What's happening in the forest sector?

Getting students outside

Much has been written about the positive benefits of learning outside the classroom. Research has linked outdoor, experiential learning to children’s physical, emotional and cognitive development. A recent study in Frontiers in Psychology adds to the evidence. The study found that students who participated in an outdoor education program as part of their science curriculum reported significantly more intrinsic motivation to learn, and felt more competent. 

Unfortunately for many students, these outdoor experiences aren’t accessible – due simply to the high cost of bus transportation. When budgets get tight in a school district, field trip funding is often the first thing to be cut.

This inability for schools to afford busing is often all that stands in the way of more Oregon students getting outside to experience Oregon’s forests. In response, the Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) has long been a leader in committing funding to help schools overcome the financial hurdle of offering field trips. In a simple process, teachers apply online through our website for K-12 educators, LearnForests.org, and are approved by email for field trip funding. The district is responsible for billing OFRI after the trip has taken place. 

I’m proud to say OFRI’s bus funding program helped make it possible for 25,000 students and their 5,000 teachers and parent chaperones to take part in forestry education programs outside the classroom, in just the past year. Multiply that number by the years OFRI has provided funding, and it’s more than half a million students who have had the opportunity to get outside to learn! 

One program that leverages OFRI resources is our partnership with Oregon State ParksTicket2Ride program. When a school requests funding for a trip to a forest in an Oregon state park, the Ticket2Ride program is often available to fund it.

We’re fortunate in Oregon to have many quality outdoor forestry programs, including OFRI’s Oregon Garden Natural Resources Education Program, Forests Today and Forever in Lane County and Port Blakely’s program in Molalla, to name a few. I’m happy OFRI is able to help students participate in these and other programs – they help build a lifelong appreciation for Oregon’s forests and natural resources.

Norie Dimeo-Ediger

Director of K-12 Education 

A forest-based economy

The Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) recently published a new report and a website that quantify how significant forests are to Oregon’s economy. A full report and a summary report can be downloaded here. The 2019 Forest Report underscores how timber harvest and wood products manufacturing are tied to a thriving forest sector – the part of the state economy derived from forests. Here are some highlights of the information included in the report. 


Oregon’s forest economy is really driven by the wood products industry. Wood products manufacturing begins with the harvest of timber as logs on forestland in Oregon. But not all forests are the same when we talk about how much timber is harvested from them. That’s often dependent on who owns the forest.


Ownership vs. harvest


While the federal government manages about 60% of the forestland in Oregon, only about 13% of Oregon’s timber harvest happens on federal land. About 78% of the total state harvest comes from private timberlands, which account for 34% of Oregon’s forestland.


Forestland ownership.


This relationship of timber harvest to ownership has not been constant over time. The graphic below, from the OFRI publication Oregon Forest Facts 2019-20, shows how timber harvest has changed over the past 37 years. 


Overall, Oregon timber harvest has declined from about 8 billion board feet in 1985 to about 3.8 billion board feet in 2017. The big driver in this decline has been reduction in federal timber harvest since the adoption of the Northwest Forest Plan in 1994. Federal timber harvest has declined from over 4 billion board feet in 1985 to about 500 million board feet in 2017.


Oregon timber harvest.


Wood products manufacturing


Timber harvested from Oregon forests is used to make a wide range of products, generating income and employment for many rural communities. Some examples include:


*Softwood and hardwood lumber and plywood

*Engineered wood products

*Composite wood products

*Posts, poles and timber


*Biomass energy



Most of the facilities that make these products are located in western Oregon, close to the state’s main timber stocks. In 2013, Oregon wood processing facilities received more than 3.7 billion board feet of timber, 94.5% of which was harvested in Oregon.


How Oregon wood is used.


The number of sawmills in Oregon decreased 53% from 1988 to 2017, and by 38% from 2003 to 2017. While the number of sawmills has declined, it may not necessarily be because of declining industry. The decrease can also be partly explained by changes in mill efficiency, timber supply and industry consolidation.


Number of wood processing facilities in Oregon.


No. 1 in the nation


In 2017, Oregon sawmills produced more than 5.4 billion board feet of lumber, continuing the state’s longtime status as the nation’s top softwood lumber producer. Annual lumber production in Oregon has increased by 33.7% from 2010 to 2017. This shows excellent and sustained recovery since the Great Recession.


Softwood lumber production.

The following table from Oregon Forest Facts 2019-20 shows how Oregon softwood lumber production compares with the other top lumber-producing states for the past six years:


Softwood lumber production in the United States.


The full Forest Report and summary contain a lot more information about Oregon’s forest economy. To find out more, visit TheForestReport.org.


For the forest,


Mike Cloughesy

Director of Forestry



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

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