Following the 2020 Labor Day week wildfires that affected more 180,000 acres of family-owned forestland in Oregon, many of the more than 5,000 owners found it almost impossible to find seedlings or tree planters to reforest their property. Roughly 100 million trees were needed, according to the Oregon Forest Industries Council. Landowners needed help learning about reforestation and getting the resources they needed. And there was a critical need for tree seedlings to replace the trees lost to the fires, especially for private landowners who have less access to large-scale nurseries.
In response, Oregon State University Extension Service, through its Forestry and Natural Resources Program, provided crucial reforesting information for woodland owners and tens of thousands of seedlings to plant.
Extension forester Glenn Ahrens teamed with the Oregon Small Woodlands Association, Oregon Department of Forestry and the U.S. Forest Service to develop a strategy to help affected forest owners restore their land. The first priority was to assess the need for reforestation and develop a strategy to produce seedlings and plant trees. Fire-affected landowners were identified using a global information system overlay and county tax lots. Ahrens’s outreach included a survey that fed a database for tracking and aggregating their needs. Forest tree nursery capacity throughout the Pacific Northwest region was tallied and new orders for about 450,000 seedlings were made in 2020 and another 378,000 in 2021. The team worked to find the essential seedlings, some of which were donated from several sources.
As a result, about 300 landowners, who needed over 3.5 million trees, responded to Ahrens’s outreach and tapped into ongoing educational assistance to decide what actions were needed for site preparation, species selection, planting density and maintenance needs. Ahrens linked the program to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Emergency Forest Reforestation Program (EFRP) to provide help to participating landowners. Other partners provided technical assistance, along with financial help. In 2022, Extension worked with 114 landowners requesting assistance with acquiring seedlings from the Oregon Department of Forestry seedling acquisition program.
On Sept. 8, 2020, two fires broke out in Douglas County near Ideyld Park, 20 miles east of Roseburg. The Star Mountain Fire and Archie Creek Fire quickly merged, propelled by the strong winds blowing from the east. By nightfall, the wildfire had burned over 60,000 acres. In the end, the Archie Creek Fire destroyed almost 70,000 acres of family forests. It became clear that there was going to be a large and immediate need for salvage harvesting and reforestation assistance.
In response, Alicia Christiansen, Extension forester in Douglas County, built relationships with 100 landowners, who helped spread the word that help was on the way. Small family woodland owners needed to band together to secure loggers, herbicide applicators and tree-planting contractors because jobs were so plentiful for forest industry workers. Christianson called together a group of partners to help with recovery needs. In spring 2021, she was able to bring in the nonprofits Glide Revitalization and Sustainable Northwest to form the Archie Creek Fire Reforestation and Recovery Partnership. The new group hired a consulting forester, who helped landowners with all aspects of the reforestation process.
As a result, the partnership received $83,000 from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board for riparian restoration on family forest properties. The partnership also worked with the Oregon Department of Forestry to identify landowners who could use 64,000 seedlings grown by the department for Archie Creek survivors. The Extension-organized Archie Creek Fire and Reforestation Recovery Partnership coordinates transportation, cold storage and distribution logistics on behalf of the landowners who will receive them. The partnership held two reforestation town halls to share resources and regulatory issues involved. More than 50 people attended the two events.
In May 2021, Kara Baylog, Extension forestry outreach coordinator in Jackson County, was working with victims of the South Obenchain Fire when it was learned that 40,000 seedlings were about to be destroyed because there weren’t government personnel to plant them.
In response, Baylog worked with the Jackson Soil and Water Conservation District to contact landowners in the 2020 fire scar to offer free seedlings. A portion were housed in coolers at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center in Central Point for pick-up. Baylog arranged for additional seedlings to go to the Natural Resource Center-Butte Falls Charter School, where students potted plants and made them available to the community. Baylog reached dozens of landowners.
As a result, 38 landowners picked up nearly 17,000 seedlings of Douglas-fir, Ponderosa pine and sugar pine and they are now being planted on land that would otherwise be lying bare.