Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources agent

Our group of 26 family woodland owners arrived in Sweden this week at the start of the Scandinavia Forestry Tour.

The tour is organized by the Oregon Woodlands Coop along with Washington County Woodlands Association and OSU Forestry &

Woodland owners visiting the Skansen historic museum in Stockholm Sweden
Woodland owners visiting the Skansen historic museum in Stockholm Sweden

Natural Resources Extension.

The purpose of the tour is to look at forestry practices in this part of the world, meet fellow family forest landowners and focus particularly on the strong role of landowner cooperatives in both Sweden and Norway.

Most of our group is from Oregon, but we have people from four other US states, as well as South Africa rounding out the group.

This is my first electronic post card from the tour, where I will try to share some of the things we are seeing and learning here.


Old traditional buildings at Skansen
Old traditional buildings at Skansen Museum



View of Stockholm
View of Stockholm




Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Agent, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties.

Conifer trees around the Valley continue to show signs of severe drought and heat stress this year. This should not be news to many readers:  young dead trees are now a common sight throughout the Valley.  Also, I wrote about this problem in past Tree Topics blogs (See stories from  May and September 2015 for background) but have new updates for this season.DSCN2333cr

I think you can expect to continue seeing similar damage to Douglas-fir this year and that symptoms will continue to unfold as the season progresses. Some of the trees damaged late last year did not show that damage immediately. The damage did not become evident until the trees came out of dormancy and began to grow this spring.  Also, the various insect and disease organisms that take advantage of       weak and damaged trees are likely to continue with their business this year, causing new signs of drought damage to show up during the season.  Happily, those players like Douglas-fir cankers and twig weevils do not typically blow up and kill healthy trees.  This suggests things will look much like what we saw and described last year and is likely to continue to unfold this season and maybe longer, whatever weather we get.  “It is important to understand that the effects of drought damage do not go away suddenly when the rain starts again” cautions Christine Buhl, ODF Forest Entomologist “drought can impact the tree’s whole plumbing structure, and affect the growth and vigor of the tree for years.”

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By Brandy Saffell and Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension

rhapu345If one of your land management goals is to provide wildlife habitat, you’ll want to consider keeping a mix of native shrub species on your property. Shrubs provide a host of services to wildlife, including shelter or cover, nesting space, and food from their twigs, leaves, flowers, and fruit. With thought given to species selection and location, retaining existing shrubs or planting them can benefit wildlife without compromising timber growth or forest operations. This is the first article in a series intended to help you recognize some of the “brush” species that may exist on your property, and understand how they may fit with your management goals. Each article will highlight one species that benefits wildlife in northwest Oregon forests.

Species Name: Cascara (or cascara buckthorn, chittam) – Rhamnus purshiana Continue reading

Many aesthetic and habitat objectives of family forest landowners come with older, less dense stands like this stand of about 70 years. It is important to get on this path early.
Many aesthetic and habitat objectives of family forest landowners come with older, less dense stands like this stand of about 70 years. It is important to get on this path early.

Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Agent, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties.

In previous segments I argued that many people have too many trees in their young stands   which may be costly and harmful to the long term growth of the stand. Most importantly, having too many trees at this stage can undermine common landowner objectives of growing attractive, longer rotation diverse forest habitats and can force landowners into shorter rotations than imagined.

While this suggests that people should think about planting fewer trees per acre in the future (a step deserving some careful consideration), it highlights the need for pre-commercial thinning in many existing stands to correct overstocking at an early age. This may include your stand.

But pre-commercial thinning (PCT) seems to have fallen out of common practice lately. It has come to be seen (mistakenly, I think) as an avoidable expense rather than an important investment in the stand. An investment that begins to shape how the stand will look and behave in the future and which adds resilience and options to the landowners’ woodland portfolio.

The idea of PCT is to avoid harmful overcrowding later by removing excess trees early on. PCT lets the remaining “leave trees” grow faster and larger before serious crowding sets in. This means that trees reach a usable size sooner, and hopefully allows the very important first thinning harvest (also called a commercial thinning) to be done “on time” when the stand is in its 20’s.  This first thinning harvest  is costly and the difference between it being another  big expense for the landowner rather than breaking even or even paying some small profit, often comes down to the size of the trees harvested.  PCT is meant to ensure that this very important thinning harvest operation can pay for itself. Continue reading

Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Agent, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties.


