Extension helps Oregon’s woodland owners manage their land


About 62,000 small woodland owners hold title to more than 4 million acres, or 42 percent, of the state’s private forestland. But most family forestland owners are not professional foresters, and many need help if they are to reach their goals of timber production, recreation, habitat and aesthetics.

To address those needs, the OSU Extension Service created the Master Woodland Manager program, which educates these owners on topics such as management planning, ecology and forest inventory methods. In return for instruction from professional foresters and topic experts, the trainees agree to volunteer the equivalent number of hours to share the knowledge they have gained with other small woodland owners.

Since its inception in 1983, more than 500 volunteers have completed the program. Trained Master Woodland Managers act as arms of their local extension agents.

“They are able to go out and make first contact with small woodland owners who have reached out to the Extension office looking for help,” said Tiffany Hopkins, a coordinator in the Forestry and Natural Resources Extension Program at Oregon State University.

The MWM meets the landowner on their property with resources, insight, and as a peer who understands the issues this person is facing. They also help with local tours, trainings, educational booths, citizen science and more.

“Oftentimes they become lifelong volunteers for OSU because they find the work they are doing so valuable,” Hopkins said.

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Oregon Forest Pest Detector seeks to prevent damage to valuable trees

The dreaded emerald ash borer has wiped out millions of ash trees throughout the eastern United States and Canada since it was discovered in Michigan about 20 years ago. As the beetle has moved west, cities have spent millions of dollars removing dead trees. The emerald ash borer has become one of the most destructive invasive forest insects in U.S. history. Though it spreads slowly, the beetle and other forest pests can be transported to new far-flung places via the movement of untreated firewood or infested nursery material. This is how the borer made its way across the corn belt to Colorado. Conversations in Oregon about the emerald ash borer became more frequent among the ecologist and the restoration communities. People wanted to know when the borer would arrive in Oregon and what could be done to combat it. As a result, 10 forestry-minded organizations, led by OSU Extension Service, mobilized an action team to manage a possible infestation of the beetle. The borer has an appetite for Oregon ash, a native species found all over the Willamette Valley in low-lying areas where it serves a vital ecosystem niche, shading streams and swamps and providing cover for riparian wildlife. In addition, ash trees have been a popular choice for urban street trees for decades. OSU Extension launched the Oregon Forest Pest Detector pilot program with a one-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service . Due to the success and evolving nature of the program, funding continues through 2019. A steering committee of cooperators guided curriculum development. These partners not only ensured the technical accuracy of the teaching material but also provided stakeholder perspectives on many key aspects of the project. During 31 workshops to date, more than 500 professionals who work in forestry, arboriculture, parks and landscape maintenance and environmental restoration from 19 counties worked through a course of 12 trees with varying degrees of simulated damage. Nine field courses were held in seven counties. The field course format is unique among first detector-type educational programs. Participants have rated the hands-on field course as outstanding and a highly-effective educational professional development experience that cements the concepts learned online. The curriculum has evolved as new pest threats have emerged, or as new management, tools and knowledge have developed. For example, when the Asian gypsy moth was found in 2015, OSU Extension developed a new module that was delivered to community groups located in the zone that was to be treated by aerial insecticide. The effort built trust and understanding among the public, and gave them an opportunity to learn from and interface with people from the agencies responsible for managing Asian gypsy moth. While concerns about emerald ash borer sparked the Oregon Forest Pest initiative, similar programming teaches about the Asian longhorned beetle. This pest arrives on contain ships carrying goods from Asia –its favorite tree is maple, which is found in forests and urban tree canopies. In 2017, a new Oregon Forest Pest Detector module was launched to manage the goldspotted oak borer, a potential threat in southern Oregon.

Citizen scientists track climate change, blaze new paths of communication

Climate change brings new challenges and with those come a demand for information to help natural resource-based communities. A three-pronged approach between OSU Extension Service, researchers and citizen scientists helps narrow the communication gap. Oregon Season Tracker (OST) is a joint project of OSU Extension, citizen scientists and the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest Long Term Ecological Research Program. OST aims to broaden discussion and understanding about climate science by linking natural resource managers, educators, researchers and others to the science they use through collaborate citizen science. Citizen scientists gather data on precipitation and season plant changes (phenology) at their home, woodland, farm, ranch or school to share with research partners locally and nationally. Volunteers contribute to the scientific efforts while learning about climate change – education they can apply to management of their property. In 2018, 330 OST citizen scientists accounted for 157 unique registered rain gauge stations in 18 counties tracking precipitation. OST volunteers have contributed 50,721 observations from 2014-2018. In 2018 alone, they contributed 20,578.

Forest project focuses on planning and managing for fire at landscape scale

Federal agencies, state government, collaborative groups and businesses have been attempting to increase the pace and scale of restoration in fire-adapted forests east of the Cascades in Oregon. But achieving landscape-scale outcomes has been challenging. Forest collaboratives have typically focused on identifying agreement at smaller scales, and agency planning and management across ownerships is growing but limited. Go Big or Go Home?, a project of the Institute for Working Landscapes in the Oregon Forest Research Laboratory and the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, explored the effects of different restoration strategies on forest conditions and fire behavior, with a focus on the forested landscape of central Oregon. The interdisciplinary research team modeled several landscape scenarios that used different restoration strategies. Scenarios were developed by members of the Deschutes Collaborative Forest Restoration Project and reflect the interests and values of a diverse group of stakeholders. Each strategy employed restoration treatments – including tree harvesting and thinning, prescribed fire and managed natural fire – at different magnitudes and in different places on the landscape. Strategies were distinct in how they prioritized wildfire protection, wildlife habitat, forest products, and restoring historical forest conditions. Simulating those different scenarios using a computer model of forest growth, forest management, and wildfire built for the central Oregon region, the researchers found that doubling or tripling the current rate of restoration and fuel treatments on U.S. Forest Service land would have a small effect on the amount of high-severity fire at the landscape level over a 50-year period.  This is because the probability of a wildfire and a fuel treatment being in the same place on a landscape is low, a relatively small part of the landscape has effective fuel treatments at any point in time, and expansive areas of the landscape are not available for restoration treatment because of physical, ecological, or administrative reasons. Among the project’s other findings: By prioritizing treatment along roads instead of increasing treatment, fire size and severity would be reduced. The modeling showed that if all restoration treatments are stopped, the area burned and severity of fire across the landscape increase significantly. Restoration strategies that include fire – prescribed fire and/or managed natural ignitions – are more effective at reducing wildfire severity at stand and landscape levels than those that use mechanical means alone, such as forest thinning. There isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” solution. The effectiveness and need for restoration treatments varies with forest environment, topography, vegetation type, and spatial location. Ultimately, in fire-prone landscapes, many of the values we hold for our forest landscapes are adapted to – or are dependent – on fire. All management actions, including no action, result in tradeoffs between values that we have for forests. These tradeoffs may not only be between commodity values and ecological values but also between different ecological values. For example, dense versus open forests. Restoration has other benefits other than improving resilience to forest fire, including promoting resilience to drought, creating habitats for wildlife species, potentially enhancing recreational opportunities, and/or promoting increased water yield and quality.