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

DSCN2628I recently did a backpacking trip with my daughter, about a 12 year long summer tradition. This year we did a section of the Pacific Crest Trail starting at the California border, travelling “north” to Howard Prairie Reservoir. We actually travelled much farther east than north, ending up only about 10 miles north of California after 55 miles on the trail.
This was really the first time I spent much time in the Siskiyous. I have always heard great things about that landscape from friends and colleagues who have worked or played down there.
The landscape, geology and soils of that region are quite diverse and often quite different from other parts of the state. We spent time hiking through very interesting and diverse mixed conifer forests and meadows with many familiar as well as unfamiliar shrubs and flowers. We really enjoyed the chance to experience the Siskiyous for ourselves. On this dry year, we saw no snow and had pretty long stretches between water. But mosquitos were scarce.
DSCN2645Another rather unusual characteristic of this section of the PCT is the relatively large amount of private lands traversed. Much of the Oregon PCT travels through National Forest lands. In Southern Oregon we were in part of the checkerboard of BLM and private lands. It turns out that I know a few of those private family landowners who have long been encouraging us hike that section. Continue reading

By Brandy Saffell, Education Program Assistant, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension

Part I: Gucci and the Joriad

OSU Master Woodland Manager Marilyn Richen and her family own forest land in Columbia County. Her story about Gucci, her yellow lab, and the Joriad Truffle Hunting Competition is a modern day retelling of The Ugly Duckling.

Gucci was born into a training program for Guide Dogs for the Blind. Sadly, she could not stay in the program because of scavenging behaviors (i.e. seeking out and nabbing food). The upside of this otherwise disappointing situation was that Marilyn and her partner, Tammy Jackson, could officially adopt Gucci. They decided, though, that they desperately needed to find some sort of activity or training to help focus Gucci’s excessive energy.

Marilyn Richen's dog, Gucci, on a forest truffle hunt (Photo: Jeannine May)
Marilyn Richen’s dog, Gucci, on a forest truffle hunt (Photo: Jeannine May)

This is where truffles enter the tale. Truffles are fungi that develop underground in symbiotic association with the roots of trees; they are also a culinary delicacy. Marilyn has had an interest in truffles for many years and has attended several truffle classes including those offered at Tree School and through the Oregon Woodland Cooperative. She was also aware of truffle hunting with dogs but did not have a dog to train until Gucci came along. Could truffle hunting be a way to channel Gucci’s energy into something productive? Continue reading

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.

Matteson looking at map
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. Continue reading

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
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. Continue reading

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
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.

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

A sculpture of DNA among the trees. Photo credit: Aras Bilgen, Flickr Creative Commons
A sculpture of DNA among the trees. Photo credit: Aras Bilgen, Flickr Creative Commons

This week, the closest contest of last November’s election – the GMO labeling initiative – was finally put to rest after a recount.  The measure ultimately failed by a tiny margin, but it did a lot to put GMO’s into the public spotlight. Of course, the ballot measure had to do with food labeling, not trees, but it got me thinking that it might be worth looking at how GMOs relate to forestry.

What is a GMO?

In case you were not following along during election season, let’s start with a definition. A GMO is an organism whose genes have been directly altered by humans, in a laboratory, through genetic engineering within individual cells. GMO methods can be used to modify an organism’s own DNA or to insert DNA from another organism. The modified cells then are regenerated into whole organisms. Reasons for doing this might be to improve crop productivity, disease resistance, the nutritional yield of food plants, or resistance to herbicides to facilitate weed control. From the technology itself to the ways that GMO might be used in society, it quickly becomes obvious why GMOs can be very controversial.

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West of Philomath.  Image: Liz Cole
West of Philomath. Image: Liz Cole

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

While most residents of the Willamette Valley and Cascades foothills experienced unseasonably cold temperature in mid November, residents and landowners in the central Coast Range endured a serious ice storm. This was not a region-wide storm, but sure packed a punch in certain areas, with some people saying the damage caused may be as bad as or worse than that caused by the infamous Columbus Day Storm. I have not heard of any additional damage from a freezing rain event on December 1.

The main area affected is centered around Blodgett and Burnt Woods, stretching north through Kings Valley into Polk County and south to the flanks of Marys Peak. The McDonald Forest was shut down for nearly a week due to falling ice, limbs and whole trees, closing roads throughout the research forest and creating hazards to workers and recreationists. Crews and equipment are working to reopen forest roads throughout the area. Continue reading

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

Please help welcome a new class of Master Woodland Managers. The Master Woodland Manager Class of 2014, which  has 17 members from communities throughout Benton, Linn and Polk Counties, graduated in November, joining several dozen volunteers from earlier trainings, ready to put their forestland management expertise to work as volunteers in their communities along with the OSU Extension Service.

 

Mid Valley MWM Class of 2014
Mid Valley MWM Class of 2014

Master Woodland Managers are qualified local family woodland owners who receive specialized training from OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension to improve their abilities as land managers and as community leaders. The purpose of the Master Woodland Manager program is to provide a core of trained volunteers that help OSU Forestry and Natural Resources Extension serve local communities and be a resource to help inform other woodland owners on ways to take care of their land.

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

Remember those Magic 8 balls where you would ask a question, shake the ball, and get an answer? I wish life were that simple.

Extension agents get a lot of questions. Some say we are notorious for always answering with “well, it depends.” As an Extension agent I’m as guilty as anyone of using “it depends”, and not because I want to dodge your question. Usually there is more than one answer; more information is needed; and ultimately, you are the one who will be able to answer your own question after more a more thorough evaluation. Here is a sampling of inquiries I’ve received by phone, email, or Ask an Expert over the past few weeks, to illustrate this. Continue reading

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

Our tour hosts (left) with local Extension forestry agent Paul Oester

Last week I traveled to sunny Eastern Oregon for the OSU Extension Forestry team’s annual planning meeting. To kick things off, our group spent an afternoon with Tom and Cindy Beechinor, who are active forest landowners, Master Woodland Managers, and dedicated Extension supporters in the Blue Mountains above the town of Milton-Freewater. We toured the family’s 640-acre property and learned much about how they care for their land and some of the challenges they face. Some observations: Continue reading