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

How do you like your silviculture served? In a book, a pamphlet, a video, or an app?

A sampling of silviculture manuals dating from the 1970's and 80's
A sampling of silviculture manuals dating from the 1970’s and 80’s

My office shelves are lined with decades-old research reports, mostly left behind by my predecessors; and having neither the time to sort through them nor the ability to fully shake my packrat tendencies, I hang on to them. Besides the information they contain, these volumes form a historical record of sorts, and so while they don’t come off the shelf too much these days, they are worth keeping around.

An example is Douglas-fir: Stand Management for the Future (1986). The title makes me consider whether the Future of Douglas-fir stand management has turned out the way the authors expected, when this was published nearly 30 years ago. Coincidentally, Dr. Chad Oliver, one of the co-authors of Douglas-fir: Stand Management for the Future will be at OSU next month, presenting a Starker Lecture titled A History and Possible Futures of Douglas-fir Silviculture: Reactive vs. Proactive (as with all the Starker Lectures, one need not attend in person; the lectures are videostreamed live and archived for later viewing). The abstract of his talk implies that forest management can, should, and has evolved, in concert with society’s changing demands on forests.

Recently, Brad touched on the importance of having management objectives drive management decisions in the woods. A key point in that article is that silvicultural approaches (planting, vegetation management, thinning, harvest) should be tailored to the landowner’s specific combination of objectives. Family forest owners’ objectives often are quite different from those of larger private or public landowners, and thus management on the ground should differ accordingly.

Successful regeneration following a group selection harvest
Successful regeneration following a group selection harvest

While we know a lot about intensive forest management as it applies to even-aged, short rotation forestry, using silviculture to create more complex and diverse forest structures is more nuanced, and often very site specific. A cookbook approach does not always work. To address this, OSU Extension recently produced a series of Alternative Forest Management case studies designed to help landowners learn from working examples. The case study approach requires an examination of landowner objectives, site factors, stand conditions, and results beyond the initial silviculture treatment. There are four case studies in the series (two of which are in westside, Douglas-fir dominated forests), with the promise of more to come.

As with forest management, our ways of obtaining information have evolved. Anymore, people use YouTube or another internet site, rather than an owner’s manual or a printed research report, for finding out how to do something. (Admittedly, that is one reason for this blog; to put information online, where people are looking.) OSU Extension is increasingly looking at new formats for delivering information, and the Alternative Forest Management series represents a foray into the world of apps and interactive media.

The case studies are available in three formats, recognizing that viewers have different preferences. Each one can be downloaded (and printed) as a traditional PDF publication. Three of them have also been made interactive, with video clips, virtual forest panoramics, and added graphics that illustrate dimensions of the case studies. The interactive versions can be downloaded as an app for an Apple or Android tablet. Or, they can be viewed in an internet browser of a “regular” computer.

Since I don’t have a tablet I used the third option. I went to the Alternative Forest Management page in the Extension catalog. Then I selected one of the case studies (for example, Mixed Conifer and Hardwood Management in Southwest Oregon, EM 9084) and on its home page, the three options (PDF, interactive, and App) all appear. Below is a screen shot from the interactive version (left), alongside the corresponding text in the PDF version (right).

Alt Forest Mgt screenshots 2
Both the interactive and PDF versions contain the same text, but the interactive version also includes videos and additional graphics to be explored.


So back to the opening question of this post: How do you like your silviculture served? I am actually really curious about this. At the end of the day, it is effective delivery and use of information that we are after with our materials. Time and again, people tell me that seeing an example on the ground, in person, is the best learning experience for them. Are the videos and other interactive features a good substitute? How well do they add to your understanding of forest management, if at all? You can weigh in by commenting on this post, or sending me an email.

Kudos to Jeff Hino and Stephen Ward at Extension & Experiment Station Communications for their innovative and creative work on the Alternative Forest Management series, and to Extension Silviculture Specialist Steve Fitzgerald for leading the project.

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