Research indicates that nature-based experiences are crucial for our health and well-being – especially for children.

The national ‘Get Outdoors Day’ program creates opportunities that encourage healthy and active outdoor fun for families and children – particularly on public lands and natural areas. The event emphasizes engaging underserved communities while providing a welcoming environment for first-time visitors.

For the past eight years, the OSU College of Forestry, OSU Research Forests, OSU Extension Service, and Community Health Centers of Linn and Benton County have partnered to host Get Outdoors Day at Peavy Arboretum.

“We focus on hosting a bilingual (Spanish and English) event and conducting outreach to Title 1 schools while providing free transportation and bussing to the forest. We also coordinate with dozens of local agencies and organizations to provide opportunities to learn about natural resources, forestry, cultural history, and healthy lifestyles,” says Jenna Baker, recreation and engagement program manager at the OSU Research Forests.

But, how do you hold a Get Outdoors Day during a global pandemic?

“It was tough to think of creative alternatives that encouraged outdoor exploration and remained inclusive and accessible,” says Baker. “For example, we couldn’t assume every child had access to a backyard, outdoor equipment, or vehicle. Plus – it is a bit of an oxymoron to say it’s a ‘virtual’ Get Outdoors Day.”

The planning team for Get Outdoors Day included a diverse group of outreach faculty, foresters, educators, bilingual school health navigators, extension specialists, and parents, which allowed the team to examine the virtual format from different perspectives.

For example, initial plans involved online activities that kids could complete throughout the summer. One parent noted the extreme screen-fatigue that kids and parents were feeling from the pandemic. Another educator highlighted that many families might not have consistent access to a computer or internet. The team provided a free bilingual printed Get Outdoors Day magazine as an additional option to address these constraints.

Throughout the entire process the planning team constantly addressed core questions: Will this be equitable? Would this approach exclude anyone?

These are complex and salient questions that outdoor professionals must think critically about to address barriers that prevent people from participating in outdoor recreation.

Baker says we need to broaden the narrative about what it means to connect with and enjoy the outdoors – and who is enjoying it.

“If we frame outdoor recreation as a primarily white endeavor, or if the focus is on activities that require lots of expensive gear, hard-to-access areas, or specific knowledge sets, then we continue to reinforce these patterns and exclude others,” says Baker.

Time, money and access are three barriers that can prevent people from accessing outdoor areas.

“The reality is, it takes time to go on a long hike. You need money to purchase or rent a kayak, life jacket and paddles. You often need a vehicle to access your nearest national park or forest. Unfortunately, many people work on weekends, have little to no time off, or don’t have reliable access to a vehicle. We can’t expect to make our outdoor areas and national parks more inclusive, for instance, without thinking critically about what it takes to get there,” says Baker.

Parks and outdoor areas also need to adapt their messaging by thinking critically about how information is shared, and the assumptions held about a person’s outdoor interests, comfort levels, and feelings of safety.

“We can’t assume that people want to experience solitude while visiting the outdoors,” says Baker. “For some, this experience may trigger real fears about encountering violence and prejudice.”

At the crux of addressing this shift in narrative is having more diverse and representative leadership at all levels of decision making, marketing, and outreach to better represent the demographics of our nation for Get Outdoors Day and outdoor recreation as a whole. Leadership must balance diverse perspectives, identities, and values, including Indigenous communities and other groups historically underrepresented in the outdoors.

Over the years, Get Outdoors Day has made an impact; most kids and families that attend the event are visiting the Research Forests for the first time.

“We hope that this event can motivate outdoor engagement and plant initial seeds of inspiration for future forest stewards, scientists, and professionals,” says Baker. “I also hope that people join us for Get Outdoors Day next year – or let us know how we can continue to work towards our goal of creating a more inclusive and welcoming outdoor experience for all.”

For additional information visit cf.forestry.oregonstate.edu/go-day. A version of this story appeared in the Fall 2021 issue of Focus on Forestry, the alumni magazine of the Oregon State University College of Forestry.

