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,