the turkey, the mashed-potato volcanoes, and the little oddly shaped dish whose only job, it seems, is to hold the green olives.

But we’ve created other traditions over the years. One of our most recent is a post-Thanksgiving trip to the Tillamook Forest Center to create our annual holiday wreath. 

Every year for the past six years, our family has made the trip down the Wilson River to spend the day at the interpretive center. We hike the trails. We wear the firefighter’s hat. We play in the fish bubble. We also build a giant wreath for our home. Oregon Department of Forestry staff members collect branches and forest products from within the Tillamook forest and bring them to the center. Native tree species including Douglas-fir, hemlock and noble fir make a great base for a hardy wreath. Pine cones, holly branches and even a little Oregon grape help add to the cheer.

You can find information about these wreath-making activities on OFRI’s calendar of events. In fact, we invite everyone to regularly visit the OFRI calendar of events to see what’s happening, and encourage you to submit your events to the calendar using the handy online form.

The OFRI calendar of events is intended to be a community-supported calendar. If you have any forest-related events that are open to the public, the OFRI events calendar is a great place to market them. Whether you’ve got an upcoming tour, hike, workshop or yes, even a wreath-making party, submit your event and spread the word.

Enjoy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Jordan Benner
Public Outreach Program Manager

Creatures of the forest, real and imagined

It’s not unusual to see film crews on the street below the OFRI office in downtown Portland. They often use the Historic U.S. Bank Building as a backdrop. But it was a first for us last week when a crew from the TV series “Grimm” came inside our office to shoot a scene taking place across the street.

Inspired by the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tales, the show “Grimm” is set in Portland because the area reminded the creators of Germany's Black Forest, where many of the original tales take place. “Grimm” tells the story of a Portland homicide detective who discovers that fairy-tale creatures are real – and that he has the power to see them when others usually can't.

These creatures include the beaver-like Eisbiber, the wolf-like Blutbaden and the bear-like Jägerbären.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you where you might go to catch sight of a Blutbaden. But if you’re more interested in real forest wildlife, I can recommend a book: A Guide to Priority Plant and Animal Species in Oregon’s Forests.

This 120-page book, published by OFRI, lists more than 100 species that have special status – that is, they may be threatened or endangered under state or federal law, or they may be part of the Oregon Conservation Strategy.

The book organizes species by the type of forested habitat in which they tend to live, so users can easily find and identify those found in different-aged stands of trees. Maps show where in Oregon each species is known to occur or could potentially occur.

The book also includes a handy illustrated guide to identifying common trees and plants in Oregon forests.

A Guide to Priority Plant and Animal Species in Oregon’s Forests is recommended for all forest land managers, as well as educators. Along with OFRI’s other wildlife publications, including the Wildlife in Managed Forests series, the guide is useful for anyone working to understand where various species live and what habitat they need to survive.

For more information, check out these OFRI publications. 
A Guide to Priority Plant and Animal Species in Oregon Forests
Wildlife in Managed Forests — Northern Spotted Owl
Wildlife in Managed Forests — Stream-Associated Amphibians
Wildlife in Managed Forests — Oregon Forests as Habitat


Norie Dimeo-Ediger
Director of K-12 Education Programs

Ever Eat a Pine Tree?

Well, I wouldn’t recommend it, but there are a lot more products from forests and trees than just wood. Wild forest goods – also known as non-timber forest products – are booming in Oregon forests, thanks to the work of several groups.

I had the pleasure of attending a Forest Learning Fair sponsored by the Oregon Woodland Cooperative in September near Brownsville. I was surprised by the number of products: basketry materials, berries, boughs, cones, dyes, essential oils, firewood, floral products, wild honey, moss, mushrooms, nuts, resins, seeds and syrups are all being harvested and marketed by Oregon family woodland owners.

The most fragrant product I learned about was “Canopy Essential Oils,” which are distilled, bottled and marketed by the co-op. Foliage from trees and shrubs is steam-distilled in a large stainless-steel still fired by propane. Pines, cedars, Douglas-firs and true firs are all used, and each has its own unique fragrance.

The OWC was formed to help its members market their timber more effectively by having larger lots to sell. However, they’ve grown into a great marketer of non-timber forest products for their members. One of their biggest successes is with bundled firewood.

Bundled firewood represents a premium, value-added product for low-value logs. Prices are steadier year over year than pulp, and more reliable year-round than cordwood. Finally, increasing energy prices also means firewood prices are likely to increase. Bundled firewood is sold at supermarkets, convenience stores and campgrounds.

Two other organizations that are helping family forest landowners market their non-timber forest products are the Institute for Culture and Ecology (IFCAE) and the Oregon Wood Innovation Center (OWIC).

IFCAE is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve human and environmental conditions through appliled research, education and community improvement projects. OWIC is a joint project of Oregon State University’s College of Forestry and OSU Extension Service, aiming to improve the competitiveness of Oregon’s wood products industry by fostering innovation in products, processes and business systems.

Together these groups have produced Wild Forest Goods, a regional directory that links businesses that buy and sell non-timber forest products. This database expands Oregon State University’s Forest Industry Business Directory.

So don’t eat any pine trees, but do remember the thousands of products that are harvested and marketed from our forests.

May The Forest Be With You,
Mike Cloughesy

Forest-sector recovery dependent on markets and timber

Forest products have long been an economic engine for the state. As a state agency charged with public education about the forest sector, it’s one of OFRI’s core competencies to lead a deep dive into the sector’s strengths, weaknesses and opportunities.

In October, OFRI published its assessment of the economic impact of Oregon’s forest sector. Titled “The 2012 Forest Report,” the 200-page study is the most comprehensive look at sector employment and economic impact in nearly a decade.

The findings may surprise you. For starters, the sector directly employs 76,000 Oregonians who earn, including benefits, a collective $5.2 billion. Another 37,000 people are dependent on the sector, providing it with services and supplies.

To be sure, the Great Recession has taken a toll. As new home construction tumbled from a high of 2.3 million housing starts nationally in 2005 to fewer than 500,000 starts in 2009, Oregon wood products manufacturers cut production. The sector lost 14,000 jobs and $527 million in income. But the housing market is slowly coming back; current data from the U.S. Census Bureau puts new residential housing starts at about 750,000 nationally.

The loss of jobs has been felt hardest in rural areas. Statewide, the sector accounts for 6.8 percent of the economy – $12.7 billion in total economic output. But in some rural areas, the sector represents well over 10 percent of a county’s economic output, employing hundreds of people. In northwest Oregon and southern Oregon, for example, one out of every 10 jobs is tied to the forest sector – twice the state average.

Although the feeble housing market has taken its toll, the new study found that there’s another force restraining the sector’s recovery: timber supply. The federal government manages nearly 60 percent of the forestland in this state, but contributes only 12 percent of the harvest. Conversely, private forestland owners manage 34 percent of the forestland but contribute 75 percent of the harvest. Even allowing for the fact that federal land is not as productive as private, the ratio is badly out of balance.

It’s no surprise, then, that one of the five recommendations of the study is to “Reassess and reshape policies for Oregon’s federal forests.” If Oregon’s rural areas are to fully emerge from the current recession, if they’re ever going to be financially independent, then state leaders must find a way to increase harvest in our federal forests – not only to supply raw material to sawmills and put people back to work, but also to manage our forests for ecosystem health and protect them from wildfire.

A summary of the study can be found at TheForestReport.org, where it is also available for download.

For the forest,

Paul Barnum
Executive Director

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