The Oregon State University College of Forestry welcomes Professor Holly Ober as the Associate Dean for Science Outreach and Program Leader for Forestry and Natural Resources Extension

“I am thrilled to join the OSU College of Forestry,” says Dr. Ober. “The breadth and depth of the expertise of individuals involved in Extension and Outreach within the college are impressive. The Forestry and Natural Resources Extension program at OSU is one of the largest and most comprehensive natural resource Extension programs in the country, and widely recognized as one of the best.”

Previously Dr. Holly Ober served as Associate Program Leader for Natural Resources for the University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service. In the role, she provided leadership for approximately 150 county and state faculty. Dr. Ober was also a Professor and Extension Specialist, conducting applied, interdisciplinary research to increase understanding of the mechanisms that influence wildlife habitat selection and productivity in forests to inform conservation and management strategies. She raised over $2.2 million in external funding and nearly $300,000 in internal funding, advised 11 graduate students, three undergraduate interns, and two post-doctoral researchers during her career. She has authored 42 peer-reviewed articles in wildlife, forestry, and inter-disciplinary journals.

As an Extension Specialist, she taught agency employees and private landowners to sustainably manage natural areas and improve stewardship of forests to provide habitat for wildlife. She led multi-day Extension workshops for natural resource managers, gave presentations to Extension audiences, produced peer-reviewed Extension documents to serve as a resource, and wrote several journal articles on the scholarship and importance of Extension.

Dr. Ober received her PhD from Oregon State University in Forest Science and Wildlife Biology in 2008. 

“Dr. Ober brings a great deal of experience, knowledge, and energy to this position,” says Tom DeLuca, Cheryl Ramberg-Ford and Allyn C. Ford Dean of the College of Forestry. “We were fortunate to attract her back to OSU from her position at Florida.”

Ober believes the need to convey information about the management of Oregon’s forests and the production of forest products has never been greater as we collectively grapple with complex issues.

“Just as teaching is essential to training the next generation of scientists, and research is essential to generating better understanding, Extension and outreach are essential to ensuring that scientific knowledge gets into the hands of people who need it to make sound decisions outside the formal university setting,” Ober says.

Back in late April, OSU Research Forests had the exciting opportunity to plant native pacific aspens along the 600 road in the Oak Creek area of the McDonald Forest, as well as at the Marchel Tract near the Willamette River. Several were also planted near the new Peavy building on campus at OSU. College of Forestry Professor Steve Strauss and others used DNA sequencing to show that the aspens in the Willamette Valley, and nearby Washington and British Columbia, belong to a distinctive variety that grows in wet areas in the lowland Pacific. These types of areas were likely to be more abundant prior to the draining and leveling of the Willamette Valley for agriculture.

The DNA studies showed that these trees are clearly distinct from aspen in the Cascades, the Rocky Mountains, and the eastern USA and Canada. Strauss and others published these findings last year in the journal Ecology and Evolution. The authors inferred that the likely origin of this aspen was in an ice-free Pacific refugium during the last ice age.

Through a collaboration with the wholesale tree nursery, J Frank Schmidt & Son, the Strauss team’s aspen collections are currently being tested for release as a native variety. The trees planted on campus and on the Research Forests were mostly the result of samples taken by CoF staff member Anna Magnuson (supported by grant funds from Schmidt). The plantings include native trees from as close by as Peoria and the Calapooia River near Corvallis, Killen Marsh near Banks, and the Nature Conservancy’s Camassia Natural Area close to East Linn. Several other Willamette Valley origins are also represented in the plantings.

These aspens will be studied as they grow to see if they are better adapted to local conditions than the mountain aspens that are now commonly planted. J Frank Schmidt & Son plans to have them ready for distribution in a few years. Hopefully this beautiful looking, beautiful sounding, and formerly common tree in the Valley becomes more widely enjoyed by everyone. Educational materials will be installed near some of the trees once they become established.

The OSU College of Forestry’s Research Forests include network of ten forest tracts spread throughout Oregon, totaling 15,000 acres. Subscribe to their newsletter to receive monthly newsletters as well as trail updates.

When the Oregon State University (OSU) College of Forestry had to fill the knowledge gap created by the departure of emeritus professor Jeff Morrell, it turned to Gerald Presley, who joined the college in 2019 after earning his PhD at the University of Minnesota and completing postdoctoral research at Oak Ridge Laboratory.

