Take a drive through Oregon, and you’ll see trees as far as the eye can see. Nearly half of Oregon is forestland. Douglas fir dominates western Oregon. Ponderosa pine can be seen across eastern Oregon. Mixed conifers dot the southwest Oregon horizon.
While those trees grew in abundance without support centuries ago, it’s a different story today. A managed forest is a healthy forest, given the constraints of modern-day living.
Forest management may have turned politicized in recent years, but when you dig deep into its roots, you’ll discover that when all sides work together, it creates a better living arrangement for all.
We need forests for everything we do. Here in Oregon, it’s our life.
There are many benefits to living in a managed forest. Discover just how important it is for the way you function every day.
Benefit #1: Wildfire Prevention
Where were you during the “big” fire? You don’t have to think back very far to come up with some of the biggest wildfires in Oregon history.
- Long Draw Fire in southeastern Oregon, with 557,028 acres burned
- Bootleg Fire in eastern Oregon, with 413,717 acres burned
- Lionshead Fire on both sides of the Cascades, with 204,469 acres burned
A dangerous and deadly fire is one that moves out of control. That’s why the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) strives to put out 98 percent of all forest fires they respond to with damage maintained to 10 acres or less. This goal helps protect property and human lives.
Of course, the best approach is to avoid wildfires altogether. The ODF offers a variety of resources to keep fire potential to a minimum.
- Mechanized harvest: Mechanized harvesters introduce technology to the process, which adds protection through all levels of forest management. This makes the entire process more efficient, as well as safer for everyone involved.
- Tree thinning: Thinning improves the environment by maximizing growth potential. It limits vulnerability to disease and insects, creating a healthier forest for all.
- Controlled burning: Fires are a part of our world. They’ve occurred since the beginning of life on earth. Controlled burning combines ecological thinning with a way to manage fire risk potential.
- Use of well-maintained and managed roads: Dirt and gravel roads running through a forest play an important part in forest management. When done the right way, they provide safe access as well as prevent soil erosion.
- Access to direct water sources: Forest canopy, branches, and roots store and release water vapor. This regulates our environment, encouraging precipitation, evaporation, and flow. A robust infrastructure protects against erosion, which can threaten our clean water supply.
With the threat of wildfires reappearing every year, it’s up to forest management teams to continue striving for new ways to reduce threats to everyone in the community.
Benefit #2: Carbon Solutions for Climate Change
Working forests are a vital solution in the fight against climate change.
Trees use photosynthesis to pull carbon dioxide out of the air, turning it into solid carbon stored in harvested wood we use for building materials. They then release oxygen back into the air supply we breathe.
Young trees are in the largest growth spurts of their lives. This means they pull in carbon dioxide at a higher rate and release oxygen back into the environment equally as fast.
As a result, Oregon’s regenerative forest management policies are working to combat the effects of climate change. More than half of all human-caused carbon dioxide is captured by Oregon’s more than 30 million acres of forests, making it one of the highest carbon recapture strategies in the United States.
Stored carbon then remains locked up in the lumber for the life of the product. Renewable wood in place of carbon-intensive steel can and should be a thriving part of our infrastructure to remain ever-true to combating climate change.
Benefit #3: Renewable Building Materials
Think our forests are disappearing? Think again. Right now, Oregon has about 30 million acres of forest, comparable to what existed 100 years ago.
A managed forest is a sustainable forest. Oregon is the number one producer of softwood lumber and plywood and currently harvests less than it grows each year. After each harvest, workers follow by replanting for continued growth.
About 76 percent of the yearly timber harvest comes from just over 10 million acres of private land. This level consistently renews every year and is part of the bigger plan for innovation. This wood is used for paper, cardboard, and other millwork products like cabinetry. It’s also being used for crafting state-of-the-art buildings that find new ways to add strength through timber.
With more people focused on innovation, we’ll have even more cutting-edge processes in the future.
Benefit #4: Maintaining Wildlife Habitat
A well-managed forest isn’t just about timber. It’s home to thousands of indigenous wildlife too. Young forests create an open landscape for migrating songbirds and provide forage for deer and elk. Old forests with high canopies give way to opportunities for protection, building homes, and creating nests.
The streams that run through managed forests also optimize water supplies to give optimal conditions for aquatic life, such as beavers, salamanders, and native fish.
Together, they help create a landscape that offers richness and diversity for all who enter.
Benefit #5: Recreation and Community Support
Oregon is known for both its recreational opportunities and natural beauty. From hiking and biking to kayaking and fishing, a well-managed forest offers activities for everyone throughout the community. And with an abundance of forested land throughout the state, an opportunity is never more than a few miles’ drive from home.
Professionals look at forest management as a full-circle process. Each piece plays a vital role in ensuring the success of the other. And all of that together benefits the forest lands and creates an environment that will thrive for decades to come. Visit Oregon Forests Forever to learn more.