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Serving small woodland owners and managers in the Willamette Valley and northwest Oregon
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Silviculture information – from low tech to the world of apps

Mon, 02/16/2015 - 10:38am

By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties

How do you like your silviculture served? In a book, a pamphlet, a video, or an app?

A sampling of silviculture manuals dating from the 1970’s and 80’s

My office shelves are lined with decades-old research reports, mostly left behind by my predecessors; and having neither the time to sort through them nor the ability to fully shake my packrat tendencies, I hang on to them. Besides the information they contain, these volumes form a historical record of sorts, and so while they don’t come off the shelf too much these days, they are worth keeping around.

An example is Douglas-fir: Stand Management for the Future (1986). The title makes me consider whether the Future of Douglas-fir stand management has turned out the way the authors expected, when this was published nearly 30 years ago. Coincidentally, Dr. Chad Oliver, one of the co-authors of Douglas-fir: Stand Management for the Future will be at OSU next month, presenting a Starker Lecture titled A Contemporary View of Douglas-fir Silviculture (as with all the Starker Lectures, one need not attend in person; the lectures are videostreamed live and archived for later viewing). The abstract of his talk implies that forest management can, should, and has evolved, in concert with society’s changing demands on forests.

Recently, Brad touched on the importance of having management objectives drive management decisions in the woods. A key point in that article is that silvicultural approaches (planting, vegetation management, thinning, harvest) should be tailored to the landowner’s specific combination of objectives. Family forest owners’ objectives often are quite different from those of larger private or public landowners, and thus management on the ground should differ accordingly.

Successful regeneration following a group selection harvest

While we know a lot about intensive forest management as it applies to even-aged, short rotation forestry, using silviculture to create more complex and diverse forest structures is more nuanced, and often very site specific. A cookbook approach does not always work. To address this, OSU Extension recently produced a series of Alternative Forest Management case studies designed to help landowners learn from working examples. The case study approach requires an examination of landowner objectives, site factors, stand conditions, and results beyond the initial silviculture treatment. There are four case studies in the series (two of which are in westside, Douglas-fir dominated forests), with the promise of more to come.

As with forest management, our ways of obtaining information have evolved. Anymore, people use YouTube or another internet site, rather than an owner’s manual or a printed research report, for finding out how to do something. (Admittedly, that is one reason for this blog; to put information online, where people are looking.) OSU Extension is increasingly looking at new formats for delivering information, and the Alternative Forest Management series represents a foray into the world of apps and interactive media.

The case studies are available in three formats, recognizing that viewers have different preferences. Each one can be downloaded (and printed) as a traditional PDF publication. Three of them have also been made interactive, with video clips, virtual forest panoramics, and added graphics that illustrate dimensions of the case studies. The interactive versions can be downloaded as an app for an Apple or Android tablet. Or, they can be viewed in an internet browser of a “regular” computer.

Since I don’t have a tablet I used the third option. I went to the Alternative Forest Management page in the Extension catalog. Then I selected one of the case studies (for example, Mixed Conifer and Hardwood Management in Southwest Oregon, EM 9084) and on its home page, the three options (PDF, interactive, and App) all appear. Below is a screen shot from the interactive version (left), alongside the corresponding text in the PDF version (right).

Both the interactive and PDF versions contain the same text, but the interactive version also includes videos and additional graphics to be explored.

 

So back to the opening question of this post: How do you like your silviculture served? I am actually really curious about this. At the end of the day, it is effective delivery and use of information that we are after with our materials. Time and again, people tell me that seeing an example on the ground, in person, is the best learning experience for them. Are the videos and other interactive features a good substitute? How well do they add to your understanding of forest management, if at all? You can weigh in by commenting on this post, or sending me an email.

Kudos to Jeff Hino and Stephen Ward at Extension & Experiment Station Communications for their innovative and creative work on the Alternative Forest Management series, and to Extension Silviculture Specialist Steve Fitzgerald for leading the project.

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Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Winter Storm Damage

Thu, 02/12/2015 - 7:43am

By Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry and Natural Resources Extension – Benton, Linn and Polk Counties

Winter storms seem to inflict damage to trees and forests somewhere in the area most years. Winds, snow and ice can damage individual trees or entire forest stands- breaking out branches, snapping the main trunk or tipping over whole trees, leaving landowners with a mess and many unexpected decisions.

This winter has been an exception in the severity of the November 2014 ice storm that battered a swath of the interior Coast Range from the Kings Valley area south to Mary’s Peak (see previous article).   This unusual event caused irregular and spotty damage reflecting fairly small differences in aspect and elevation.  Many landowners are still surveying the damage and considering their need to salvage and wondering if they can thin the damage out while leaving a healthy stand.  Damage is severe enough in some cases to be forcing the decision to clear cut and replant young stands rather than the early thinning they were due for.

Many factors will influence the decision of how to react to the damage including the extent of the damage to individual trees (how much of the trees crown was lost), the percent of trees damaged in a stand, the species, the terrain and availability of loggers and equipment.

Storm damage creates a clear immediate loss, but also many potential future losses.  Windthrow and breakage immediately reduce the value and market options of salvaged logs, while damage to surviving trees cause future losses to defect and increased rot.  Storm debris and may lead to beetle outbreaks that threaten undamaged trees in years ahead.  Yikes.

Beetles are a concern for two reasons 1) they may accelerate sapwood decay and associated degrading of the log, and 2) they may build up in dead and damaged trees to the point where they can attack otherwise healthy trees.  In this case we are talking about the Douglas-fir bark beetle.