“The opportunity at Oak Ridge gave me a chance to work in a new field, bacterial genetics, where I worked on a project aimed at making value-added chemicals from biomass. At Minnesota, my work focused on the biology of wood decay,” says Presley, assistant professor of forest-based bioproducts. “OSU has been a leader in wood durability research for years and I plan to continue that program now that I am in a position here.”

Since joining the college, Presley finds himself performing a wide variety of research, the bulk of which is related to his role as leader of the Utility Pole Research Cooperative and the Environmental Performance of Treated Wood Research Cooperative.

“The Utility Pole Research Cooperative focuses on research to improve the durability of utility poles,” Presley says. “Many of the studies we perform are designed to compare different treatments that can be done to utility poles to extend their service life and improve their resilience.

This research, Presley says, can benefit the treated wood industry and utilities by improving the durability of commodities produced and used by these industries. It helps make wood products more competitive with carbon-intensive alternatives such as steel, which is important in the overall effort to reduce carbon emissions across all sectors.

The Environmental Performance of Treated Wood Cooperative studies how preservative chemicals leach out of treated wood. The cooperative also looks at ways to prevent leaching into the environment and provides outreach to the broader public. Data collected from this research is used to model the impacts of treated wood on the environment which helps builders determine whether treated wood structures are appropriate for a specific environment.

“The cooperative has performed extensive validation efforts for treated wood best management practices, which are voluntary procedures for manufacturers that can reduce leaching from treated wood products,” Presley says. “We also are embarking on a significant research effort to measure the impact of treated wood used in agriculture and are developing an accelerated leaching and migration test to look at preservative movement from different types of treated wood with different types of water exposure.”

The research the cooperative pursues improves our understanding of these wood products’ environmental dynamics. The work provides insight into the pathways treated wood interacts with in the environment. The efforts can inform mitigation efforts that will improve products and reduce impacts to the environment.

The Creosote Council and several wood-preserving industry partners gave OSU a gift to study the environmental pathways of creosote-treated wood in recognition of Presley’s research capabilities and publication efforts.

The widely used wood preservative is used to preserve critical wood infrastructures such as utility poles, railroad ties, and marine pilings. It has a long history of practical use and is the oldest wood preservative originating from the industrial age.

This gift will fund a master’s student, Skyler Foster, for two years and support a mixture of lab-based and field research studying the migration of polyaromatic hydrocarbons from creosote-treated wood with an intent to quantify the environmental impacts.

“This generous gift will allow us to perform research that will improve our understanding of how creosote treated wood impacts the environment,” Presley says. “We all rely on creosote-treated wood in some capacity, whether it be for the delivery of goods by rail or pilings that support a pier. Knowing the impacts of these commodities on the environment is essential for ensuring their continued use.”

Moving forward, there are many questions on the horizon the research cooperative will address.

“Opportunities will develop in the utility pole market due to the looming loss of pentachlorophenol (penta) as a utility pole treatment and our cooperatives will play an important role in assessing the viability of alternatives for western utilities,” Presley says. “These changes will come with questions about the environmental impacts of penta substitution, something we will continue to investigate as these changes unfold.”

A version of this story appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of Focus on Forestry, the alumni magazine of the Oregon State University College of Forestry.

Often referred to as Oregon State University’s “front door” for outreach to the wood products industry, it’s only fitting that some of the work the Oregon Wood Innovation Center (OWIC) performs involves door testing.

OWIC, created in partnership with the OSU College of Forestry and Forestry and Natural Resources Extension and housed within OSU’s Department of Wood Science and Engineering (WSE), works to improve the competitiveness of Oregon’s wood products industry. OWIC accomplishes this goal by fostering innovation in products, processes and business systems through testing and technical assistance. It also serves as a “clearinghouse” to connect manufacturers to the research community and other organizations that assist businesses and facilitate networking within the forest industry.

“OWIC’s role is to connect people, ideas, and research,” says Scott Leavengood, professor and director of OWIC.

