What's happening in the forest sector?

K-12 forest education update

When schools were abruptly closed last spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, K-12 educators had no time to create a standardized, comprehensive distance learning plan. Instead, they had to improvise using a variety of emergency remote-learning strategies. Districts worked to reach students at home, but many parents saw the gaps in what schools were able to provide and became more involved in their children’s learning.   

The Oregon Forest Resources Institute reached out to help these parents keep their students engaged in learning, and created a page on our LearnForests.org website called Forest Learning at Home. We built a library of grade-appropriate resources, each aligned to state education standards, to help teach students about the forests found throughout our state. The page includes a series of lessons designed for at-home learning using our educational materials. Each lesson explores a forest-related topic through a combination of reading, writing, scientific investigation and other fun, engaging activities. 

We also converted one of our annual educational events for high school students, the Oregon Envirothon competition, to an online format this past spring for the first time in its history. 

Fast-forward to the coming fall. Many districts are planning to start school online in September. Some will do this for several weeks, and others for several months. Districts plan to deliver comprehensive distance learning to students until in-person instruction can take place, using a standardized curriculum that has been developed with the goals of academic rigor and usability by all students. 

This school year may progress through a variety of formats, including online learning, a hybrid model with students in class some of the time and at home some of the time, and – hopefully – a return to in-person learning.  

Here at OFRI we’re working to develop materials that work in both learning environments (home and school) to keep students engaged in forestry education. This includes lessons that can be used by teachers in the classroom or on school grounds, or can be given to students for at-home work. The lessons will be available in both digital and print versions, for maximum flexibility with changing learning formats. Teachers can order print copies to send home with students, or send them links to download at home. All the lessons will be available on LearnForests.org. Teachers can find them on the appropriate grade-level page, and parents can find them on the Forest Learning at Home page. We’ll also publicize them through our quarterly teacher e-newsletter, Forestry for the Classroom (sign up here to receive it in your inbox) and through our partner forest education programs. As students use the lessons, we’ll find out what works well and what doesn’t, and make adjustments as necessary.

The best part is that when the pandemic is over and students are back in school full-time, the lessons will still have a purpose. They can be used to support forestry education programs either before or after a field trip.  

We wish you good health, good spirits and a good time learning about Oregon’s forests.

Norie Dimeo-Ediger
Director of K-12 Education Programs 


News article misrepresents OFRI

The Oregonian/OregonLive, Oregon Public Broadcasting and ProPublica recently joined forces on an investigative series regarding forestry in Oregon. The Oregon Forest Resources Institute was the focus of an article from this series. We take strong exception to the contention that OFRI is the lobbying and public relations arm of timber companies in Oregon.

OFRI was established by the Oregon Legislature in 1991 with a mission to advance public understanding of Oregon’s forests, forest management and encourage sound forestry through landowner education. OFRI receives no money from the state’s General Fund. Rather, the Legislature specifically dedicated by statute that OFRI be funded by a portion of the forest products harvest tax, which is a tax paid by forest landowners based on the amount of timber that is harvested.

OFRI operates on an annual budget, which is available to the public for review upon request. OFRI is committed to transparency.  This is demonstrated by our practice of posting our quarterly board meeting agendas, minutes, meeting location and access details on our website. We also prominently place our name, logo and website details on every advertisement and publication.

OFRI has eight employees located in two offices, in the Portland area and at The Oregon Garden in Silverton.  At The Oregon Garden, OFRI manages the 15-acre Rediscovery Forest and a natural resources educational program for fourth and fifth graders. Two of OFRI’s employees are professional foresters and two are natural resource educators. OFRI’s staff delivers upon its mission through three programs that educate K-12 teachers and students, landowners and the general public.

Roughly 25% of OFRI’s budget supports natural resources education in grades K-12. We focus on teacher professional development, in class programming, field trip transportation and grade level publications for teachers and students that meet or exceed state science standards.

Recently as schools around Oregon closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, OFRI revamped our K-12 education materials to make them accessible for at-home learning. We transitioned the Oregon Envirothon, (a skills based natural resources competition) into a virtual event.  

