A New OSU College of Forestry Research and Demonstration Forest in Washington County

TreeTopics - Fri, 04/03/2015 - 9:50am

By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties, and Stephen Fitzgerald, Director of the College of Forestry Research Forests & Extension Silviculture Specialist

It is with great excitement that we can announce that the Rubie P. Matteson Demonstration Forest has been established as the newest parcel of the OSU Research Forests. The 180-acre tract, located near the west shore of Hagg Lake near Gaston, will be managed as a working forest, providing income to the College of Forestry, access to the public, and a multitude of Extension, education and demonstration opportunities.

College of Forestry Research Forests Staff and Extension Faculty getting acquainted with the new Rubie Matteson Demonstration Forest

The Oregon State University College of Forestry is extremely honored and grateful to be the new owner of this forest. Marion C. Matteson, a lifelong resident of the Scoggins Valley area, bequeathed the property to the College. Mr. Matteson passed away in December 2013 at age 94. Rubie P. Matteson, for whom the Demonstration Forest is named, was Marion Matteson’s mother.

The Research & Demonstration Forests are a very important part of the College of Forestry. Together they encompass over 14,000 acres of forest land across the state, the largest being the 11,000-acre McDonald/Dunn Forests just on the north edge of Corvallis. They provide a range of teaching and research opportunities where various contemporary and new forest management methods are demonstrated. While the tracts closer to campus are used heavily by undergraduate classes and graduate and faculty researchers; smaller satellite tracts such as the Oberteuffer Forest in northeast Oregon are more commonly used for demonstration and Extension activities. All of the lands are actively managed to maintain health, productivity, and provide income to the College of Forestry. In turn, these funds support new teaching and research initiatives within the College.

The Matteson Forest has great potential for Extension Forestry & Natural Resources programs in the local area. It is easily accessible and centrally located with respect to the private woodland owner population in Washington, Yamhill and Columbia Counties. It contains a range of stand types and ages and will serve to demonstrate how small forest parcels can be actively managed to provide income while sustaining other non-timber values over time. OSU Research Forest staff will assume most of the responsibility for management, while OSU Extension will help guide outreach activities, including tours, hands-on classes, and demonstration projects. As with all of the College’s forests, the property will be open to the public for non-motorized walk-in recreation, including hikers, runners, horseback riding, and mountain bikes on designated trails and roads.

A view to the east from the main road through the property. The hills in the distance are across Hagg Lake.

There is much work to be done to make the property more usable for management, year-round access, and public enjoyment. Some of the first tasks to be completed include rocking and improving the main road system; creating a small parking area; and installing signage and gates. A comprehensive management plan and forest inventory will also be needed. We will soon be engaging woodland owners and other local stakeholders to determine how the forest can provide the greatest benefit for education, outreach and applied research. Look for regular updates on these and other activities at the Rubie Matteson Demonstration Forest in the future.

We could not be more excited about this opportunity.  We look forward to sharing the Matteson Forest with woodland owners and others in our community soon!

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Categories: TreeTopics

Wood is Good for so many Things….

TreeTopics - Wed, 03/18/2015 - 10:01am

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

At the wood products fair in Albany last month, I was thrilled by the sight of so many creative uses of local wood. Although still a niche market in Oregon, we have many beautiful local hardwoods.   Handcrafted products such as bowls, cutting boards, boxes and other household items were on sale that featured many woods including walnut, maple and also the less-familiar cascara, ash and chinquapin. There was rough wood available too, blocks and boards to be taken into workshops and saved until just the right use is found by people who have “the wood sickness”, and boards of Oregon white oak and ash that would make floors you’d almost be ashamed to walk on….

Yew wood bowl. Photo by Dick Powell

Wood and wooden things bring warmth and beauty into our homes and our lives when used and displayed as household items and architectural elements. Never out of fashion, wood is nonetheless making a bigger splash lately in its architectural applications. Long used visually in homes and public buildings as paneling, cabinets and trim, wood is becoming more visible in its functional and structural roles in stairways, posts and beams too. Much of that is our local Douglas-fir.

