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

It is shaping up to be another exciting year in forest health here in northwest Oregon. Fortunately, neither of the two defoliating insects currently on the scene are serious threats to forest or human health, but they are certainly causing a stir.

Right now, Columbia County is in the midst of the largest documented western tent caterpillar outbreak that Oregon has seen in two decades, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry. I first noticed a few tent caterpillar clusters on one site in the area two years ago. Last summer, our Extension office received many calls as the caterpillar population built up.  Aerial surveys done a few weeks ago show that at least 13,000 acres are affected in the county this year.

Map and aerial view showing extent of western tent caterpillar defoliation, early June. Affected areas are brown in the photo. Source: Oregon Department of Forestry
Map and aerial view showing extent of western tent caterpillar defoliation, early June. Affected areas are brown in the photo. Source: Oregon Department of Forestry

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

In the past, I’ve written about various smartphone “apps” of interest to woodland owners (if you missed them, you can read these past articles here).  Here is another, released last week just in time for the peak of our spring wildflowers.

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The Oregon Wildflowers app helps the user to identify and learn about nearly 1,000 wildflower species found in our state. There are two main ways to use the app. If you think you know the plant’s common name, you can find it in an alphabetical listing and then view photos and a description. Or, to identify an unknown plant, you can narrow it down by choosing the geographic region, habitat type, flower color, leaf traits, and other characteristics to arrive at a few options. Continue reading

Winter storm damage
Winter storm damage

Storm damage may lead to beetle problems in ponderosa pine

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

 

Not to be a fear-monger, but there is talk about last winter’s storm damage leading to some future beetle problems for ponderosa pine in the Valley.

Now, bark beetles are generally weak predators of trees.  Damage is often limited to marginal sites, with beetles usually attacking trees weakened by other stresses, such as drought or flooding.  Generally this does not pose a great  threat to the other, healthier trees in the area.

But I recently spoke to a couple landowners concerned about bark beetle attacks in their ponderosa pine.  Continue reading

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

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Wood accumulating in every un-used space may indicate a problem…

This blog often carries information about insect or disease problems emerging in local forests and woodlands.  Today I will address a sensitive but common problem in the local woodland owner community, starting with the question:  Do you or someone you know have an irrational attachment to wood?  Behaviors such as holding back low value logs to saw into boards hoarded for undefined future projects may indicate an important condition you need to be aware of, the wood sickness.

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ODF photo
ODF photo

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

It is never really too early to think about fire season.  With fire season comes rules and regulations that affect both the general public and forest landowners.  Nearly everyone is affected by some, such as rules for basic fire tools to be carried when driving on forest roads during regulated use  as reported last summer.

If you operate during fire season, then there are other specific rules regarding fire prevention and preparedness that will apply to you.  These roles address water supply and fire equipment, fire watch and preventative actions and steps that are meant to prevent wildfire and protect landowners from fire damage, injury and fire cost liability. Continue reading

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

As tree planting season winds down and the weather warms, we are already starting to see buds popping on spring’s earliest bloomers. Soon the spring explosion will be in full force. It won’t be long before the hillsides are brilliant yellow – and not with daffodils.

Photo: Eric Coombs, Oregon Dept. of Agriculture, bugwood.org
Photo: Eric Coombs, Oregon Dept. of Agriculture, bugwood.org

Colorful and abundant as it is, Scotch broom is one of the more serious forest weeds that we have to contend with. The Oregon Department of Agriculture has estimated the economic impact of Scotch broom on Oregon forestland at $47 million annually – that figure includes lost forest productivity and control costs. Continue reading

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

Dark and gloomy.
Dark and gloomy: the escaped Christmas trees at Tualatin River Farm

It’s a familiar story. A few acres of Christmas trees were planted on the farm, perhaps for tax purposes, or because they were perceived as a low-maintenance investment, or maybe because the market was strong at the time. Fast forward a couple decades…the land has changed hands, and the Christmas trees, well, they never did make it into someone’s living room. Now, the new owner has “escaped” Christmas trees to contend with.

This is the situation at Tualatin River Farm, a 60-acre property now under a conservation easement and being turned into a working educational and demonstration farm and riparian restoration site. About five acres of the site is in this old noble fir plantation, presumed to have been planted for Christmas trees, and estimated to be about 25 years old. The new property managers wish to transform this area into a mixed upland forest, more representative of what might naturally occur on the site. What to do, they asked? Can these trees be saved? Continue reading

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

Source: Vernonia School District

Typically, northwest Oregon forests are considered in terms of their high productivity, their ecological characteristics, or their contribution to the state’s economy. But how do our forests shape the rural communities they surround? And how do these communities influence the forests?

These questions have been on my mind over the past couple years, as I’ve been working with community members in Vernonia on a study of “community vitality”*. Ninety-five percent of the land surrounding Vernonia is forest, and most is privately owned. So, it would seem natural that forests and forestry are important to the local economy and culture. We wanted to dig deeper into these assumptions, so we examined existing data plus information from surveys that we conducted last summer. Continue reading

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

A free-to-grow tree coexisting with its early seral neighbors
A free-to-grow tree coexisting with its early seral neighbors

Early seral…it’s one of the biggest buzzwords in Pacific Northwest forestry these days.  But what is it? Put simply, early seral refers to the first stage in forest development following any disturbance, including wind, ice, fire or logging. An early seral, or early successional community is made up of the first colonizers of a forest opening: grasses, other herbaceous plants and broadleaf shrubs. Continue reading

rain gauge
The Extension Office’s rain gauge (on a dry day)

By Paul Wilson, Columbia County Master Woodland Manager

My cats get me up every morning by 7:30.  They get fed.   I check the rain gauge.

Then I record the amount and other observations on a website.  After more than a year, I have a habit.   It’s simple, useful, and fun.

We’re five years into reforesting a clearcut.   The early spring after our first planting was unusually dry, but the effects varied a lot even on our small forest.  Clatskanie averages almost five feet of rain a year. Even so, we lost a lot of site-adapted seedlings because they dried out – in February and March.   Soil differences played a role.  But where we were able to irrigate a bit the trees thrived.

Last fall we saw a blurb in the paper about the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow (CoCoRaHS) network.  When we checked out the CoCoRaHS website there was only one regularly reporting volunteer in Columbia County.  There are official weather stations around – the City of Clatskanie, the Kelso airport, and others, but none seemed to describe what happens right here.    Continue reading