Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension agent, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties, and Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension agent, Columbia, Washington and Yamhill Counties.

MWM Class of 2019

We are excited about recently finishing a Master Woodland Manager (MWM) training and welcoming a new group of MWM volunteers in the mid and north Willamette Valley. The 22 local landowners hail from Benton, Polk, Washington and Yamhill Counties, and bring a wide range of interests, experience and skills to the program.  This advanced training included eight full days of classes and field tours, over four months, providing participants with lots of practical information and opportunities to share and learn from classmates.

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

A recent clearcut/new plantation/rebounding forest in Coast Range foothills

Forests disturbed by fire or harvest look different than they did before the disturbance.  Just how different depends on the size and intensity of the disturbance, of course.  It’s no surprise that a site changed by fire or harvest clearly loses its value to certain wildlife species who like dark, closed forests.  But, disturbance creates opportunities for many other species of plants and animals which prosper in the different, more open environment as the forest rebounds. 

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

Mature forest in western Oregon

People enjoy and cherish Oregon’s forests for a number of reasons.  High among them are the beauty and the variety of plants and animals that live there.

While most of us picture older forests when we read that, we would be wrong to think of that as the complete picture.  Nonetheless a large part of our emotional, scientific and social energy is directed towards those older forests.

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

 

We have written about forest diversity, its importance in providing habitat for different species, or a species at different seasons or at different stages of its development.  We have addressed the forest, trees and shrubs in particular, but the importance of habitat diversity applies to other parts of the forest environment too.  Like streams.

Guillermo Giannico discusses aquatic habitats along Griffith Creek, Benton Count.

We learned about the importance of having different stream habitats to support fish, insects and other aquatic life while on a recent Extension tour.    A stream can have many types of habitat.  The anatomy of a stream (the stream’s morphology) can be described in terms that are familiar to anglers: pools, riffles, glides, bars and tail outs.  Each term describes a different combination of water depth and flow that together provide a type of habitat.  You can see and often hear this:  Some parts are quiet (pool and glide), some gurgle their presence to those nearby (a riffle), while falls and a plunge pools announce themselves at a distance.  Aquatic biologists get excited about streams with a good mix of these habitats in a stream reach, just as wildlife biologists get excited by forest structure and snags.  Hmm.  Continue reading

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

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

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

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.

 

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