At the International Mass Timber Conference last month in Portland, Jason McLennan of McLennan Design, the architect who designed the Bullitt Center in Seattle and the creator of the stringent green building certification the Living Building Challenge, gave a keynote address. In his speech, he stated that he believes we are at a tipping point where wood construction will take over the commercial building industry much the way the automobile replaced the horse and buggy in the early 20th century. But there is a catch. Jason says that for this to happen, architects need to know that forest management practices are sustainable. For general information on mass timber construction in Oregon, review recent and future blogs by Director of Forest Products Timm Locke. For a discussion of whether Oregon forests are being sustainably managed, read on.
So what is sustainable forest management, and why does it matter? The earliest definition of sustainable forest management was based on sustained yield. One widely accepted definition of sustained yield is that harvest should not exceed growth in the long term. The following figure from Oregon Forest Facts 2017-18 shows growth, harvest and mortality for the various ownership classes of Oregon forestland. When harvest plus mortality is less than total growth, we have sustained yield.
Overall, Oregon timber harvest plus mortality equals about 62 percent of wood volume growth for the 2011-2015 period, according to U.S. Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis data. All ownership classes are also individually at a place where harvest plus mortality is less than total growth. For private forests, harvest plus mortality equals 86 percent of growth. For state forests, harvest plus mortality equals 76 percent of growth. And for federal forests, harvest plus mortality equals only 38 percent of growth.
At first glance, all forest ownership classes in Oregon are sustainable in terms of timber harvest, but a sustainable forest needs to be a healthy forest. Many federal forests in Oregon are overstocked with trees. When mortality is 29 percent of growth, this is not a healthy forest. When harvest plus mortality equals only 38 percent of growth, the overstocking will get worse over time, which leads to an unhealthy forest with an increased risk of severe fire and insect attack.
A more recent definition of a sustainable forest that is used by independent, third-party forest sustainability certification programs would be “a living complex system that includes a diversity of species along with a balanced production of environmental, social/cultural and economic benefits.” Forest certification systems such as the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), American Tree Farm System (ATFS) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) are the three forest certification systems that are commonly used in Oregon. These systems document how well forests meet the systems’ sustainability criteria.
The table below shows the acreage certified in Oregon under the various systems. SFI is the largest, and many of the large private landowners have their forestlands certified, for a total of almost 4 million acres. ATFS is the system preferred by smaller private landowners, with a total of about 800,000 acres certified. FSC is used by some small woodland owners and by conservation groups that own forestland, for a total of less than 200,000 acres in Oregon. Public lands in Oregon are typically not certified.
One conclusion I reach with this data is that Oregon forests are in good shape from a sustainability standpoint. This could be one of the reasons we are a leader in the mass timber movement – and that is definitely not “horse and buggy” thinking.
For the forest,
Director of Forestry
After my sophomore year of college, and a three-month tour of Europe with friends, I left the confines of Willamette University in Salem for the expansive campus of the University of Oregon in Eugene. Within days I located a small, second-story studio in east Eugene that was a quick motorcycle ride to campus.
After a month or so, I got this crazy idea to cover two interior walls with cedar shakes. I love the smell of cedar, and I thought the wall covering would be a cheap, cool way to dress up the otherwise drab apartment. Somehow, the landlord agreed. I located a cedar-shake mill in west Eugene (long gone now, I’m sure), wrestled several bundles of cedar up the stairs, and went to work.
By the end of the weekend, I had nailed the cedar to the walls. The studio smelled and looked great. I was ready to entertain.
Shortly thereafter my girlfriend, who lived in Southern California, visited. “Your apartment is nice,” she said. “Let’s have a dinner party.” She invited one of her close female friends and her date. We fixed dinner and ate cross-legged on the floor at a table made from a couple wood planks spread across concrete blocks. Candlelight and wine added to the atmosphere – along with, of course, my cedar wood wall.
Distance eventually dampened the budding romance with the young woman from Southern California. But that other coed, the one my girlfriend invited to dinner, must have been impressed by the cedar walls – and, no doubt, my initiative. A few years later, we were married. And now here we are, 45 years after that, still passionate about each other – and still loving wood.
