What's happening in the forest sector?

Forest Certification Demonstrates Sustainability

Forest landowners want to manage their lands to sustainably produce environmental, social and economic benefits. Forest certification is a market-based approach to recognizing sustainable forest management by labeling forests and the wood products from those forests as being certified. Having forestland certified under the American Tree Farm System (ATFS), the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) or the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) lets people know that landowners are proudly managing their forests sustainably, and are in it for the long haul.

In the mid-1990s the Forest Stewardship Council was created by the World Wildlife Fund and other conservation groups as a way to certify that wood products were sustainably managed to meet conservation goals. The American Forest and Paper Association followed with the development of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, to demonstrate sustainability while meeting industrial wood-production goals. The American Tree Farm System, which has been around since 1941, also developed a certification system to demonstrate sustainability while meeting a diverse set of family forestland goals.

Today these private, independent programs apply third-party standards to wood and manufactured products from the forest. This level of transparency gives consumers, architects, engineers and builders credible evidence that the products were produced through responsible forestry practices. Certified products earn the right to display an “eco-label” seal of approval.

In total, nearly 4.7 million acres of private Oregon forestlands are certified by one of the three systems. FSC certifies about 567,000 acres; the ATFS certifies about 887,000 acres; and the SFI certifies about 3,229,000 acres.

More information on forest certification in Oregon is available at KnowYourForest.org.

In addition to managing the tree farm certification system in Oregon, the Oregon Tree Farm System also recognizes outstanding forest management by annually awarding county Outstanding Tree Farmers as well as the Oregon Tree Farmer of the Year. For 2013, Bill and Joan Arsenault of Douglas County are Oregon’s Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year. A tour of the Arsenaults’ tree farm near Elkton will be held on Saturday, June 15, as part of the Oregon Small Woodlands Annual meeting. The tour is free and open to the public, and includes a barbecue lunch.

More information on the June 15 Tree Farmer of the Year tour is available on the Oregon Small Woodlands Association website.

For the Forest,
Mike Cloughesy
Director of Forestry

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

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