Some of the technical assistance and applied research OWIC performs includes helping firms with new product development and improving market opportunities for lesser-known wood species. The Center also hosts workshops, creates publications and provides experiential learning opportunities for students.

“For many industry professionals, their first contact with us, and in fact, with OSU, is through participation in a workshop,” Leavengood says. “And particularly for workshops on campus where participants see our facilities first-hand, many participants then follow up to request assistance with innovation in the form of product improvement or product development – things like ways to make their products stronger, more durable, more competitive, or their manufacturing processes more efficient.”

Much of the products tested within OWIC are non-structural wood products like doors, windows, cabinets and flooring. However, with the addition of the TallWood Design Institute (TDI), the combined efforts of OWIC and TDI also support computer-aided manufacturing, timber engineering and structural design.

Testing takes place in various locations on campus and one of the more popular resources in recent years has been the environmental conditioning chambers that test wood products’ performance in varying moisture levels, temperature extremes and levels of UV exposure. OWIC also runs tests to support product durability, strength and protection, including assessing insect and decay resistance.

Leavengood explains that when people visit OWIC, they often are impressed to see the wide range of product development and testing capabilities available.

“For example, we can explore the microscopic properties of wood, measure density profiles with x-ray, create products like composite panels and materials impregnated with chemicals,” Leavengood says. “We can densify products, and with TDI, we produce mass timber panels as well. And we can machine all these products and put them through a wide array of tests including measurement of strength properties, resistance to UV, insulation value, performance in temperature and humidity extremes, and durability.”

Some of the tests Leavengood has been involved with recently have focused on moisture performance, including coatings on structural panels, performance of a new line of exterior doors, testing additives for improving moisture resistance of particleboard, and testing moisture performance of new mass timber products. But he also works on collaborative, multi-stakeholder projects.

OWIC has a long history of working to foster an industry utilizing western juniper. In 2020, Business Oregon, via their High Impact Opportunities program, funded a collaborative effort between Sustainable Northwest and OWIC to explore opportunities for value-added products from juniper sawmill residues and non-merchantable timber. Tomas Pipiska, a post-doctoral scholar with WSE, conducted the work, sourcing materials from several juniper entrepreneurs, a start-up firm producing environmentally friendly wood adhesives and the State’s existing composite panel producers.

That kind of multi-institution collaboration is common for Leavengood and his work at OWIC.

A member of the OSU community since 1994 and director of OWIC since 2006, Leavengood is a mainstay in the wood products testing industry and has spent over 15 years with OWIC building trust and credibility. If a client wants a service that OWIC cannot provide in an efficient and cost-effective way, he will recommend another institution or place for them.

“A relationship that revolves around testing is based on trust. So, I am transparent and upfront with everyone about everything,” Leavengood says.

This means if the power goes out while testing wood products or if water leaks occur, Leavengood accounts for that. It also means if he knows a certain test or idea is already filled with pitfalls before the work even begins, he will let clients know.

“We have to maintain confidentiality at OWIC because the products we are working on are sometimes competitor products,” Leavengood explains. “But because we have built that trust, companies know that their products and technologies are safe with us.”

This story was part of the College of Forestry’s 2019-2020 Biennial Report.

Whether you grow tomatoes or trees, the biological principles and techniques are similar. The only difference, according to Carlos Gonzalez-Benecke, an assistant professor of silviculture and director of the Vegetation Management Research Cooperative (VMRC) at Oregon State University, is the scope of the work.

Working together with associate director Maxwell Wightman, Gonzalez-Benecke manages a VMRC research program that focuses on forest regeneration, including seedling success, plant competition, vegetation control and early growth of forest stands. The goal of the VRMC is to design management systems that integrate the best available science with the practical needs of cooperative members to successfully establish Pacific Northwest forests.

Gonzalez-Benecke carries out much of his work in his greenhouse on campus. With the help of former interim dean Anthony S. Davis, Gonzalez-Benecke transformed the space when he arrived as director of the VRMC in 2015. The greenhouse is designed to ensure seedlings receive what they need to thrive, like water, nutrients and radiation, but is flexible enough to create different growth scenarios for seedlings.

