What's happening in the forest sector?

Pollinators and forestry

Photo credits: (from left to right) Rich Hatfield, the Xerces Society; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Sarah Frey

Pollinators are very important to Oregon agriculture and gardening, because pollination is necessary for the production of many fruits and vegetables. But since Colony Collapse Disorder was first discovered in European honeybees in 2006, there has been a rising concern for the well-being of pollinators. As a result, scientists have sought to learn more about our native pollinators and the health of their populations.

Pollinators are any animal that moves pollen from one plant to another. In Oregon, pollinators include bees, beetles, butterflies, moths, hummingbirds, wasps and flies.

Scientists continue to gain a better understanding of just how important many native pollinators are to our state’s agriculture and garden crops. They’ve also learned that how the forests and wildlands around our agricultural land are managed can have an impact on pollinators.

For instance, it turns out managed forests are very important habitat for pollinators. That’s because pollinators thrive in disturbed sites such as recent burns, windfalls and timber harvests. A study being conducted by Jim Rivers of the Oregon State University College of Forestry’s Forest Animal Ecology Lab has shown that native bees are found in high numbers in the open areas where timber harvest was recently conducted. His research team has also found a higher abundance of bees in areas that burned in wildfires.

Open areas with full sunlight, including recent clearcuts, meadows, savannahs and pastures, can provide habitat for pollinators, especially if there are suitable plant forage and nesting opportunities. Besides open areas, pollinators need flowering plants because pollen and nectar are their main food sources. Planting these types of plants is a good way to help pollinators.

One Oregon forest products company, Portland-based Hampton Lumber, is experimenting with planting a custom pollinator-friendly seed mix in recent clearcuts on their timberland, to help boost native pollinator populations. Other forest landowners are watching this and considering doing the same.

To help forest landowners learn more about pollinators and ways they can help conserve native populations, OFRI recently published a new fact sheet called “Pollinators and Forestry.” You can download a copy here. The fact sheet features a list of plant species that could be included in pollinator-friendly seed mixes. It also lists the understory plants that benefit from and are important for pollinators. These are good species to keep across the landscape to support healthy pollinator populations.

With the research showing that pollinators benefit from managed forests, conscious management decisions such as planting pollinator-friendly seed mixes after a timber harvest could enhance those benefits. By providing a mosaic of different age classes, including recently harvested areas with forage and nesting opportunities near farmland, forestry could help make a difference for declining pollinator populations.

For the forest,

Mike Cloughesy

Director of Forestry


Fran Cafferata Coe

Certified Wildlife Biologist ®

The road to net-zero carbon buildings

On Nov. 6, Gov. Kate Brown issued “Executive Order 17-20, Accelerating Efficiency in Oregon’s Built Environment to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Address Climate Change.” It lays out 17 directives intended to reduce carbon emissions from buildings, primarily through energy-efficiency measures.

Energy efficiency is important, particularly in light of the thousands of inefficient, 40-plus-year-old buildings that make up a majority of Oregon’s built environment. Buildings, through their construction and operation, are the single biggest contributor to carbon emissions – surprisingly, even worse than the transportation sector.

The goal of EO 17-20 is for all newly constructed state buildings to achieve carbon-neutral operations by the year 2022. That’s great. I hope we can get there. In fact, we should strive for all new buildings, state-owned or otherwise, to achieve carbon neutrality. Seems to me it wouldn’t be all that difficult.

Spurred by the popularity of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building-rating system, we’ve made huge strides in energy-efficiency technology over the past three decades. Rare is the new building today that isn’t heavily insulated and equipped with high-efficiency heating and ventilation systems. Many make good use of daylighting, are equipped with wastewater recycling systems or have some sort of clean-energy-generation system such as rooftop wind turbines or solar panels. Often, today’s new buildings have all the above and more. We’ve gotten so good at energy efficiency that soon the day will come when the larger source of carbon emissions is the energy consumed to make the materials used to construct the building in the first place.

That’s a point not lost on developers such as Ben Kaiser, whose cross-laminated timber (CLT) building, known as Carbon12, is nearly complete. Long before EO 17-20 was issued, Kaiser recognized the need to make his north Portland condominium project energy-efficient. As such, he designed into it things like exterior insulation that wraps the entire structure, so the building requires less energy to heat or cool. Large, highly efficient windows maximize daylighting while achieving better-than-code thermal efficiency. The condos in Carbon12 all have high-efficiency heat exchangers that allow warm air from one unit to mix with cooler air from another so energy isn’t wasted. And the building is solar-ready, with state-of-the-art systems in place for when residents choose to add solar panels.

Kaiser also understands that we need to go beyond just energy efficiency if we want to fully mitigate the carbon impacts of buildings. Because he chose wood as the primary material for Carbon12’s structure, he knows the energy-efficiency measures he incorporated will achieve their maximum effect much sooner than if he’d chosen more energy-intensive materials that don’t store carbon the way wood does.

The extremely low amount of energy needed to make wood products, and their incredible ability to store atmospheric carbon, gives timber buildings a head start. Before builders installed a single piece of insulation, the wood in Carbon12 had already offset about 800 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Had Kaiser instead chosen to build with reinforced concrete, for example, it would have taken years, perhaps even decades, before the energy-efficiency measures he added to the building would have the chance to offset the emissions associated with making the concrete and the steel rebar.

We already know how to build highly energy-efficient buildings, and Gov. Brown is right to encourage faster adoption of those technologies. But let’s also remain cognizant of the very real gains that can be had by choosing building materials wisely. There’s no reason we can’t do both.

