When Bill and Marion Collins moved onto 160 acres near Gold Hill in Jackson County, they had no idea what to do with their land or how to manage it.

The couple used their small farm to raise horses, rabbits and chickens for about 13 years. Their interest turned to forestry after visiting the Oregon Small Woodland booth at the county fair.

“The OSU Extension Service had a booth at the county fair, and I talked to the person about my problems,” says Bill Collins.

“We ended up working together to build seven miles of roads throughout the property.” The roads opened up new possibilities for the Collins’ land and initiated their first phase of forest management, which included selective harvesting.

“It went well, and harvesting made us a little money,” Collins said. “I got a lot of help from Oregon State, and we went from there.”

Collins was part of one of the first Master Woodland Manager classes offered in Jackson and Josephine Counties.

Stephen Fitzgerald, director of the Oregon State College of Forestry Research Forests, taught part of the course.

“It’s been wonderful to keep up with the Collins family over the years,” Fitzgerald says. “Their forest is incredibly well managed and well taken care of. It’s an example to foresters of what good stewardship looks like.”

Max Bennett, Jackson and Josephine County forestry extension agent, says the Collins’ property was one of the first private woodlands he visited when he started his position in 2000.

“They worked a lot with my predecessor,” Bennett says. “And they’ve been very generous with their property and with their time over the years. I’ve used their properties to host classes, tours and workshops on topics like basic woodland management, small-scale timber harvesting and thinning.”

Collins says it’s important to him to give back, “because the community helped me,” he says.

In 2018, Collins took his love for the community and extension to another level when he, along with his family, decided to donate his land to Oregon State University.

“We are really excited about this donation,” says Zak Hansen, director of of development for the College of Forestry. “We’ve had a couple of these kinds of forests donated in the past, and it’s a great opportunity for extension agents in those areas to use the land as a resource for their programs.”

Fitzgerald says he is excited to have another parcel under the Research Forest banner.

“With this land, we will continue our tradition of providing excellent teaching and extension outreach,” he says. “It gives me peace of mind to know that the land is close to an extension station.

There will be a strong OSU presence, and we will make sure it’s well utilized.”

Bennett agrees.

“This is an opportunity to continue doing what we’ve been doing on this property for many years,” he says. “We will continue to use it as a demonstration site and as an example of a very well-managed, multi-generational working forest.”

Bennett says many of the small woodland owners he works with in Jackson and Josephine Counties are concerned about issues of forest health and fire, and the Collins property will help him address and educate the public about those issues.

While the donation process took time, Collins still encourages others to consider donating their land.

“The process was worth it,” Collins said. “We’re very proud to be part of the newly-created ‘Collins Demonstration Forest’ here in Jackson County.”

The Collins’ will continue living on their property as long as they choose. When they leave, their house and its five acres will be held or sold at the discretion of the OSU

Foundation, and the money will be used for extension programming and scholarships, with preference given to students from Jackson and Josephine Counties. The bulk of the donated acreage will be held for at least 20 years.

“If it’s working the way it should be in 20 years, we will continue to hold on to it,” Hansen says. “This gift is a wonderful portrait of the Collins’ appreciation for the extension programs and their care for future generations.

For more information about how to donate land to the College of Forestry, contact Zak Hansen at the OSU Foundation: zak.hansen@osufoundation.org.

A version of this story appeared in the spring 2019 issue of Focus on Forestry, the alumni magazine of the Oregon State University College of Forestry. Learn more about the College Research Forests.

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