“We wanted to be able to manipulate factors like water, nutrients and radiation in the greenhouse to see how they affected the seedlings,” he explains. “This is why we installed an extensive irrigation system, as well as fixed the roof which allows us to better adjust environmental conditions inside the greenhouse. We can provide more light, or provide a total blackout in certain sections of the greenhouse.”

Gonzalez-Benecke and his team nurture seedlings under various conditions to measure growth, resilience and the effects of different environmental scenarios. Then they turn their focus to tracking performance in the field, studying early seedling establishment and tracking the variables involved in each seedling’s growth pattern. Some of the seedlings Gonzalez-Benecke tracks are ones he has grown himself. Others, he receives from nurseries. The data is used to inform future forest regeneration research.

Another part of his work is in the lab, characterizing genotypes and examining characteristics like their resistance to cold and drought, which, according to Gonzalez-Benecke, is critical information to inform our present and future.

Gonzalez-Benecke also studies how to optimize herbicides for vegetation control, applying mathematical models and algorithms to understand treatment effects. Using a wide range of soil and climatic conditions, he studies how vegetation management treatments impact several aspects of forestry in the Pacific Northwest.

“Vegetation control is very site-specific, and each site has a specific climate, type of soil and varying amount and composition of competing vegetation. The question you ask yourself is: ‘how can I generalize and extrapolate data from each of these sites to inform results and understanding of other sites?’” Gonzalez-Benecke asks.

Studying the specific variables present at each vegetation site produces site-specific results and guidance. Then from those particular results, Gonzalez-Benecke creates a general model.

“It’s almost like a formula or template is produced so that, in the future, for each site, you can answer the specific question: What should I do and what will be the response?” Gonzalez-Benecke explains.

At times, Gonzalez-Benecke feels like a symphony conductor or a musician in the studio because by changing site quality, he can change the “tune” or “song” of the site.

“I can adjust the levers like playing a game or modulating a tune of music,” Gonzalez-Benecke explains. “I can ask how would doing one thing affect the song that’s played or the music that’s heard? What if, for example, we do nothing and just plant? What if we add water? What if we add fertilizer? And what does this all mean in a changing climate?”

The application of techniques and technology that VRMC employs is valuable for growing trees and managing vegetation. It is also vital for other ecological implications, like assisted migration – plants moving geographic location as the climate shifts – as it is deeply centered around the vulnerabilities and probabilities of risk and the biological reaction of responses.

When Gonzalez-Benecke arrived at OSU in 2015, there were twelve members in the cooperative. The VRMC now has seventeen members with additional companies, both large and small, expressing interest in joining.

“The growth in membership over the last few years expanded the area of influence of our research to more than 10 million acres of forests in the western United States,” Gonzalez-Benecke says.

This story was part of the College of Forestry’s 2019-2020 Biennial Report.

When the devastating westside wildfires swept across Oregon over Labor Day, the Oregon State University Forestry and Natural Resources Extension Fire Program was ready to respond. The program, created earlier in the year, helps identify landscapes in highest need of strategic focus of resources to reduce wildfire risks and prepare and create fire-adapted infrastructure, communities and landscapes.

One of the program’s key objectives is education and outreach, and extension staff and regional fire specialists immediately provided resources and support to those affected by the Oregon fires.

“The extension fire program immediately pivoted to deliver resources and support to communities,” said Tom DeLuca, Cheryl Ramberg-Ford and Allyn C. Ford Dean of the College of Forestry. “The innovative, collaborative extension fire program improves our response to fire by leading with relationships and with preventative, proactive, site-specific responses.”

One reason the extension fire program staff members were able to meet community needs quickly is because of the program’s structure. The program’s regional fire specialists live in the communities in which they work, which means they’re uniquely equipped to address and support the concerns of their communities. It also means they are invested in protecting the community’s resources.

Led by fire program manager Carrie Berger, there are currently six regional fire specialists located in different areas of Oregon, including the Southwest, Central, Willamette Valley and the Cascades and the Southeast. The program also includes statewide fire specialist Daniel Leavell. Since Oregon is ecologically diverse, representation across the state is needed to address the different risks and strategies to reduce high severity wildfire. The regional fire specialists intimately understand the specific geographies, fire regimes and climates of their assigned locations, in addition to the social and ecological dimensions. The program plans to add two regional fire specialists in the future, bringing the total areas covered to six.