OFRI is committed to sound forestry through landowner education. We are a founding member of the Partnership for Forestry Education, which serves to enable collaboration for forest landowner education organizations across Oregon including Oregon State University Extension, the Oregon Department of Forestry, the United States Forest Service, the Oregon Small Woodlands Association, Associated Oregon Loggers and the Oregon Tree Farm Association among many others.  

Through the Partnership for Forestry Education, OFRI recently spearheaded the effort to transition OSU Extension’s Tree School into a webinar format.  Since the end of April, free weekly educational webinars have been delivered via Zoom and then archived on OFRI’s YouTube channel for future viewing.

OFRI landowner publications cover important topics including the protection of fish habitat and the maintenance and enhancement of wildlife habitat in Oregon’s working forests. Our most important landowner publication is an illustrated manual that explains to forest landowners how to implement the rules and regulations in the Oregon Forest Practices Act. 

The Institute works closely with academic experts to ensure the information it presents is factual, current and credible. We believe in the importance of scientific research, especially when it comes to informing modern forest practices. All of the scientific research OFRI is involved with, along with any science-based reports, science reviews or educational materials the Institute publishes or sponsors, undergoes a rigorous review process involving feedback from a diverse set of stakeholders and subject matter experts. 

OFRI runs an annual statewide public educational media campaign. The reason behind the strong emphasis on educational media is that history has shown that it is the best way to reach Oregon’s growing population. Our spots provide a link to our main website, so that Oregonians can learn more from our diverse library of publications, videos and websites.

It’s a privilege to tell the story of all of Oregon’s forests, but it’s also a challenge. We strive to provide objective, science-based information that helps keep Oregonians informed about the forests that cover nearly half the state, including how sustainable forest management impacts their daily lives, from the air that they breathe to the places where they like to hike, fish and camp. That’s because forests truly are one of our state’s greatest resources. 

For the forest,

Erin Isselmann
Executive Director 


Trees to Tap – Keeping Drinking Water Safe

The Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) recently released a new special report titled Keeping Drinking Water Safe. It summarizes Trees to Tap, a 30-month study led by Oregon State University’s Institute for Natural Resources (INR), which OFRI commissioned to provide the public with the latest science examining forest management’s impacts on drinking water sources in Oregon.

The study was led by Drs. Jon Souder, Kevin Bladon, Emily Jane Davis and Bogdan Strimbu of the OSU College of Forestry with able assistance from Jeff Behan of the INR. The final Trees to Tap science review report is being published by Oregon State University Extension Service, and is expected this fall. However, the OSU team has made available the “working papers,” which are essentially the final manuscripts of each chapter before they go to the OSU editor.

The Keeping Drinking Water Safe special report, Trees to Tap Science Review Working Papers, a stand-alone chapter on Findings and Recommendations and a Study Summary are all available on the Trees to Tap webpage on OFRI’s website.

The Trees to Tap study focused on four main areas of concern that were identified by a statewide steering committee as the major ways forest management could impact drinking water sources. These include:


- sediment from forestry operations

- forest management chemicals

- water quantity

- organic matter and disinfection byproducts

The Trees to Tap study identified three main forestry activities that have the potential to impact drinking water:

- timber harvest

- forest roads

- chemical application

Timber harvest

Timber harvest reduces canopy coverage and disturbs soils, which can cause erosion and trigger sediment movement until replanted tree seedlings or vegetation reach sufficient size. The sediment risk is clearly related to the type of harvest operation, and is impacted by geology, soil, topography and rainfall patterns. In the short run, timber removal can increase stream flows, which can erode stream banks, saturate soils and scour stream beds, remobilizing sediments from past logging and natural disturbances. Contemporary logging practices are designed to lessen disturbance to the forest floor, and to minimize the possibility of sediment entering streams. The great news is that they work.

