Family forests
04.03.2019

Whether or not we like them all, every one of us comes from a family. Families have unique traditions they pass down from generation to generation. I grew up in Rhode Island in a large Irish Catholic family. We celebrate St. Patrick’s Day like it’s a national holiday, and even eat something called boiled dinner, which is the Irish-American version of corned beef and cabbage.

At this point, you may be asking yourself: What has this got to do with Oregon forests? Well, Oregon forests are unique, and they also have a family component. I don’t know how big your backyard is, but in Oregon there are a lot of people with very big backyards – often filled with trees. In fact, there are about 65,000 Oregonians who own what’s known as a small woodland. These are usually 10 or more acres in size. The part where the family comes in is that, historically, most of Oregon’s small woodlands are family properties. They’ve been passed down from one generation to the next, and as families have grown, some have been divided among family members and others have been kept intact to be used as a family gathering place.

Another unique aspect to these properties is that they are woodlands, which means they’re considered forestland and classified as timberland. Timberland is forestland that can productively grow commercial-grade timber.

Families that own a small woodland are in it for the long haul, and generally speaking are not trained foresters. Mostly they’re Oregonians who are stewards of the land, wanting to do the right thing and follow all of Oregon’s forest-practices regulations. 

Day to day, these landowners are busy living their lives, raising their families, paying their bills, etc.   Then, about every 50 years or so, they decide whether or not to harvest and sell the trees on their property. Usually the decision is based on a big family event, such as paying for college, a wedding or a home remodel. This is where the Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) and our Landowner Education program come into the picture.  

We partner with organizations like Oregon State University Extension Service and the Oregon Small Woodlands Association to deliver landowner education. This includes offering workshops to help small woodland owners understand Oregon’s forest protection laws. We use a special publication we produced for this programming, called Oregon Forest Protection Laws – An Illustrated Manual. We also provide publications designed for non-professional foresters, on specific topics such as wildlife protection and fire risk reduction. To reach small woodland owners in as many ways as possible, we maintain a website, KnowYourForest.org, that offers basic information and resources on many important topics related to managing forestland in Oregon.

OFRI has two professional foresters on staff who lead all these efforts, Mike Cloughesy and Julie Woodward. Mike and Julie work closely with landowners to help them understand how to properly take care of their land, so it will be here for the next generation to benefit from and enjoy.

Erin Isselmann

Executive Director

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