Tremendous work went into the placement of these regional fire specialists to live and work in strategic focus areas across the state. Multiple partners in Colleges across OSU utilized GIS to determine locations that were at the highest risk for catastrophic fire. The College of Forestry continues this GIS work to develop relative fire risk and situational assessments for each geographical area.

The extension fire program focuses a significant amount of effort on proactive measures, including educating communities, planning, and supporting fire-adapted infrastructure. One component of its educational outreach is developing and integrating fire science into Oregon’s K-12 curriculum. After the recent wildfires, the program proved it can also inform Oregonians on fire ecology and behavior, explain the different types of fire and forest management and provide an opportunity for people impacted by fires to connect.

The program, along with agency and organization partners, facilitated a virtual listening session to hear from those affected by the fires. Over 400 people attended the call to listen, learn and ask questions of staff and partners like the Oregon Department of Forestry and Oregon Health Authority. In addition to obtaining information and resources for next steps, the call acted as a space for people to share their experiences and receive support.

After the listening session, the fire program hosted a series of post-fire recovery webinars, developed tools and educational materials for dealing with the effects of fire and conducted site visits to assist homeowners and landowners.

The recent and extreme fires highlight how the extension fire program can educate and prepare Oregonians and our diverse landscapes to be fire-adapted, resilient and support a safe and effective wildfire response.

“The fires that happened over Labor Day weekend were devastating. Many people lost everything in those fires,” Berger said. “We need to change the culture of fire and be more proactive, not reactive. The fire program will be part of Oregon’s wildfire solution.”

This story was part of the College of Forestry’s 2019-2020 Biennial Report.

When the devastating westside wildfires swept across Oregon over Labor Day, the Oregon State University Forestry and Natural Resources Extension Fire Program was ready to respond. The program was created earlier this year to reduce wildfire risks and prepare and create fire-adapted infrastructure, communities and landscapes.

One of the program’s key objectives is education and outreach, and extension staff and regional fire specialists immediately provided resources and support to those affected by the Oregon fires.

One reason they were able to meet community needs quickly is because of the structure of the program. The program’s regional fire specialists live in the communities in which they work, which means they’re uniquely equipped to address and support the concerns of their communities and geographies. It also means they are invested in protecting the community’s resources.

Led by fire program manager Carrie Berger, there are currently four regional fire specialists located in different areas of Oregon, including the Southwest, Central, Willamette Valley and the Cascades, and the Southeast. The program also includes statewide fire specialist Dan Leavell. Since Oregon is ecologically diverse, representation across the state is needed to address the different risks and strategies to reduce catastrophic wildfire. The regional fire specialists intimately understand the specific geographies, fire regimes and climates of their assigned locations, in addition to the social and ecological dimensions. The program plans to add two regional fire specialists in the future, bringing the total areas covered to six.

Tremendous work went into the placement of these regional fire specialists to live and work in areas of strategic focus across the state. Multiple partners in Colleges across OSU utilized GIS to determine locations across Oregon that were at highest risk for catastrophic fire. The College of Forestry continues this GIS work to develop relative fire risk and situational assessments for each geographical area.

The Extension fire program focuses a significant amount of effort on proactive measures, including educating communities, planning, and supporting fire-adapted infrastructure. One component of its educational outreach is the development and integration of fire science into Oregon’s K-12 curriculum. After the recent wildfires, the program proved it also can inform Oregonians on fire ecology and behavior, explain the different types of fire and forest management, and provide an opportunity for people impacted by fires to connect.

The program, along with agency and organization partners, facilitated a virtual listening session to hear from those affected by the fires. Over 400 people attended the call to listen, learn and ask questions of staff and partners like the Oregon Department of Forestry and Oregon Health Authority. In addition to obtaining information and resources for next steps, the call acted as a space for people to share their experience and receive support.

After the listening session, the fire program hosted a series of post-fire recovery webinars, developed tools and educational materials for dealing with the effects of fire, and conducted site visits to assist homeowners and landowners.

