In light of 2020’s devastating fire season, I was recently asked these two questions. To answer them, I turned to data published by the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis program, orand employed a bit of creative math.
The 2020 Labor Day fires burned approximately 1 million acres of Oregon forestland. To estimate how many trees were burned in these fires, I needed an estimate of how many trees we had in Oregon before the fires, and how many trees per acre of forestland we have.
To estimate the number of trees killed in the Labor Day fires, I used an estimate of trees per acre (tpa) to go with our acreage estimate of 1 million acres. Table 18 from FIA’sbefore the Labor Day fires
Combining this number with the estimate of 1 million acres burned in the 2020 fires, and assuming that the acres burned in a similar manner across the tree size classes, gives us an estimate of 347 million trees killed in the Labor Day fires. Using the estimate of 10.28 billion trees before the Labor Day fires and subtracting the estimated 347 million trees killed in those fires leaves an estimated 9.93 billion trees. That means the trees burned in the 2020 wildfires represent about 3.5% of the trees growing in Oregon.
Now that we’ve estimated how many trees we had before the fires, how many were killed in the fires, and thus how many trees we have left after the fires, we can figure out if we still have more trees than we did 100 years ago. To do this, we need to look at the amount of forestland in Oregon now versus 100 years ago, how the size distribution has changed over time, and how that has affected the number of trees.
estimates the total amount of forestland in various states over time. The closest estimate we have for total forest area in Oregon 100 years ago is 1920, when Forest Resources of the United States estimates we had approximately 30.3 million acres of forestland. Based on the report’s findings, we can see that in 2017 we had about 29.6 million acres of forestland, nearly 98% of the forestland area we had in 1920. Unfortunately, the only data we have for 1920 is an estimate of forest area. However, we do have excellent estimates of timber volume by state back to 1953, and estimates of net volume for regions by tree-diameter classes back to 1953. The forests of 1953 are not exactly the forests of 1920. However, the 1953 data says we had 30.3 million acres of forestland in Oregon – the same as the estimate for 1920.
Another helpful estimate from Forest Resources is the net volume of timber by tree-diameter classes and regions for 1953 through 2017. The relationship between diameter class and trees per acre allows us to estimate the number of trees in 1953 at 8.17 billion trees (I’ll spare you this math).
Although I’m unable to accurately estimate how many trees there were in Oregon 100 years ago, my conclusion is that there are many more trees in Oregon today than there were in 1953. In fact, my estimate is that we have about 1.76 billion more trees today than in 1953.
Now that I’ve done the math, I think it’s safe to say that we have upwards of 2 billion more trees in Oregon today than we did 67 years ago, even after losing nearly 350 million trees in the Labor Day fires. Some good news after such a rough fire season that had a devastating impact on our state’s forests and communities.
For the forest,
Director of Forestry
“Make it specific to our students, or we can’t use it.” That was the advice given to us several years ago at a teacher focus group. The teachers said they wanted publications that were written specifically for the age of the students they teach. They all agreed that materials written with a broader approach were of no use to them.
Their advice has echoed in the thinking and strategy of the Oregon Forest Resources Institute’s K-12 education programs ever since. We’ve been working to make sure we have one or more educational publications that are appropriate to every K-12 grade level. Student cognitive development and maturity at different ages makes it critical to write to their interest and reading abilities, as well as the grade-level standards that need to be met. That’s why a general K-12 approach does not work.
Using this approach, we have steadily produced publications geared to specific grade levels and associated standards. Some examples include Explore the Forest for third- and fourth-grade students, Into the Forest for fifth- and sixth-grade students, Life in the Forest for middle school students and Inside Oregon’s Forests, a curriculum for high school students.
One group that still needs a publication written for them is the beginning or “early” readers. These are primary school-age students who are just beginning to read. I’ll note that while our Sounds of the Forest publication is meant to engage students in that age group, it’s intended to be read to them by an older student or an adult.
Early reader publications are considered a stepping stone from picture books and “learn-to-read” books. The intent is to tell a story that engages the student with familiar vocabulary and appealing illustrations – and is also written simply enough that they’re able to read it by themselves.
We have begun to develop an early reader and the “story” in our new publication will be about the wildlife that live in each layer of the forest, such as the forest floor, the understory and the canopy. There will be abundant illustrations, and each page will include insets to provide a bit more information for adults to read to children.
The publication is in production now. If you have a beginning reader in your life, you’ll soon be able order them a new book from OFRI!
Director of K-12 Education Programs
The Oregon Forest Resources Institute recently released a newly updated edition of Oregon Forest Facts. The pocket-sized booklet packed full of the latest data and statistics on Oregon’s forests and forest-based economy is one of our most popular publications. We began producing this biennial favorite in 2009, and this is our seventh edition. We think it keeps getting better and better.
There are two easy ways for you to catch up on the latest Oregon forest statistics, including information on forest ownership, timber harvest levels, forest-based employment, wildfire trends and much more. You can review or order the new, or check out the newly updated . Both have the most up-to-date data about Oregon’s forests.
Here are some examples of the “forest facts” found in the Oregon Forest Facts 2021-22 Edition and on OregonForestFacts.org:
· Timber harvest levels in Oregon have remained relatively stable over the past 20 years. Currently, Oregon annual timber harvest averages around 3.8 billion board feet.
