OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension.

As many readers are aware, Oregon State University Extension Service has implemented a new statewide fire program to help create a better understanding of fire through education and outreach efforts.

The Oregon Legislature funded the program two years ago.  It is part of the OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Program and the College of Forestry. 

When fully staffed, the Fire Program will have a program manager, a state fire specialist, and six regional fire specialists posted around the state. The regional specialists will work with partners to help facilitate large-scale, cross-boundary management practices.

Four regional fire specialists were hired over the summer, and came on board in the last two months. They join the team led by Carrie Berger, the Fire Program Manager, and will work closely with Dan Leavell, Statewide Extension Fire Specialist.  We hope to hire two additional team members for the Oregon Coast Range and Northeast Oregon regions soon, as budgets allow.

Amanda Rau is the specialist for the Willamette Valley and Cascades fire service area, which includes much of Linn, Benton and Polk Counties.

Amanda Rau, OSU Extension Willamette Valley and Cascades fire service area specialist. Photo B Withrow-Robinson

Amanda is based in the Lane County Extension office in Eugene. She joins us from The Nature Conservancy where she worked for the past five years as the Fire Manager in both Oregon and Washington. She has robust experience in fire-adapted ecosystem restoration and conservation; prescribed fire and fuels treatment planning and implementation; and training, outreach, communications, and engagement. Amanda is a passionate and effective leader of collaborative projects and partnerships and has worked endlessly for social license for responsible management of fire for public safety and resource management. Amanda earned a Masters of Natural Resources in Fire Ecology and Management from the University of Idaho.   Amanda brings great skills to our area. Welcome Amanda!

Chris Adlam is serving the Southwest fire service area, based at the Southern Oregon Research & Extension Center in Central Point.

Ariel Cowan is serving the Central fire service area, housed at the Deschutes County Extension office in Redmond.

Katherine Wollstein is serving the Southeast fire service area with an emphasis on range issues, housed at the Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center in Burns.

Welcome to them all!  Our new Fire Program has been very active in response to the Labor Day fires of 2020, and will be working with local OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension agents and partners to help improve fire preparedness and resilience in communities across Oregon in coming months and years.

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

The Labor Day fires’ impacts will be felt throughout region, well beyond the footprint of the fires.  It will likely be harder for family forest landowners to find contractors, seedlings and other resources to get projects done on their property for a while, wherever they are.   Why? The fires are already putting demands on local resources and infrastructure. This includes loggers and logging equipment, mill capacity, and the ODF Stewardship Foresters who are overseeing many post fire responses.  We can also expect to see other resources tested for the next several years, including seedling availability and nursery capacity to produce them. Shortages of many of these shared resources will be felt across much of state as assets are reassigned or moved around. Recovery will take time. 

Fire Preparedness

Three Zones of Defensible Space. Image from: https://bewildfireready.org/fuels-reduction-cost-share-program/

Not surprisingly, we are also getting calls about preventing and preparing for wildfire.  The new Fire Program will coordinate our work to expand public fire preparedness and smoke readines. These will be the emphasis of our program next spring.  We will work with key partners including Oregon Department of Forestry, County governments, local Fire Districts, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Soil & Water Conservation Districts and Watershed Councils among others. There is need toprepare at the home, community and landscape level.

In the meantime, begin your journey at the Fire Program website (https://extension.oregonstate.edu/fire-program).  Under the Fire Adapted Communities banner, follow the links to “Before a Wildfire”, and “During a Wildfire” to start learning how to prepare.  Also, look at the section on Landscape-scale Land Management, which is how we start needing to look at and address fire preparedness. 

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

This season’s wildfires have been devastating to western Oregon. 

I recognize the suffering this has brought to so many individuals and communities.  The fires affected many individuals and communities in our reading area and adjacent counties. 

Many groups and agencies continue to muster information and resources to help people rebound from the fires. Each group or agency is focusing on its area of responsibility and strength, while coordinating with others for the most effective response possible.  The effort stretches from the needs of individual landowners to landscape issues that will affect water quality, infrastructure, public safety and forest recovery.

Extension’s Post Fire Response

Among the organizations responding is OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension, through its new statewide Fire Program.

Our immediate emphasis has been helping people with forestlands and related natural resources impacted by the fires. If that includes you or people you know, please visit the Fire Program website where you will find a series of webinars addressing key post-fire issues: 

  • After the Fire – Now what?
  • Hazard tree awareness and erosion in post-fire landscapes
  • Assessing tree mortality and salvage logging
  • Reforestation and restoration
  • Tax issues relating to fire

The series has concluded, but all webinars were recorded. You can find them, as well as companion resources on the topic at the Fire Program Online Webinar Guide .

Other resources including an interactive website to help landowners navigate issues, programs and agencies relating to the fire issues are in the works.    Stay tuned.

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

I feel helpless in the face of the catastrophic fires devastating our area, and other parts of Oregon.  I watch the news and study fire maps documenting the destruction of and threats to communities that I know.  I mourn over the devastation that has, is and will be happening, all in a matter of days.

I am in awe of our fire and emergency response communities.  Professionals and volunteers are doing heroic work to save life and property, as well as help people start mending their lives.  I pray for the weather to moderate and help them in their work. 

My heart goes out to all of you in the fire-affected areas living with danger, loss and uncertainty, including many who are friends, family and colleagues. 