Timm Locke

Director of Forest Products

National Forests are in danger of burning

After the summer of fire we had in Oregon and the West, there has been a lot of discussion about the causes of all those fires. Some argue climate change, while others blame a lack of forest management. The truth is that both factors are to blame.

A recent study from Oregon State University and a new publication from the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station highlight the need for more active management on National Forests, as a changing climate contributes to more severe fire seasons.

In the study, Matthew Reilly, a recent Ph.D. graduate from the OSU College of Forestry, led a team of researchers who analyzed patterns of landscape change in the eastern Cascades of Washington, Oregon and northern California. The team examined low-, medium- and high-intensity fires in ponderosa pine, mixed conifer and subalpine forests from 1985 to 2010.

The study found that about 30 percent of subalpine forests and 10 percent of mixed conifer and ponderosa pine forests burned during the 25-year study period. About a third of the area burned with high severity. The study also found that forest restoration work to make forests more fire-resilient has fallen far short of the level needed to make a difference on a landscape scale.

The study covered all forestlands. But in eastern Oregon, nearly 70 percent of the forestland is managed by the federal government, predominantly by the U.S. Forest Service, so the results seem to be most applicable to National Forests.

The Reilly team’s study has been published online by the academic journal Ecological Applications, and you can read a full report of the findings here. A news release from OSU about the study is also available here.  

Like the OSU study, a new report demonstrates the need for more active management on National Forests in Oregon. Oregon’s Forest Resources, 2001-2010: Ten-Year Forest Inventory and Analysis Report is now available online through the Forest Service TreeSearch webpage. This publication is an overview of the status of Oregon’s forests based on the latest data from the PNW Research Station’s Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program, and includes an extensive set of 51 summary data tables. Additional inventory information and another 89 summary tables are included in the online supplement.

This report has tons of great information and will be the subject of future blogs. However, I want to call attention to its discussion of the current rates of tree growth, removals and mortality on National Forest System lands.

The table below is a summary of average annual volume and percentage of growth, mortality and removals on National Forest timberland in Oregon. Timberland is the portion of the forest that is productive enough to manage for timber production and is not reserved for wilderness areas, parks or other non-timber uses.

Average annual growth, mortality and removal on National Forest timberlands in Oregon.

The data shown in this table is for eastern Oregon, western Oregon and all of Oregon. What jumps out at me from this data is the relationship between mortality and removals. Overall, National Forest timberlands had 56 percent mortality of their growth and only 9 percent removals, which includes harvests and non-commercial cutting.  This mortality figure contrasts sharply with state and private forests, which had 19 percent and 12 percent mortality, respectively.

Mortality can be from fire, disease, insects or blowdown. The FIA inventory doesn’t break it down by causes, but historically disease and insects account for the largest volume of tree mortality in Oregon.

The high rate of mortality on National Forest timberlands is in direct contrast with the low rate of removals, including timber harvest. A very different relationship is evident on non-National Forest timberlands.

Non-National Forest timberlands (state and private) have combined mortality rates of 13 percent and combined removal rates of 92 percent. Clearly, timberlands that are more actively managed, as indicated by removal rates, are healthier, as indicated by mortality rates. These forests have fewer dry, dead trees, also known as “zombie trees,” that can fuel the spread of a wildfire. This makes them much less vulnerable to catastrophic fires.

In the end, the best way forward to reduce catastrophic fires is the same way to reduce tree mortality on National Forest timberlands: increased active management. That’s because it not only helps reduce mortality, it also increases a forest’s fire resiliency.

For the forest,

Mike Cloughesy

Director of Forestry

Historic Rogue River Trail offers challenging hike

In 1968, Congress passed the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and included southwest Oregon’s Rogue River as one of the original eight. Fifty years later, there are now nearly 60 Wild and Scenic rivers or river segments in Oregon. The designation recognizes and helps protect our state’s outstanding scenery, fisheries and recreational resources for now and the future. A life goal might be to hike them all, but for the last couple decades, I’ve had just one in mind: the Rogue.

In the late 1980s, I worked for a Eugene firm that landed the City of Gold Beach tourism marketing account. Immediately, I added a couple southwestern Oregon adventures to my bucket list. For the first, several years ago my wife, Sibyl, and I boarded a jet boat for a 104-mile round-trip wilderness whitewater excursion from Gold Beach to Paradise Lodge. That’s as far as a jet boat can go before running into Blossom Bar, the most infamous Class IV rapid on the Rogue.

Still on the list was a four-day, lodge-to-lodge hike on the wild portion of the Rogue. A “wild” river is one that is impoundment-free and generally accessible only by trail. The more than 100-year-old Rogue River Trail was built for pack mules that supplied miners. Perched on cliffs high above the river, it’s narrow with a lot of ups and downs. Though it’s not difficult, the length makes it demanding.

Rogue River Trail

In October, to mark our 43rd wedding anniversary, Sibyl and I realized the dream, hiking the 40 miles from Graves Creek, near Merlin, to Foster Bar, near the community of Agness. It was a raft-supported hike, meaning our guide, Kara, hauled our gear, extra water and lunch in the raft, and checked in on us now and then. We hiked with day packs and stayed in rustic river lodges: Black Bar, Marial and Paradise. Nothing like a hot shower, a hearty dinner and clean sheets to prepare one for the next day’s 10- to 14-mile trek.

Paul and Sibyl

Along the trail, we viewed the iconic places of the Rogue: Whisky Creek, Battle Bar, author Zane Grey’s Cabin, historic Rogue River Ranch, Mule Creek Canyon and the famed Blossom Bar. Each has a unique history and charm. We saw plenty of wildlife and very few people – truly a wilderness adventure.

Rogue River Trail sign

What’s on your bucket list?

For the Forest,

Paul Barnum

Executive Director



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