The recent and extreme fires highlight how the Extension fire program can educate and prepare Oregonians and our diverse landscapes to be fire-adapted, resilient and support a safe and effective wildfire response.

“The fires that happened over Labor Day weekend were devastating. Many people lost everything in those fires,” says Carrie Berger, fire program manager. “We need to change the culture of fire and be more proactive, not reactive. The fire program will be part of Oregon’s wildfire solution.”

More information on OSU’s Forestry and Natural Resources Extension Fire Program is available online. 

As skies turned red and large scale fires tore through Oregon’s forests and communities, Oregon State University College of Forestry researchers stood ready to share research and answer questions from reporters. They also sprung into action to support the state’s response, developing research proposals to help inform future policy decisions.

The College of Forestry produces fire-related research that expands knowledge about fire history and ecology, fuels treatment (thinning and prescribed fire), and risk analyses to help inform future decisions. The College also explores some of the important social dimensions present in fire research, like work in governance, social justice and equity, and how to improve livelihoods.

Researchers are active nationally and internationally, tracking and contributing to science and understanding. They bring this knowledge to their undergraduate and graduate students in the classroom and labs. Meanwhile, OSU’s world-class Forestry and Natural Resources Extension Program is the final, critical link, distributing information beyond the campus and helping communities become more fire-adapted.

Some of the ways the College of Forestry’s fire research work aides Oregonians includes:

The research helps guide the way towards a more fire-adapted future and contributes to a more collaborative and productive science-informed conversation about how we co-exist with fire.

In March 2018, Oregon State hosted the inaugural Fire Summit in Portland. This event aimed to identify viable forest management practices that could help mitigate the risks and impacts of high-severity fire events in the West.

About 30 scientists, land managers and forest policy experts were in attendance. They came from five states and British Columbia, and represented six universities, seven federal land management agency offices, departments or research units, four private forestland management entities, and two cities.

The summit closed with a call to action from Oregon Governor Kate Brown.

“It has been a great opportunity for us to reflect on the challenges our region has faced and the challenges to come, to share best practices, exchange data and research and discuss insights we learn from fighting wildfires,”

Brown said. She went on to discuss the prevalence of wildfire in the West and the risk to communities, economies and livelihoods. Brown said that collaborations – like the Fire Summit – will be key in preventing devastating wildfires.

“By taking an ‘all-lands, all-hands’ approach and committing to work together across jurisdictional boundaries, we can sustain robust rural economies and preserve our natural resources for future generations,” Brown said.

Anthony S. Davis, interim dean of the College of Forestry agrees, “The Western USA is home to the world’s leading scientists who focus on fire on our landscapes. The Fire Summit was a unique opportunity for those scientists to interact with the policymakers who are asking for guidance in addressing this phenomenal challenge.”

The collective remarks of the panelists and speakers offered a big-picture perspective of the intertwined views of fire in the West, from the variety of jurisdictions, landscapes and vegetation types, and cultural experiences and expectations.

The experts compiled their feedback and made specific recommendations:

• Expand strategic use of commercial thinning, prescribed fires, and managed wildfire as forest management tools.

• Improve coordination across jurisdictions and ownership boundaries.

• Develop and implement cross-boundary ‘pre-fire response’ plans and strategies.

• Address inequities associated with liability for cross-boundary fires.

• Invest in data mapping, risk assessment, and applied research that directly supports cross-boundary management and suppression.

Oregon State officials recognize discussions like this are critical for encouraging stakeholder engagement when it comes to wildfire issues.

Work is also underway to identify opportunities to directly and regularly inform federal elected officials and staff in Washington, D.C., about summit outcomes and subsequent efforts. Direct dialogue and discussion of the opportunities for real progress is an important goal of Summit participants seeking to inform policies designed to help mitigate the risks and impacts of high-severity fire events in the West.

“The scale of our fire problem is likely measured in decades and centuries, not a handful of years, and across millions of acres, not localized forests and landscapes,” says Davis. “To address this serious challenge, we have to step out of our own way and not go back to the false promise of landscape stability maintained through unsustainable practices. The Fire Summit served to bring the widest range of partners to the table for a first conversation in this direction.”