But I am heartened by our response as communities.  Locally, from across the state and across the country, people are showing up, sending assistance and resources. 

We will ride this out.  Then we’ll see what we can do afterwards.

I know many of the thoughts and emotions I just stated are shared by many of my colleagues in Extension.  We are part of these communities, and anxious to be part of the response.  This is clear from the Extension and 4-H families among the many volunteers at the fairground evacuation centers. 

We are just starting to look for other ways to help.  We held a listening session recently, with other steps to follow.

Be strong, be generous in thought and action, and be safe.


P.S. (Sept 18, 2020)

Our experience with these fires has illustrated both the importance and the challenges of finding relevant information. 

The Oregon Wildfire Resources website   is an important clearing house for state and local information, news and resources that everyone should be checking.

OSU Extension is also committed to assisting in providing fire related information. OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension’s new Fire Program provides education and outreach regarding wildfire, wildfire preparedness and response for all Oregonians.

Please visit the OSU Extension Fire program website for information on  preparedness, smoke, and other emerging issues.   Be sure to click on the Browse all Resources button at the bottom of the page to be directed to more resources. These will continue to expand.

Here are links to a few:

At press time with some rain, fire behavior is less aggressive for now, but smoke will continue to be an issue in western Oregon. Please be informed and cautious.

Glenn Ahrens, OSU Forestry and Natural Resources Extension Agent – Clackamas, Marion, and Hood River Counties

At Hopkins Demonstration Forest we have an area of maturing forest – 80 or more years old – that we would like to manage with continued thinning or selective cutting rather than clearcutting. As I discussed in Part 1 of this story, this is a common situation for family forest owners. Many are interested in periodic selective harvesting of trees or small patches and keeping options open for the future. There are many challenges and tradeoffs to consider, but now we have to choose an option for our Hillside Forest stand at Hopkins.

80-year-old stand of Douglas-fir on upper slope of Hillside Forest at Hopkins.

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

I talked to my friend Philipp in Portland the other night. We were checking in on family, comparing notes on how each are doing under the Stay Home order.  The big beneficiary at their house is the dog, Coffee, who has his four people at home and who seem unusually willing to take him for a walk.  Phil was also laughing that his yard had never been so free of weeds. 

Weeds had never been one of Philipp’s priorities.  Until now.

I have noticed that many rural landowners look at Fire Preparedness much like Phil looks at weeds.  In fact, many rural landowners are much more aggressive about clearing their home place of weeds, than they are about clearing their home place of fire hazards. 

Left: Three Zones of Defensible Space.  Image from: https://bewildfireready.org/fuels-reduction-cost-share-program/

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

Family woodland owners (like farmers, ranchers, beekeepers and others) typically have busy spring schedules with lots to do in the woods.  Many of those activities come with acres of physical distancing  from others outside their families, so life remains busy.

Although our offices are closed, OSU Extension remains an available and useful source of information for doing many spring woodland activities such as weed control, fire preparedness and prevention, developing wildlife habitat.  We remain available by phone or email to answer questions and direct you to the information you need.  

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Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties. Photos Jody Einerson, Benton County Extension.

Backpack sprayers are often used to apply herbicides to control weeds in forestry and conservation work.   It is often helpful to apply two or more chemicals at a time in a “tank mix”.  For example, it is common to apply a foliar herbicide to kill actively growing weeds, along with a soil active herbicide to prevent new weeds from emerging over the following growing season.  Or it may be useful to apply two different herbicides with similar action, but that target different types of weeds (grasses v broadleaf plants).  Be sure to review the post on calibrating a backpack sprayer.

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Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties. Photos by Jody Einerson, Benton County Extension.

In many of our herbicide application situations, the objective is to treat an area, such as a plantation of young trees, at a specific application rate.  By rate, we mean applying a specific amount of a material over a given area (e.g. ounces of product per treated acre).  This is essential when applying soil active herbicides, and also for area treatments (as opposed to targeted spot treatments) with foliar herbicides, particularly if the spray mix will be contacting the seedlings, such as in “over the top” applications. Applying too little material will not give you effective weed control, wasting time and money.  Too much material risks killing seedlings and other desirable plants, or causing other environmental damage.  Figuring out how much spray you are applying so that you can calculate how much herbicide to mix into the spray tank is called calibration.

Once you have calibrated your backpack sprayer, you can apply spray in any number of patterns, and still be putting out an accurate amount of material on a per acre basis.  That means you can accurately treat the entire plantation (broadcast), or discreet parts of that plantation such as row strips or patches around trees with confidence. 

Calibration requires a few simple activities and calculations, in two steps.  Here is a simplified refresher:

Step 1: Find the Application Rate (Gallons/Acre, gpa) you apply

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

Spring is the key time to tackle many non-woody weeds.  These non-woody (also called “herbaceous”) plants  include grasses and many common flowering plants including clovers, thistles, oxeye daisy, tansy ragwort and groundsel.  There are many native and also non-native herbaceous plants in the fields and forests of Oregon.

Taking care of unwanted plants/weeds in often an important part of taking care of your land.  Herbaceous weed control if often part of these common objectives:

  • Successfully planting tree and shrub seedlings
  • Reducing fine fuels defending against wildfire
  • Enhancing forest diversity/improving wildlife habitat
  • Easy access and enjoyment of your property
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