Forest roads

Research consistently indicates that unpaved forest roads are a primary source of sediment entering streams and estuaries in forested watersheds. Over the years, best management practices have evolved for forest road design, placement, construction, maintenance, decommissioning and reclamation. Three examples where significant improvements have been made to reduce the amount of sediment entering streams are:

- actively routing runoff away from streams and toward buffer areas

- improving stream crossings by installing bridges or culverts, to keep road traffic from directly crossing stream channels

- upsizing culvert diameters to increase their flow capacity and reduce the likelihood of failure

Forest chemicals

The use of chemicals in the forest raises public concerns about their effect on plants and animals, adjacent properties and downstream community water supplies. Herbicides are the most common chemicals used in Oregon’s forests. Forest landowners use herbicides to aid the re-establishment of tree seedlings following timber harvest. The total number of treatments on a seedling plantation range from one to four. Herbicides are administered in a controlled application either on the ground or by air. However, chemicals can potentially get into water directly by accident, drift during application, volatilization after spraying or through storm water runoff.

Foresters must follow strict rules laid out by a variety of state and federal regulations, as well as the Oregon Forest Practices Act. All of the rules are important and must be followed responsibly for the health and safety of people, aquatic life and drinking water.

Learn more

There is a lot of information contained in the Trees to Tap study, and OFRI will be making a major effort to communicate it. A good place to start to learn more about Trees to Tap is on our webpage devoted to the study.

I will also be giving a presentation on Trees to Tap via Zoom for the Washington County Small Woodlands Association on July 22 at 7 p.m. This meeting is co-sponsored by OFRI and is free and open to the public. Join us here.

A thank you

Finally, I would like to give a special shout-out to Paul Barnum, former OFRI executive director who contracted with us to write the Keeping Drinking Water Safe special report. Well done, Chief.

For the forest,

Mike Cloughesy

Director of Forestry

Are fireworks safe this summer?

Like most Oregonians, I’ve been spending a lot more time at home this spring. One thing I’ve noticed on the weekends is the frequent use of fireworks in my neighborhood. I live in southwest Portland, and I don’t think my neighborhood is particularly unique. I’m used to seeing this around holidays like New Year’s Eve, Memorial Day, Labor Day and Fourth of July, but usually this doesn’t happen the rest of the year. I’m sure people are bored and looking for a little fun in their backyard or cul-de-sac.

The issue is that these aren’t normal times. We’re heading into fire season in Oregon, and it looks like this year will be very challenging. I’m worried that the increased use of fireworks will lead to an increase in human-caused fires this summer. Wildfires can start in a campground, on a neighborhood street and even in a backyard. One factor all these situations have in common is proximity to trees.

I know that during this global pandemic many of us don’t want to hear one more thing we can’t or shouldn’t do right now. I understand that feeling, and I miss seeing my friends, going to church, volunteering and just the general sense of freedom of movement.

One thing to keep in mind with fireworks is that even though they can be purchased legally, that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of accidents. I experienced a very close call when my kids were little, and ever since I have had a great amount of respect for the professionals who put on fireworks shows safely. I was sitting on a blanket on the Oregon coast and watching a public fireworks display. Nearby many people were setting off their own personal shows, and they definitely rivaled the public one. I didn’t realize how close we were to a personal show until a firework went off about 50 yards away from me and my family. Instead of going straight up in the air the firework shot sideways, and I heard it whiz between me and my daughter. I looked over at my husband and we quickly left the beach. Since then, I don’t go down to the beach or out on the street to enjoy the Fourth of July fireworks. I watch them from a safe distance.

This year going to a beach or park to watch a community-hosted fireworks show isn’t going to be an option, because it would be hard to maintain the social distancing that’s required to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. It’s sad that we won’t have public fireworks displays this summer, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe to get close to a private display. Instead, I’m thinking of some fun alternatives to enjoy a fireworks-free summer this year. Here are a few ideas:

- play a game of flashlight tag

- use a camp stove to make your favorite s’mores

- have a red, white and blue water-balloon battle

- enjoy red, white and blue glow sticks

- think of the stars on the U.S. flag as you stargaze on the Fourth of July

I know these probably won’t replace a good old-fashioned fireworks display, but hopefully next year we will have our fireworks again and we’ll appreciate them even more.

For the forest,

Erin Isselmann

Executive Director

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