What's happening in the forest sector?

It’s Forest Products Week

Trees are amazing. They help filter our air and water and absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, while also providing wildlife habitat and cool shade on a hot day. It’s no wonder wood and the myriad other forest products that come from trees are amazing too.

In recognition of the value of forest products derived from responsibly managed U.S. forests, Congress has designated this week, the third week of October, as the 2019 National Forest Products Week. The week has particular significance here in Oregon, which has long led the nation in the production of softwood lumber and plywood.  

There are plenty of reasons to recognize the importance of forest products. Most are items that are part of our daily lives. Lumber, paper, toothpaste, chewing gum and hairspray are just a few of the diverse array of products that use trees. 

A particularly great reason to appreciate forest products is their environmental value over alternative materials. Wood comes from a local, renewable resource – trees – and requires less energy to produce than steel, concrete or plastic. It also stores carbon, which can remain locked away for decades in commercial buildings and homes constructed with wood. That makes forests and wood products crucial to solving the climate crisis

So, let’s take a moment before the week is through to appreciate all that forest products do for us – from providing places to live, work and play to helping combat climate change by storing carbon in the long term. Pretty amazing, if you ask me. 

For the forest,

Erin Isselmann
Executive Director


Prescribed burning 101

When I first heard the term “prescribed burning,” I pictured a doctor’s prescription pad written with instructions on how, when and under what conditions to direct the intentional start of a fire.

I would guess my first impression of prescribed burning isn’t all that different than most Oregonians. Starting a small controlled fire to help prevent a larger fire doesn’t seem very intuitive. In reality, using fire to fight fire is a practice that has been in use for hundreds of years. Native Americans successfully used fire to clear away brush and debris and rejuvenate the forest.

The main goals of prescribed burning are:

·         Removing excess fire fuels such as dry brush and sticks from the landscape

·         Creating firebreaks that help prevent wildfires from growing out of control

·         Maintaining the many plant and animal species whose habitat depends on periodic fire

One type of prescribed burning used in Oregon is broadcast burning. A fire is ignited to burn along the ground in areas with a more open forest canopy. This type of prescribed fire is typical in eastern Oregon. In western Oregon, you’re more likely to encounter pile burning. Pile burning is burning slash piles of woody debris that are produced after logging. These piles are set aside after a timber harvest and are burned when wind and weather conditions permit.

It isn’t a good idea to start a prescribed forest burn whenever you want, and burns are regulated by the Oregon Department of Forestry to minimize smoke intrusion into populated areas. The conditions that need to be lined up for a prescribed burn to be as safe and controlled as possible include weather, wind and location. You’re not likely to see a prescribed burn taking place during the summer months in Oregon; this is when wildfire risk is high and a prescribed burn could easily get out of control. Likewise, if the winds are kicking up a prescribed burn doesn’t make sense, because the wind can send the fire in unintended directions.  

While they might not require a doctor’s approval, prescribed burns are a useful tool in a forest manager’s toolbox to not only reduce the risk of wildfire, but also improve overall forest health.

For the forest,

Erin Isselmann

Executive Director

Water, wildlife and eDNA

When The Wildlife Society advertised a workshop in Southern California to learn more about eDNA, I didn’t immediately jump at the chance. I’m a wildlife biologist native to Oregon, and I didn’t think traveling to SoCal in late July sounded like a very good idea. But I clicked on the link anyway. I’m so glad I did!

eDNA (environmental DNA) is a relatively new technique scientists are using to look for wildlife in ecosystems where they’re hard to locate. eDNA comes from biological material that species have shed. You can use scat to learn about an individual species, or shed material to learn which species are using a habitat. I’ve been conducting surveys for many species of wildlife, using a variety of protocols, for more than 20 years, but I’ve never used eDNA to do it. I learned that eDNA is best used when there isn’t any other way to find the species. For example, there might be such low numbers in an area that traditional surveys wouldn’t detect the species – but by looking for evidence of their DNA, you can find them.

Two people by a body of water. 

To learn how to collect eDNA, we had the amazing opportunity to head out to The Nature Conservancy’s Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve. It’s a place dedicated to preservation, located adjacent to Vandenberg Air Force Base outside Lompoc, Calif. (Yeah, I had to look it up!)