· About one-third of Oregon’s forests are privately managed, and these lands produce three-quarters of the state’s timber harvest.
· Oregon is the number-one state in the country for softwood lumber production, plywood production and the total number of engineered wood product manufacturing facilities.
· Oregon’s forests support more than 61,000 jobs, from scientists to nursery managers to mill workers. That’s 3% of Oregon’s total workforce. That number climbs to 10% in rural Oregon counties.
· Wages for forest-related jobs in rural Oregon counties are higher than the average county wages.
· The 2020 fire season in Oregon burned more than 1.3 million acres, including the roughly 1 million acres that burned during last year’s Labor Day fires. That’s a 234% increase above the average fire season over the last 10 years.
To learn more about Oregon’s forests,or order a of the new Oregon Forest Facts 2021-22 Edition or visit .
For the forest,
Director of Forestry
Sustainability is at the core of Oregon’s laws regarding forest practices and land use planning. The forest practices laws, which are enforced by the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF), require state and private forest landowners to protect soil, air, water and wildlife habitat for future generations. Since the Oregon Forest Practices Act became law in 1971, the Oregon Board of Forestry has regularly updated its rules to keep them current and responsive to evolving scientific knowledge and public concerns.
Occasionally, the Oregon Legislature has amended the Forest Practices Act to include specific requirements for forest operations. This was the case when the Legislature passed Senate Bill 1602 in July 2020. The new law changed certain parts of the Forest Practices Act, and two of those changes went into effect at the beginning of this year. The first change increases the size of buffers around homes, schools, water intakes and some streams that helicopters applying herbicides must avoid. The second expands a requirement that restricts logging near streams that provide habitat for certain fish species. You can read the full text of Senate Bill 1602 here.
Helicopter herbicide spray buffers
Starting Jan. 1, 2021, the Forest Practices Act mandates that helicopters spraying herbicides on forestland must leave wider buffers around school properties, dwellings and streams. A buffer is an area adjacent to a stream, school, inhabited dwelling or water intake that contains a combination of trees, shrubs, and/or other perennial plants. Trees within certain buffer zones cannot be harvested.
Under the new rules, the size of the required buffers are:
• At least 75 feet from streams with fish or domestic use
• 50 feet from other streams with surface water present
• 300 feet from a school or inhabited dwelling
• 300 feet from a qualifying water intake
Stream buffer rules expanded
A relatively new Forest Practices Act rule requiring wider buffers of trees be left unharvested around salmon, steelhead and bull trout streams now includes the Siskiyou region in southern Oregon. Previously this rule, which requires tree buffers of varying depth depending on the size of the stream inhabited by salmon, steelhead or bull trout, applied to lands west of the Cascades with the exception of the Siskiyou region.
The Board of Forestry created the salmon, steelhead and bull trout (SSBT) streams rules in 2017 to prevent an increase in stream temperature, which can negatively impact salmon, steelhead and bull trout. Not enough science was known at that time about the Siskiyou region to apply these wider buffers, also known as a Riparian Management Area (RMA).
This graphic from the OFRI publication Oregon’s Forest Protection Laws: An Illustrated Manual shows the newly revised requirement to leave a wider buffer of trees on either side of a medium-size SSBT stream in the Siskiyou region.
There are several required zones in the SSBT stream buffer, where varying degrees of timber harvest are allowed. For example, in a medium-size stream designated as an SSBT, all the trees in a “no-harvest zone,” located 0 to 20 feet from the stream’s high-water level, must be left. In the “inner zone,” located 20 to 50 feet from the high-water level, and the “outer zone,” located 50 to 80 feet from the high-water level, some trees can be harvested. Compared to a non-SSBT fish stream, the RMA is 10 feet wider, and the trees that are left unharvested need to be split between the inner and outer zone.
More information about SSBT rules can be found in Oregon’s Forest Protection Laws: An Illustrated Manual. ODF also offers informational videos about these laws. Watch the videos here.
Additional rule changes
Additional changes to the Forest Practices Act outlined in Senate Bill 1602 will become effective between July 2021 and June 2022. This includes a mandate that ODF develop an e-notification system for helicopter herbicide application to improve communication among landowners, helicopter operators, neighbors and water users. Before they spray, helicopter herbicide applicators must notify water users and neighbors who have signed up to receive notices through this system and are within one mile of the proposed work. The law provides funds for developing this new system. It will likely take about a year to complete.
Learn more about Oregon’s forest protection laws
With more than 250 enforceable rules that apply to state and private forestland, there’s a lot to take in when it comes to the Oregon Forest Practices Act. That’s why OFRI created Oregon’s Forest Protection Laws: An Illustrated Manual, currently in its third edition, as a reference for Oregon’s forest landowners to following these important state rules and best management practices aimed at protecting natural resources. You can order the manual or download it for free from the publications section of our website, OregonForests.org.
Oregon forest landowners can find additional information and resources on the state’s forest protection laws on the Partnership for Forestry Education website, KnowYourForest.org. ODF also has information on each section of the Forest Practices Act and additional videos on their website.
ODF stewardship foresters, who provide technical assistance and enforcement to ensure the state’s forest protection laws are followed, are another great resource; they’re available to contact in every corner of Oregon.
From the woods,
Senior Manager, Forestry Education