What's happening in the forest sector?

‘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).

Happy Arbor Week: Time to Celebrate Trees

It’s been more than 135 years since J. Sterling Morton originated Arbor Day. The Nebraskan was Secretary of Agriculture during the Grover Cleveland administration, and he had a fascination with trees. His simple idea was to set aside a special day for planting trees – and Arbor Day was born.

In Oregon, one of the most forested landscapes in the world, we commemorate a full Arbor Week, which this year runs April 7-14. It's a great opportunity for everyone to foster the well-being of the trees surrounding them. And what could be more natural during Arbor Week than to learn more about trees? You can visit OFRI’s website, where there is an interactive section on identifying trees around your yard and in your neighborhood. During Arbor Week, consider volunteering with a local tree-planting organization such as Friends of Trees. You'll meet new people and make a difference in your community.

Oregon’s Arbor Week is also a great time to honor trees and appreciate their many benefits – benefits that include clean air, water and wildlife habitat, plus higher property values. It’s always a great time to plant a tree. On April 20, OFRI will be giving away 1,000 tree seedlings at The Oregon Garden Earth Day celebration. Come plant a tree with us!

Tree planting using “right tree, right place” principles

When choosing where to plant your new tree, the first consideration is what the tree needs, and if the area can provide it. Here are five “tree needs” to keep in mind:

  1. Each tree species has different moisture needs and can tolerate wet or dry conditions to different degrees; know your tree’s watering requirements so you don’t expose them to too much or too little water. 
  2. Know the specifics of your tree’s height and crown size at maturity, so you can properly situate it in the landscape. 
  3. Once you’ve purchased your tree and are ready to plant, dig a hole wider than seems necessary, so the roots can spread without crowding. Remove any grass within a 3-foot circular area to minimize competition for resources. 
  4. Plant the tree at the same depth it stood in the pot or ground, and partially fill the hole, firming the soil around the lower roots. Do not add soil amendments. 
  5. Give your new tree plenty of water. Water it generously every week or 10 days during its first year.

Arbor Day was first celebrated in Nebraska in 1872. On that day, more than 1 million trees were planted. Today, all 50 states celebrate Arbor Day, although the dates may vary in keeping with the local climate. At the federal level, in 1970 President Richard Nixon proclaimed the last Friday in April as National Arbor Day. In Oregon, during this year’s Arbor Week, take some time to plan an outing with friends or to participate in a fun family activity to celebrate trees.

Happy Arbor Week!

Julie Woodward, Tree Planter
OFRI Forest Education Program Manager

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