New engineered wood products, such as cross laminated timber are changing the way architects and builders think about wood. This is taking wooden buildings to new heights – literally – and offering viable alternatives to non-renewable materials such as steel and concrete.

Abundant display of architectural wood gives OSU’s Hallie Ford Center an inviting feel.

The creative production and use of wood is a sub-theme of the 2015 Starker Lecture series. This year’s title is “Douglas-fir: The legacy and future of the Pacific Northwest’s most iconic tree”. The remaining lecture (April 16) and Capstone Tour (May 14 ) will explore the culture and functions of Douglas-fir. This wood is featured prominently in architectural wood use because of its dual characteristics of strength and beauty. Join us in celebrating wood.   Note: You can also catch the Starker Lecture series on a Live Video Stream, or see the ones you missed on demand by following links on the Starker Lecture Series website


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Categories: TreeTopics

Use caution with spring tree release

TreeTopics - Thu, 03/12/2015 - 3:08pm

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

Dead tips (upper branch) and stunted growth (lower branch). Photo taken in January 2015, eight months after herbicide was applied.

A local landowner contacted me this winter, concerned about his ten acres of young trees and whether they had been damaged by herbicides.  In May 2014, a year after the trees were planted, grass was coming in thick, so he hired a contractor to do a release spray.  We don’t know what the exact spray mixture was, but the landowner thought it may have been a formulation of glyphosate such as Accord.  Glyphosate is known to damage Douglas-fir seedlings (and many other conifers) during the active growing season – the time from when buds begin to swell in spring until resting buds are formed and hardened off in fall.

Affected trees showed several symptoms characteristic of herbicide damage. The least affected trees simply had stunted growth. On many others, the leader and branch tips were droopy and dead. Some seedlings were completely dead.

But the contractor knew the risks, and had attempted to protect the trees.  According to the landowner, he had covered each seedling with a section of PVC pipe before spraying around it.  This is a common practice which many people assume is sufficient to protect desired plants from spray.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work.  The outside of the pipe (or bucket, or whatever barrier is used) ends up getting drenched in herbicide as the applicator sprays around it.  Then, when the pipe is lifted off, the solution drips off all over the plant it was supposed to protect.  There seemed to be a pattern where the lower branch tips on many seedlings were the most affected, so it looks like this could be what happened.

So the symptoms are consistent with damage from herbicides, but can we pinpoint them as the culprit?  Many months had passed since the spray occurred, making it impossible to detect any residual chemical.  We’d have to rule out other possibilities.

Could it be freeze damage?  Tender new growth in spring is sensitive to freezing temperatures, and the symptoms from frost damage and herbicide exposure look very similar.  But the planting site was not one that would be typically considered frost prone, such as a low-lying area.  Instead, the site was mid-slope.  Did we have any unusually cold weather last spring?  We didn’t remember any, but just to be certain we looked back at temperature records from the closest weather stations.  There were no records anywhere close to freezing in May 2014.  So, we ruled out frost damage and concluded that unintended herbicide contact was the most likely cause.

Lower branches were killed, while upper branches and leader exhibit poor growth in previous season. Note the grass regrowing around the seedling. Confirmed herbicide damage from a different site, for comparison. Photo: Dave Shaw



This unfortunate situation leaves the landowner with several challenges. First, it’s not clear whether the residual stocking is adequate to meet the landowner’s goals, or to meet Forest Practice standards for that matter. The trees that were not killed should recover, but they lost a crucial year of growth in their race against competing vegetation. And, as the photo shows, the grass is growing back around the seedlings. The landowner may need to consider a repeat herbicide application, this time selecting a chemical that is safe around growing conifers, or that effectively controls weeds in early spring (before bud break).

So what are the lessons learned here?