It seems pretty simple to collect eDNA; you use a mix of hoses, filters, pumps and poles – it didn’t look a lot different from my backpacking water filter. However, you must be super-careful not to contaminate the sample. When I tried it, I felt like I needed at least seven hands to do everything right. But it got easier. And when you’re done, you’re left with a tiny test-tube-looking filter that you keep on ice and send to the lab. They “run it” and tell you if evidence of the species you’re looking for was found in the sample. Easy.

But I’m a practical person, and I work with foresters and land managers. Is this useful for us? Do we want to wait for samples to be run through the lab? And what about “false positives”? In regard to the latter, I learned that there really aren’t false positives, and it’s so incredibly unlikely that something or someone is going to “dump” eDNA into your research area that no one worries about that. OK, whew! So how can I use it?

One immediately useful way eDNA is and can be used is to determine the upper extent of fish use in forest streams. This seems like a very good idea to me, as we’re still lugging in backpack-style fish “shockers” and literally shocking the fish to see if they’re present. It’s an accepted method and doesn’t hurt the fish. But with new technology, we may have other methods to learn if fish are using the stream, with less impact on them.

More research is needed to determine the efficacy of eDNA, and we need to work with regulators so everyone is comfortable with the data. But as new technology becomes available, this may be another accepted method to learn about the species we manage. If you want to learn more about wildlife species in Oregon, check out the Wildlife in Managed Forest publication series. (https://www.oregonforests.org/publications)

Fran Cafferata Coe

Cafferata Consulting

Forest sector jobs and wages

OFRI recently published a new report and a website on Oregon’s forest economy. A full report and a summary report can be downloaded from the website: TheForestReport.org. In this blog, I will summarize some of the information on forest sector jobs and wages from the report. 


Diverse jobs

Oregon’s forest sector offers a wide array of employment, including work in forest management, logging, sawmilling, cabinetmaking, engineering, hydrology, business management and academic research. The largest group of Oregon’s forest sector workers have positions related to making primary forest products. This includes pulp and paper manufacturing, sawmills and wood preservation, as well as veneer, plywood and engineered wood production. Forestry support, which includes positions in nurseries, machinery manufacturing, firefighting and logging, compromises the next largest labor component. The following table shows the breakdown of forest sector jobs by subsector in 2016.

Bar graph

Rural and urban jobs

Overall, forest sector jobs represent about 3 percent of the total jobs in Oregon. However, these jobs are relatively more important in rural areas. The following list shows the top 10 counties by percent of forestry jobs.



Total Forest Sector Jobs 2016

Percent of County Jobs in the Forest Sector

Grant County



Douglas County



Lake County



Jefferson County



Crook County



Klamath County



Union County



Coos County



Tillamook County



Curry County




Urban areas are not without forest sector jobs. In fact, five of the eight highest counties in number of forest sector jobs are Oregon’s five urban counties. The following list shows the top 10 counties by number of forestry jobs.



Total Forest Sector Jobs 2016

Percent of County Jobs in the Forest Sector

Lane County



Douglas County



Jackson County



Multnomah County



Marion County



Washington County



Linn County



Clackamas County



Klamath County



Coos County




It is interesting to note that only Douglas, Klamath and Coos Counties show up on both lists.

Higher-than-average wages


The average annual wage for forest sector jobs in 2017 was $54,200, roughly 6 percent higher than the average annual wage of $51,100 for all Oregon employment, according to the Oregon Employment Department.

This difference is much higher in rural areas. The following graphic shows the forest sector average annual wage, the overall average annual wage and the percent difference for the state as a whole and for the 14 counties with the largest difference.

bar graph

Total annual wages are increasing

The great recession of 2009-10 caused a large loss of jobs in the forest sector. This is reflected in the total annual wages for Oregon’s wood products manufacturing sector which have steadily increased since the recession low point of 2010. As of 2016, those annual wages totaled about $1.4 billion. After a strong recovery in 2012-13, employment has held steady, but wages have increased as the economy has recovered.


To find out more about Oregon’s forest sector economy, visit TheForestReport.org.

Mike Cloughesy

Director of Forestry


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