What's happening in the forest sector?

Pest Scene Investigation: Identifying tree crimes

What is damaging or killing trees on private forest landowners’ properties? 
How do landowners manage for a resilient, healthy forest?

Having a dead tree can drive some landowners up a tree – literally! Recently I spent a day in the woods with 22 local family forestland owners. Each person had a keen interest in learning how to identify current or potential threats to their forest trees. Oregon State University Forestry and Natural Resources Extension Program hosted the workshop, with the goal of training each of us to be a Pest Scene Investigator (PSI).

Pest Scene Investigators, an advanced component of the Master Woodland Manager program, focus on diagnosing insect and disease problems, including bark beetles, foliage-damaging insects and diseases, root rots, tip-damaging insects, rusts, vertebrate wildlife and more.

Master Woodland Managers are qualified small family forestland owners who receive specialized training by OSU Forestry and Natural Resources Extension to be effective volunteers and community leaders. OFRI  is a long-term supporter of this program and all education outreach for forest landowners.

Private forest landowners manage 34 percent of Oregon’s forests, and account for 75 percent of total harvest. The health and productivity of these forests are important to us all. The majority of forest landowners have established plans that specifically address their forest objectives regarding the well-being of wildlife, quality of watersheds, health of the trees and plants, and reduction of fires, insect infestations and diseases. During our Pest Scene Investigator training we learned that most tree stands are weakened by both non-living (abiotic) factors, such as a change in the site’s hydrology, as well as biotic factors – insects, disease, rodents or over-crowding.

The drought we experienced in western Oregon this past summer, stretching more than 110 days without rain, is starting to show an impact in some of the Willamette Valley’s Douglas-fir forests. Our class witnessed many Douglas-fir trees with “flare-out,” where whole branches, tops or new growth were completely red and dead. Many trees will be able to survive and recover, but the drought will impact trees that are already stressed or on marginal growing soil. Actively managing your forests by identifying potential threats is one of the most crucial steps in having healthy and resilient forests for the long term.

Do you worry about what might be damaging or killing your trees, and wonder what you can do about it? There may be a trained Pest Scene Investigator in your area willing to assist you in evaluating the overall health of your forest or woodland, help with planning, and provide advice and information on all aspects of forest and woodland management. Contact your local OSU Extension Forester for more information.

Julie Woodward
Forest Education Program Manager

Life of a family forester: Burning slash in the rain

The rewards – and the work – of being a family forest landowner continue.

Previously, I described the four wet, cold, back-breaking days we spent planting seedlings last February, after we’d had six acres of our 89-acre woodland logged in December 2011.

This summer and fall, we had more work to do.

During the logging, most of the limbs and treetops were gathered into “slash piles.” So in August, my husband, Rex, and I headed out to the forestland, which is in the Coast Range about an hour northwest of Portland, to prepare the slash for fall burning. I hadn’t been back since winter, and I was curious to see how the saplings were doing. When we arrived, I was excited to find that most of them were healthy and growing.

We spent the day putting 10-by-10-feet plastic sheets on the 32 slash piles. We couldn’t burn until after the fire season was over and rain returned to Oregon. So the plastic would keep part of the pile dry enough to light on fire in the fall.

Later, Rex filed our paperwork, including a smoke-management plan, with the Oregon Department of Forestry so we could get the OK to burn in the fall. Then we waited.

A couple of weeks after the fire season abruptly ended with the fall rain, we were granted permission to burn.

Up before dawn, Rex, my dad and I headed out.

We used propane torches to light each pile. My first pile burned well, but I soon found that wasn’t the case with all of them. Heavy rain during the previous weeks made some piles difficult to light. But persistence paid off, and at the end of the day, all piles were burning. As they burned out, the afternoon rain helped extinguish the flames.

We headed for home – tired, cold, soaking wet and smelling like smoke. And, of course, more work waits. We’ll go back in February to plant several hundred more seedlings in the areas where the slash was piled.

- Kathy Storm


Christmas trees: Get real

The other day I was browsing the Oregon “Agripedia” – it’s 90 pages of agricultural statistics. It’s more interesting than it sounds, really. I learned that Oregon is the No. 1 U.S. producer of peppermint, grass seed, blackberries, hazelnuts, Dungeness crab and potted azaleas.

And also Christmas trees.

Oregon growers sold 6.4 million Christmas trees last year, more than any other state. Total sales were nearly $100 million. More than 85 percent of the trees were exported – which means outside money coming into state.

Christmas trees and peppermint are not that different. Both come from farms. In fact, in Oregon they are under the purview of the state Department of Agriculture, not the Department of Forestry. Many of these farms are small. There are about 1,600 Christmas tree farms in Oregon. Most are small family operations – 1,000 of them are smaller than 15 acres.

Trees just take longer to grow than your typical crop – about seven to 10 years for a 6-foot tree. And although we’ll cut 6 million Christmas trees this fall, Oregon farmers plant about that same number every year.

So you could buy an artificial tree, probably made in China out of plastic, and destined for the landfill. But why? Christmas tree farming is sustainable, it supports Oregon’s rural economy, it stores carbon and breathes out oxygen, and when the holidays are over the tree can be recycled into mulch or compost.

Environmentally, it’s an easy choice. And it’s good for the local economy, too.

So there certainly will be a real tree at my house this Christmas – and maybe a bowl of roasted hazelnuts and some Willamette Valley pinot noir, too.


Paul Barnum
Executive Director

Post it our our calendar

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

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