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

I was recently on a tour where we looked at how growing conditions, productivity and plant communities all change across the landscape according to elevation, soils, rainfall, aspect and other factors.  These are often included in the term “site productivity”.  These factors give important insights to the ability of a site to support different types of plants, and also how well they will grow there.  This capacity to produce biomass, or support tree growth is often expressed in the important forestry concept of site class as described in this article.

There is something odd about this rock….

We traveled from near the crest of the Coast Range back to the Valley floor to watch changes in site class and vegetation.  Our final stop was a rock sitting on a small hill beside a vineyard in Yamhill County, looking out across the Willamette Valley.

It is a large rock (about 90 tons), unrelated to any of the bedrock of the hill.  This rock helps tell a story of events during the last ice age that shaped the Willamette valley and its historic vegetation.  It influences the present, largely agricultural, vegetation as well. Continue reading

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

If you’ve ever been out on a field tour with a bunch of foresters, you probably heard one of them use the term “site productivity” in describing a particular forest, or comparing two different forests. But to the person without a lot of formal forestry background, site productivity may be a vague concept at best. However, it is an underlying attribute that turns out to explain a lot of what we observe in our forests: what types of trees thrive, which seem to have problems, what amount of competition our seedlings face, and more. So let’s take a closer look at site productivity. Continue reading

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

The woods are full of living things, all contributing to the forest’s diversity: Trees; check. Shrubs; check. Woodland flowers; check. Birds; check. Obvious enough, right?
But there are all sorts of less-obvious things which are seen only occasionally, such as mushrooms (fungus), many often-tiny things like insects, or secretive things such as amphibians. All add to the diversity, and many play important roles in how a forest functions
Let’s take a look at some more obscure but fascinating members of the forest community: lichens. We’ve all seen them. They are everywhere, including your woods. But what is a lichen? Continue reading

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

A bumblebee on a lavender flower. Photo credit: David Cappaert, bugwood.org.

The health of insect pollinators is an issue of increasing concern and attention.  Both managed bees (honeybees) and native bees face various threats, including diseases, chemical use, and loss of suitable habitat. While pollinators can include other insects (flies, butterflies, etc.), bees are considered some of the most important. Without healthy bee populations, many flowering crops we humans depend on would not flourish; and native ecosystems that other animals depend on would be impaired.

Because many individuals and organizations are interested in protecting and conserving bees in Oregon, the Oregon Bee Project came into being in order to be a clearinghouse of information, a facilitator of bee conservation and education initiatives. Last week the Oregon Bee Project hosted the PNW Pollinator Summit in Corvallis, a two-day conference designed to bring together researchers, Extension, non-profits, and other groups that are involved in pollinator conservation. I got to attend and was especially interested in the presentations and field trip focused on forests and forestry. Continue reading

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

In a previous post , I wrote about the value of roads for a woodland owner, as well as the responsibly to maintain roads to protect their value as well as our water resources.  Many family forest landowners have older, “legacy” roads.  These older roads were likely not built to today’s engineering standards, have lost some of their function over time, so are deserving of some attention and stewardship.

So what does that involve?

It likely begins with observation.  Make it a habit to get out and inspect your road system regularly.  Since water is a key element and force causing damage to roads, get out in the wet season.  Bring paper, make notes and keep them as a reminder of what you saw and did.

When on your walk, you should be looking for signs of drainage issues:  Water standing on the road, trapped water running down the road forming ruts, and water pooling in the uphill road ditch all indicate drainage issues that may leader to bigger more damaging (more expensive) problems. Continue reading

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

Roads are an important asset for a woodland owner.  Roads give access to the woods by foot and or vehicle, for some or all of the year.  This allows for recreation, management activities such as planting, weed control or harvest, and also fire protection.  Roads are an important piece of a property’s infrastructure along with buildings or ponds, and represent a significant financial investment.

Like other assets such as your house, car, pond or barn, roads need to be maintained to keep their practical values noted above, as well as value of investment.  But in contrast to the buildings or other infrastructure on your property,  with a road, a woodland owner takes on some legal responsibilities to maintain them.  That is because, for all their benefits to a landowner, road systems also have the potential to do significant harm to the environment by creating barriers to fish passage or allowing erosion and delivery of sediment to streams. A forest landowner is expected to keep roads in good repair to prevent such harm to the environment.  The type, timing and intensity of maintenance will depend on the type of road, location, construction and its use:  A rock road used to haul logs down a valley in the winter is very different from a dirt road along a ridge with light seasonal use. Continue reading

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

Holly foliage usually (but not always) has sharp, prickly lobes.

Rid your land of English holly

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la

Tis the season to spot holly

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la

When all the other leaves are gone

Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la

Holly’s deep green stands out strong

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la

Ok, there’s a good reason I didn’t become a songwriter. The point I want to make, though, is that this is a great time of year to scout your woodland for a common and nefarious invasive plant: English holly. It stays green all year long, so now that herbaceous plants have died back and other shrubs have lost their leaves, it’s easier to spot. Continue reading

Brad withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension agent for Benton, Linn and Polk Counties

As you know I am an outspoken advocate of thinning woodland stands, suggesting that for many (not all) family landowners “thin early, thin often” is the path to the future forest they envision.    Amy and I have posted numerous articles illustrating the many reasons for and benefits that thinning provides to family forest landowners.  This single practice applied with purpose, at the appropriate times, can shape a young forest into a uniform timber stand…. or a complex and chaotic habitat for wildlife.  The choice is really up to you.

 

OSU Extension released a new publication this summer to help landowners better understand, visualize and apply thinning decisions to their properties.  Competition and Density in Woodland Stands  EM 9206  describes in some detail the effects that different levels of competition has on a developing stand of trees, introduces Relative Density as  a way to determine the level of competition, and presents a unique new style of stand density table as a way to apply this information in the field.    The publication provides examples of how the tables can be used in determining if, when and how many trees to remove in a thinning, according to the objectives of the landowner.  It includes printable stand density tables for six different Oregon tree species.

Make this publication part of this winter’s reading list.

 

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

I’ve been taking part in an OSU Extension program called Oregon Season Tracker (OST) for about five years.  OST is a citizen science program where volunteers keep track of rainfall and plant phenology (seasonal growth patterns) and submit their records to national databases.  OST also connects natural resources managers, landowners, educators, and others in the community with researchers and their science.  At our office in St. Helens, we have an approved rain gauge which we try to check each morning, and a phenology “garden” consisting of two large Douglas-fir trees and some native shrubs.

When I first got involved in OST, my motivation was practical. I thought that having some consistent record of weather and phenology patterns would ultimately be useful in my work in Forestry & Natural Resources Extension.  I wasn’t quite sure exactly how it would be useful. But I figured that since weather affects trees in many ways, something would come of it; and even if not, I would be helping scientists with THEIR research questions. Continue reading

Wildfire has plagued the western US this year. Photo by Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service (retired) Bugwood.com

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

This year’s fires in eastern and southern Oregon, and especially California remind us that fire does not occur only in remote forest areas.  It is common in rural areas, can affect farm lands, communities along the wildland-urban fringe, and can even cross the boundary into densely developed communities.

The scale and intensity of fires across the west are increasing for many reasons including historic land management and fire exclusion policies, development patterns and recent climate patterns resulting in many consecutive years of intense droughts.  It is important for people in western Oregon to realize that we too live in a fire landscape, even though it is not as common as elsewhere in the state. Continue reading