Which serves to brings up one question: What can wood do for you?
For the forest,
Have you seen our educational ads on television? Or perhaps online?
We began our annual educational advertising program in mid-February, and it will continue through the first week of May. The ads run in the state’s three primary television markets – Portland, Eugene and Medford – as well as online throughout the state on sites such as Hulu, the popular television streaming alternative, and Pandora, a music streaming station. We also run Internet banner ads.
Using advertising to communicate to the general public has long been a tool in OFRI’s public education toolbox. There’s simply not a more efficient, cost-effective way to reach a broad audience.
In 1991, when the Oregon Legislature created OFRI, the state’s population numbered about 2 million residents. Now it’s nearly 4 million. That’s a ton of new people who are not familiar with Oregon’s deep historical, cultural and economic connection with forests, forest management and forest products. Television and online programming is a great way to connect, especially with new residents.
Many newcomers do not know that the state has strong laws that require forest landowners to replant after harvest, conserve wildlife habitat and protect drinking water. They drive past a fresh timber harvest, often a clearcut on their way to the Oregon coast, and assume the trees are gone forever – even though the stand has likely already been replanted.
The truth is that the trees do grow back. And as our recent publication, Oregon Forest Facts 2017-18 Edition, notes, “The amount of forestland in Oregon has held mostly steady at about 30 million acres for more than 60 years.” OFRI’s public education efforts help people realize that responsible forest management is sustainable and can provide us with forest products and ecological benefits in perpetuity.
I get a kick out of “Forecast.” It features actors who pose as meteorologists forecasting rain as the narrator asks the question, “You know that Oregon weather we’re always talking about?” The ad goes on to explain that Oregon’s weather is perfect for growing trees, especially evergreens. This is no doubt why our state tree is the Douglas-fir.
Our timing couldn’t be better for that ad, with record amounts of rainfall in February. It has been a wet one, and I agree with the ad’s conclusion: “The forecast calls for trees.”
For the forest,
Oregon dominates U.S. production of softwood lumber and plywood. It is also a leader in engineered wood and home to the first mill in the United States to manufacture structurally certified cross-laminated timber (CLT). In fact, Oregonians are employed in wood products and forestry jobs in each of the state’s 36 counties.
OFRI’s new County Economic Fact Sheets document the importance of forestry in each county. A State of Oregon Economic Fact Sheet summarizes the overall impact of the forestry and wood products industry on Oregon’s economy.
Forestland area in Oregon totals nearly 30 million acres, nearly half of the entire state. In the fact sheets, ownership and timber harvest percentages are given for the various landowner groups. Although federal land accounts for 60 percent of forests statewide, it’s fascinating to see how forest landownership varies across the state. In most counties (Grant, Lane, Douglas, etc.), the largest forest landowner is the federal government. However, private (Clatsop) and state (Tillamook) ownerships are the largest in other counties. In Wasco and Jefferson counties, tribes own the most forestland. One county (Yamhill) even has small private landowners as the largest ownership group.
Timber harvest in Oregon totaled about 3.7 billion board feet in 2015. About 63 percent of this was by large private landowners. In almost every county, the large private ownership class was responsible for the most timber harvest. However, in Deschutes and Grant counties, the federal government was the largest timber harvester. In Wasco and Jefferson counties, tribes harvested the most timber. In Tillamook County, state forestland harvest levels were a very close second to large private lands.
Forest sector employment totaled more than 61,000 jobs in 2015. This represents about 3 percent of Oregon’s total jobs. How the employment varies by county is especially interesting. Lane County had the largest number of forest sector jobs (7,421), but this accounted for only about 4.4 percent of the county’s total employment. Douglas County had the second largest number and percentage of jobs (5,530 jobs equals 13.2 percent of county employment). Grant County has the highest percentage of county employment in the forest sector (20 percent), but this represents a relatively small 580 jobs.
Forestry is important to the Oregon economy. However, the role it plays is different in each of the state’s 36 counties. Check out the new fact sheets to see where your county fits in.
For the forest,
Director of Forestry