What's happening in the forest sector?

Just the facts, please

“You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.”

That was the opinion of Sen. Daniel Patrick “Pat” Moynihan of New York, who served in the U.S. Senate from 1976 to 2000, and who passed away in 2003.

Of course, facts can be slippery. I recall a quote ascribed to 19th-century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, popularized by American author Mark Twain: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

So it’s with a sense of humility that OFRI offers its biennial publication, Oregon Forest Facts & Figures, now available from our resource library. Data in this book comes from state of Oregon and federal reporting agencies, plus other authoritative sources. It has been thoroughly reviewed by contributors and contains nearly three pages of citations.

This year’s edition is informed by OFRI’s 2012 Forest Report – an examination of the forest sector and its significance to Oregon’s economy. With $12.7 billion of economic impact and 76,000 direct jobs, the state’s forest sector is the most important traded sector in rural Oregon. To download the full report or an executive summary, or to watch a video, visit TheForestReport.org.

One of the more interesting facts, in my opinion, is that the total amount of forestland acreage in Oregon has held relatively constant for more than 30 years. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s due in large part to our state’s unique system of land-use laws and comprehensive planning, which steer development away from forest and agriculture.

Whether you’re searching for facts about forest ownership, harvest, jobs, lumber and housing sales, forest protection rules, forest fires, or protecting salmon and water quality, you can find it in this pocket-sized fact book. It’s one of our most popular publications.

And get this: In early March, OFRI intends to publish its first-ever mobile application – an interactive electronic version of the 2013 Oregon Forest Facts & Figures. The app will work on the major mobile platforms.

Oregonians are nothing if not passionate about their forests – there’s no shortage of opinions about their care and management. However, at the end of the day, we believe that opinions are best informed by facts.

For the forest,

Paul Barnum
Executive Director

When it comes to hygiene, paper towels win hands down

Who has patience for hot-air hand dryers? Jerry Seinfeld even joked about them: How wonderful, he said, a device that allows you to spend even more time in a public restroom!

It’s true. They take forever. But more important, when it comes to hygiene, “paper towels are superior,” according to a study published last summer at Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

In the midst of cold and flu season, and with a dangerous influenza bug going around, it’s worth reiterating the health virtues of paper towels.

The Mayo study and another report on the topic from the University of Westminster in London both found that paper towels are more hygienic than electric dryers.

Because it takes four or five times longer to dry your hands under a typical electric hand dryer than it does with a paper towel, most people walk away with hands still wet, or they wipe them on their clothes. And because germs are transmitted more easily to and from wet skin, hand-washing – normally a widely accepted way to cut the risk of catching a bug – ends up being less effective.

The Westminster study found that paper towels remove more germs from your hands as you rub them dry. And here’s a surprise: People using air dryers ended up with more bacteria on their skin than those who used paper towels.

Furthermore, a recent Wall Street Journal article that reported on the Mayo study suggested that the electric dryer may use more energy than it takes to make a paper towel.

Besides being better for hygiene, paper towels are quieter than electric dryers. And they come from a thriving renewable resource: our abundant forests.

Calli Daly
OFRI Board Vice Chair

Governor adds voice as eastside forest ally

Eastsiders like to protest that they are ignored in Portland and Salem, and there’s probably more than a skosh of truth to the lament. Yet that wasn’t the case in early January, as Grant County and the dry eastside forests got a strong plug from Gov. John Kitzhaber.

Speaking to the Oregon Board of Forestry on Jan. 9, the governor made a pitch for more active management of our federal forests.

“The status quo is not working,” Kitzhaber said. He made it clear that the board, while it has no direct authority over the federal lands, should use its voice and its political clout to effect change. He noted that there are interrelated decisions to be made regarding state and federal forests, offering an opportunity for “clear and pragmatic statements” to lead other policymakers in the right direction.

Kitzhaber also said he’s proposed state resources to accelerate the collaborative efforts on the dry forests and the pace of restoration. Noting that the state’s participation could serve as a catalyst, he urged the board to use its influence to maintain that investment and “get us off the dime over there.”

He pressed the need home by noting the elephant in our living room: wildfire. He was spot-on when he noted that the dry forests will always be “places of fire,” but that the impacts need not be so catastrophic if we are allowed to improve the state of the lands. Using a health-care analogy – once a doc, always a doc – he asked what makes more sense: spending pennies to manage someone’s blood pressure in the community, or spending a fortune for hospital care after that person has had a stroke?

In short, he was singing our song – that we can make the federal forests more resilient through active management. And he stressed his belief that Oregonians can lead the discussion, even if the lands are federal.

In Grant County, this is the kind of discussion that has been under way for some time, but it was gratifying to hear it coming from the governor. He has plenty of interests competing for his support; it’s significant that he is using the bully pulpit – and not for the first time – to tout the needs of the dryside forests and their communities.

And the show of support couldn’t come at a better time, as the Malheur National Forest works to ramp up timber sales and restoration work, including the new 10-year stewardship contract discussed in meetings last week. Locally, critics worry that these efforts won’t be enough, or fast enough, but this does represent a major change from the patterns of the recent past. If not a template, this is a starting point for more comprehensive restoration and recovery.

The efforts of local people – citizens, industry, elected leaders – brought us to this moment. As the work proceeds, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have the state’s top elected official in our camp. It’s significant that the governor not only is aware of the plight of rural forest communities, but is taking an activist stance and encouraging the state Forestry Board to take a more active role.

If collaboration is the way to a better future in the forests, and we believe it is, these are pretty potent allies to add to the mix.

Blue Mountain Eagle, Jan. 15, 2013
Scotta Callister, Editor, Blue Mountain Eagle
Reprinted by permission.

Travel makes you think

My wife and I are leaving on vacation soon; we will be someplace warm where they don’t speak much English. We’re looking forward to the break!

Whenever we fly back to Oregon, I’m always impressed by our vast forests. If some private land has some clearings, I know those clearings are replanted after harvest, and that law protects fish and wildlife habitat and water resources.

That isn’t the case for some of the places we will visit. I am reminded that tropical forests are sometimes harvested using poor techniques, often illegally and with little regard for forest ecosystems, habitat or water quality.

As we prepare to leave, I’m working on one of OFRI’s publications called Oregon Forest Facts and Figures. We’re putting the final touches on the 2013 edition, and it will be available for order at OregonForests.org early in February. One of the charts in it is called “Oregon forestland acreage.” It shows that our state’s total forest acreage is essentially unchanged since 1953. There are a number of reasons for this, not the least of which is Oregon’s land-use law that protects farm and forestland. In addition, the volume of wood growing in Oregon’s forests is nearly the same as it was 60 years ago.

Another important chart in the new edition shows “Annual timber harvest and mortality.” Mortality comes from fire, insects and disease. On our private forestland, much of the annual growth is harvested, about 4 percent dies, and about 20 percent is left to increase standing timber volume. However, on our federal forestlands, it’s just the opposite. Little timber is harvested, a large amount dies, and most goes to increasing the standing timber volume.

Here in the U.S., we have the ability and responsibility to solve our own problems. In some of the countries I’ll visit, that isn’t the case, and that’s something to ponder while I’m away. My hope for 2013 is that we have multiple breakthroughs with the public collaborations now underway to treat our east-side forests for ecosystem health and fire resiliency. And even though Oregon will still be in winter’s icy grip, I promise to be thankful when I return home in a couple weeks.

Dave Kvamme
Director of Communications

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