  • Keep records of all herbicide applications – the chemical(s) and surfactants used, spray rate, and date. Ask contractors to provide that information to you.
  • Read the herbicide label. Pay close attention to what it says about safe application timing.
  • Be cognizant of the phenology (seasonal growth stage) of both desired plants and target plants. This year, many broadleaf species – including common weeds – are leafing out early due to unseasonably warm weather. Douglas-fir budburst responds to various climate cues, and our early spring might not affect its timing in a similar way. To be safe, check your trees, not the calendar, for spring flush.
  • Don’t assume that a physical barrier protects seedlings from herbicide exposure.


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Silviculture information – from low tech to the world of apps

TreeTopics - Mon, 02/16/2015 - 11:38am

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 History and Possible Futures of Douglas-fir Silviculture: Reactive vs. Proactive (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: TreeTopics

Winter Storm Damage

TreeTopics - Thu, 02/12/2015 - 8:43am

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: TreeTopics

Management by Objective

TreeTopics - Tue, 02/10/2015 - 2:56pm

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: TreeTopics

Is Swiss Needle Cast still a Problem?

TreeTopics - Wed, 01/07/2015 - 1:35pm
A Swiss Needle Cast affected tree

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


The short answer, unfortunately is ”yes”, but the news was clearly mixed when researches and land managers gathered for the Annual Meeting of the Swiss Needle Cast Coop (SNCC) in Corvallis on December 4. They met to review progress in learning more about this native disease, how it affects trees and forests, and how to manage forests in the affected areas.

The meeting included updates on this year’s aerial survey, progress in establishing the next generation of research plots across western Oregon, the effects of thinning and other management activities on foliage retention and growth, and improvements in remote sensing and growth modeling abilities. Some of the things I picked up this year included:

  • The disease is intensifying but not expanding greatly. That is to say, we are certainly seeing more severe disease symptoms in places, but mostly within areas where it has been a problem before, and the footprint of highly affected area does not seem to be growing very dramatically. The disease was detected on over 586,000 acres in 2014, which is up significantly from 18 years earlier (131,000 acres in 1996). The main area of impact remains near the coast, generally within 25 miles, except for an active area around Mary’s Peak.
  • Thinning pre-commercially does seem to help improve needle retention, but only in the healthiest trees and in the lower part of the live crown.
  • Unlike other stressors, such as drought, it seems that SNC-weakened trees are not highly attractive to Douglas-fir beetles.


2014 Aerial Survey Map
  • A new tree ring analysis suggests that Swiss Needle Cast (SNC) seems to be periodic, and that outbreaks have occurred at roughly 30 year intervals since the mid 12th century, the time of the Renaissance.
  • The same study detected indications of SNC outbreaks in each of the plots studied from the Coast to the high Cascades. Although a small study, this suggests that SNC is everywhere that Douglas-fir is.
  • An ODF economic analysis of the impacts of SNC in Oregon looked at 10 – 70 year old forests of the Oregon Coast Range. Based on an average 20% growth reduction of Douglas-fir where the disease has be detected in the aerial surveys, they concluded that volume loses to SNC in this age class exceeds 190 million board-feet per year, with an estimated log value of $78 million/year. The economic impact to Oregon’s economy is equivalent to 2,100 jobs, representing $117 million in labor income and $10 million in income tax, and including a loss of $700,000 in harvest tax. Ouch.

So this disease continues to cause damage (albeit sub-lethal damage) across a large area of coastal Oregon where it is most severe and noticeable, but it can be found in the valley and throughout the Douglas-fir growing region. This is really not new, but researchers are concerned about new reports of disease development in the foothills of the Cascades. We saw some heavily affected stands there, outside Sweet Home earlier this year. The Cooperative Aerial Survey conducted by USFS and ODF will include the western Cascades between the Columbia River and Eugene in 2015. Find out more about the work of the Swiss Needle Cast Coop including aerial surveys and past reports at the SNCC website, and watch for a tour this spring, when symptoms are at their ugly peak, to be organized by the Linn Chapter of SWA and OSU Extension.

Check out the November issue of Science Findings from the PNW Research Station for more information on Swiss needle cast: Fingerprints of a forest fungus: Swiss needle cast, carbon isotopes, carbohydrates, and growth in Douglas-fir


SNC impacts on growth

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