Pretty much every landowner I know has a weed issue.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome are fairly short term and narrow, such as controlling common weeds in a new tree planting. Others are much longer term and less defined, such as keeping invasive species at bay in the woodland, or perhaps encouraging  native plants in a meadow or streamside restoration.

There are multiple approaches to weed management, including preventing new weed introductions, mechanical or physical control such as mulching or mowing and the use of herbicides. Most people use a mix of two or more of these approaches, with many including herbicides as one of the methods they use.

Here are some key resources to help you manage your weed issues.


ec1563Invasive Weed Identification and Management EC 1563 

It is important to know the enemy, and this is a good place to start, beginning with the 3-page introduction. This publication goes on to describe the identifying characteristics, origin, habitat, ecology and management strategies for selected invasive weeds in the Pacific Northwest. This list is not inclusive of all invasive weeds, but focuses on the most dominant or potentially invasive species that plague us. Check PNW Weed Management Handbook for current herbicide recommendations.


The Nature Conservancy’s Weed Control Methods Handbook

A useful resource for many types of landowners, the Weed Control Methods Handbook: Tools & Techniques for Use in Natural Areas provides detailed information about weed control techniques including manual and mechanical methods, grazing, prescribed fire, biological control, and herbicides.  Check PNW Weed Management Handbook for current herbicide recommendations.

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Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Agent, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties.

In a previous article , I wrote that many folks in NW Oregon are growing too many trees in young stands given some common family forest landowners’ objectives, including doing a commercial thinning when the trees are in their mid 20s.  Since most people are hoping to do a commercial thinning on their way towards a variety of longer-term objectives and stand conditions, we need to focus on reaching that first commercial thinning in a timely manner and leaving the stand in a good condition to meet future objectives. Let’s begin by looking at what it takes to have a commercial thinning.Picture 1160

My contacts in the business around the mid-Valley tell me that while the first thinning should provide a mix of saw logs and chip logs, most of the surplus trees removed in the thinning need to produce a sawlog or two if you hope to break even or make a little money (a mix of around 2/3 saw logs and the remaining 1/3 chip logs is a rule of thumb used by some). Too many small logs and you are losing money. That sawlog will vary according to the mill it is headed to, but is generally 20 feet to 32 feet long with a 6 or 7 inch top. Smaller wood goes to chip and saw or pulp.

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Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Agent, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties.

In my travels around the mid-Willamette Valley, I am seeing a lot of young conifer stands (generally Douglas-fir up to 20 something years old) with just too many trees. Why do I say there are too many trees?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
I know many people in this part of western Oregon who are patiently waiting for their trees to grow, hoping to do a commercial thinning (meaning sell the harvested trees to make at least a small profit) when their stand is about 25 years old.


All too often it is not working out that way. Instead, as the stand approaches the target age they find that trees have already become too crowded, with too many small, slow growing trees in the stand. The trees are still too small to support a profitable thinning operation yet. To thin at that point is to do so at a cost, although it may be best for the woodland in the long-run. To delay the thinning and wait for the trees to grow enough to make the thinning operation profitable is appealing. It may avoid the short term expense but is likely to weaken the stand at a long-term cost of growth, stand stability and future options. It is a classic “pay now or pay later” situation.

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


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photo: VMRC

Last month I spent a morning at OSU attending the annual science meeting of the Vegetation Management Research Cooperative (VMRC). It was well worth the time.

The VMRC’s mission includes conducting applied reforestation research of young plantations from seedling establishment through crown closure and, to promote reforestation success. The VMRC’s research has an emphasis on practical, operational vegetation control, and their research is broadly relevant and readily applied to the needs of family forest landowners, so I do try to keep up on their work.
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By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties

“What’s with all the logging going on?” is a comment I’ve heard more than once recently. Rural residents of northwest Oregon seem to be noticing an uptick in timber harvest from their industrial neighbors over the past year or so. I wondered whether these observations were simply anecdotal, or if they signaled a rebound from the recession, or if they were evidence of a more historic rise in harvest rates. So I decided to dig into some local data on recent forest ownership and harvest trends. Continue reading

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

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At our home, my wife has resolved to work on emergency preparedness this year. Sure, we have a pantry full of food, jugs of water, flashlights and batteries. Heck, anyone living in a rural area keeps those things on hand for comfort in semi-regular storm events.

But how about the really big events or when something very different, like a wildland fire happens? Are you and your family ready? Continue reading