It is important to keep the beetle’s life cycle and behavior in mind.  Douglas-fir bark beetles fly each year from April into the early summer.  They are looking for freshly down or stressed trees to colonize by boring through the bark and laying eggs in the inner bark.  There the beetle grubs will be protected and nourished as they develop into subadults by late fall.  They overwinter in the colonized log before emerging the following spring and repeating the cycle.  A couple other important things to know are that the Douglas-fir bark beetle has just one generation per year (as opposed to more rapidly growing fivespined ips in pine (see previous article), and that it needs fairly large material – logs that are 9 or 10 inches in diameter and greater – to develop into adults.  Also, abundance matters.  The numbers I’ve heard in the past and confirmed by Dave Shaw, OSU Extension Forest Health Specialist, is that there needs to be about 10 logs, 10 or more inches in diameter to lead to serious beetle damage to standing trees, although it is likely that damage is progressive with growing amounts of larger logs.  But the take home message is that you need some large material for this to become a problem, and that branches tops are not suitable nursery material for the bark beetle.  A silver lining, but a very thin and wispy one indeed.

Fine cinnamon-colored sawdust indicates bark beetle activity

So how does this factor into the salvage decision? For situation 1, where you hope to avoid decay and degrade of salvaged logs, it is important to remove vulnerable logs as soon as possible, and ideally before the spring 2015 beetle flight.  For situation 2, where you have significant amounts of downed or broken standing trees and hope to at least avoid a beetle population building up to damage the stand further, then it would be important to get out all suitable beetle rearing material (logs 10 inches and larger) before emergence of the storm-spawned generation in the spring of 2016.

You can anticipate one or more tours to consider options presented in a number of storm scenarios to be presented by Extension, the Small Woodlands Association and others. Please watch the Woodland Compass and Needle for details, or watch the Upcoming Events page  on our website for details.

 

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Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Management by Objective

Tue, 02/10/2015 - 1:56pm

By Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry and Natural Resources Extension – Benton, Linn and Polk Counties

A local meeting of professional foresters last month focused on how forest management practices reflect the objectives of the owners. That sometimes creates challenges for the managers, since owner and manager are often not synonymous when it comes to forests and other natural resource lands. Some objectives and corresponding management practices are very well defined and developed, and others much less so.

An intensively managed young stand

For example, lands managed for stockholders and other investors are often planted as even aged stands on fairly short rotations, since it is an efficient way to manage risk and provide a return on investment while also providing some additional benefits to society.   There is good understanding and a pretty straight line between those objectives and managers activities, both of which have remained reasonably steady over time. Their management practices have been developed through applied research, so these managers are generally quite successful in meeting their objectives.

Anyone reading the news in Oregon realizes that managers of public lands (both State and Federal) often have not benefited from a clear or consistent message of owner objectives. Public lands management objectives tend to be broad if not poorly defined or even contradictory and have often shifted dramatically over the years. The owners (who are of course the public: a fickle group at best and unlikely to change) variously wants things including jobs for vibrant local economies and pristine wild habitats. Resources and funding for these agencies are often very limited. So public managers use a bunch of different management systems including long rotations and uneven age management, hoping to obtain some desired results on the cheap, but since there is little agreement on objectives, it is pretty hard to say how successful they are.

Family forest landowners often look to the larger private and public landowners for examples of management practices to apply to their lands. You can easily find folks shadowing the large private managers’ planting, spacing and weed control practices, although I commonly find people planning to extend the rotation lengths on their property. And you can find people wanting to grow mature forest structures more reminiscent of Federal lands practices.  This approach of management by mimicry can be problematic for family forest landowners. Why? Their stakeholder group (the owners and their family) is very different from large private or public stakeholders, as are the economics and cash flow patterns on small properties (erratic at best). So family landowners’ objectives are rarely the same as those of the big private or public landowners they look to for ideas.

A mature stand on State lands

Standard silvicultural approaches used by professional foresters are often not well matched to the family landowners’ situation, and should be adopted with caution and modifications. For example, many intensive management practices used on private lands are helpful to landowners struggling with invasive weeds and needing to re-establish a forest stand. But these practices often lead to conditions that are not as visually appealing to many family landowners as what they desire, since many live on the property.   Likewise, habitat-oriented harvest approaches such as patch cuts can provide income without visual heartburn, but without further actions may not deliver the desired mature forest structures that were inspired by the family camping trips in old growth on the national forest.

Both of these examples’ limitations can be addressed: by early thinning in the first case; by patch size, species selection and thinning in the second case. But both require some additional understanding of tree growth behaviors, actions and investment beyond the observations that inspired the action. The challenge is to be sure these practices can reflect the landowner’s objectives, can fit together coherently over decades and match the local biological and physical processes.

Now I realize that family forest landowners are a very diverse group of people, and one which certainly cannot be accused of having a collective and clearly defined group of management objectives. Probably each of the thousands of private landowners in Oregon (and members within the same family) have a unique take on why they own forestland, and what benefits they want from their woods. This is one reason you see such a variety of woodland practices and so much woodland diversity across private family forestlands, often in contrast to other categories of ownership. It certainly makes my job fun and interesting.

Butts clan by log deck from thinning to release oak.

If you are a family landowner you can, you must make efforts to make sure you and your family’s objectives for owning and tending your property are clear. Clear objectives help achieve clear results. And I do not mean to apply that you cannot look at and copy other landowners’ actions. But you do need to make sure they will lead towards your objectives for your property, and be willing to learn and make necessary adjustments to keep on track.

For help and information on developing clear objectives for your property, visit the Oregon Forest Planning Website and walk through the steps of Woodland Discovery.

 

Acknowledgements: Thanks to the Marys Peak Chapter of the Society of American Foresters for organizing the conference “Silviculture by Objectives: Options and Outcomes” held in Albany. Thanks also to the speakers from OSU, BLM, FS and the other speakers representing various ownership types for their presentations which helped spur the observations and reflections above. BW-R.

 

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Categories: OSU Extension Blogs