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

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

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

Even a wall of blackberries can be tackled
Even a wall of blackberries can be tackled

In recent entries in this series on the basics of herbicide use in weed control, I have reviewed how some foliar herbicides work, and the relationship between the plant’s physiology and the herbicides’ behavior. Now I want to illustrate how that that information translates to what gets done in the woods, looking at controlling blackberries, a frequent target of foliar herbicides.

Blackberries are a problem because they are widely dispersed by birds and start readily from seed and once established, rapidly spread vegetatively by tip rooting, quickly forming daunting patches seemingly too tall and wide to tackle. We’ve all seen these conditions in old pastures, riparian areas and struggling plantations. Continue reading

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

In previous installments of this series on the basics of herbicide use in weed control, I distinguished between foliar and soil active herbicides, describing foliar herbicides as those applied to the leaves or stems of plants to be absorbed and carried throughout the plant to affect control. In the previous post I began discussing foliar herbicides in more detail with an overview of glyphosate.

In this entry I will look at a group of herbicides called “growth regulators” that include some important foliar herbicides and popular weed and brush killers commonly used in forestry, agriculture and habitat restoration. Continue reading

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

In my previous installment of this series on the basics of herbicide use in weed control, I distinguished between foliar and soil active herbicides. In this post I begin discussing foliar herbicides in more detail. Note: The attention given to herbicides in this series does not indicate an advocacy for their use but an acknowledgement that using herbicides presents some unique risks, and that landowners and managers need to know enough about them to make informed decisions on their use.

Foliar herbicides are applied to the leaves or stems of plants to be absorbed and carried throughout the plant to affect control. They are common and widely used to control annual and perennial herbs and also woody shrubs. Continue reading

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

Weed control is a top of mind topic now for many landowners. Following this spring’s strong log market, a lot of folks will be reforesting a harvest unit. Others may be planting a field of Christmas trees, or a swath of trees and shrubs as a restoration project to improve habitat conditions. And it seems everyone is struggling to control one invasive weed or another on the property.

While a number of approaches and strategies (including mowing, pulling and mulching) can and are used in managing weeds, many people will use herbicides as at least part of their approach. This is no surprise given their demonstrated effectiveness and efficiency. But not all users are well-versed in vegetation management, or the science behind it, so some review of herbicides seems to be in order. The attention given to herbicides in this and later articles does not indicate an advocacy for their use but an acknowledgement that using herbicides presents some unique risks, and that landowners and managers need to know enough about them to make informed decisions on their use.

Now, it is important to realize that one need not be a crop scientist to use herbicides. The label gives instructions that ensure the safe and allowable use of an herbicide, so the label needs to be read and followed. But responsible and effective use of herbicides requires some additional understanding about herbicides and how they work, as well as knowledge about the life cycle and other characteristics of both crop and target plant species they will be used with. Let’s begin talking about some basics. Continue reading

Although a significant challenge, successful planting and establishment is of course only the first step towards restoring a forest. Moist tropical forests tend to have much higher tree species richness and diversity than do our temperate forests. While a forest in the Coast Range or Cascades of Oregon may have a dozen or so trees and shrubs (and is often dominated by just a few tree species) a similar area hill evergreen forest in Northern Thailand may have 100 to 150 species.
Replicating or recreating this diverse forest in one fell swoop at planting is impractical, or impossible. There are significant challenges of producing so many species in the nursery and also, many species seem poorly adapted to the harsh conditions of abandoned farm fields, and simply do not survive and prosper. Restoring a forest means restoring conditions and processes which in turn help create the forest.
After screening over 400 species, FORRU selected about 20 hardy species to plant as the “framework” for the future forest structure and processes. Species were selected according to their suitability to nursery production, survival and growth in abandoned field conditions, as well as to represent different growth forms and several successional stages. A great many of the selected framework species bear fruit, which is meant to encourage birds to visit the site in the hopes that they will carry in other native species. This is a key idea behind the framework species approach (adapted from Australia): along with changing the physical environment (light, leaf litter and organic matter) to favor establishment and survival of additional species, the planting needs to encourage mechanisms that deliver those species to the site. Initial findings are promising, with an increase in the number of birds and small mammals observed, and over 70 additional tree species recruited to the study plots.
But what will be the fate of those new seedlings? Does their presence today tell us what the future forest will be?
Most foresters and woodland owners in Oregon have seen a carpet of seedlings emerge on the forest floor following a thinning or other disturbance that lets more light reach the ground and maybe exposes some soil. Douglas-fir, grand fir, hemlock, alder and maple may all show up in abundance. Familiarity with our local species tell us that the fate of these seedlings is not the same. Douglas-fir generally will not grow to maturity in those conditions, while the hemlock or maple might.
Hathai (my graduate student) is trying to develop a similar understanding of the trees which make up the hill evergreen forests in Thailand. Her work on the regeneration dynamics of trees in the understory should help people here in Thailand have a better idea of the likely fate of the seedlings, and if their arrival heralds development of more complex and diverse forests in the future. Her work may also suggest ways to manage the plantings to best meet the restoration/management goals.

 

Brad Withrow-Robinson

If you have called or emailed me recently, you have received an “out of office” message saying I would be away in February. The full story is that I am in the mountains of Northern Thailand, helping my graduate student, Hathai, with her dissertation research on forest regeneration dynamics of understory trees. Her work is part of a bigger effort at Chiang Mai University (CMU) to study how to restore diverse, seasonally-dry tropical forests.
Thailand has lost over half its forest areas in the last 40 years to unsustainable timber harvest practices and land use conversion. In the mountains of Northern Thailand, most forest loss and degradation is driven by a history of shifting agriculture. Abandoned after farming, much of this land becomes dominated by aggressive invasive perennial weeds which prevent forest regeneration both by directly competing with seedlings and also by feeding widespread fires each dry season (March-May). These fires are not part of the natural fire regime, but are human-origin fires that kill many of the young seedlings getting established naturally, or as part of planting efforts. This favors and perpetuates the weed communities rather than native forests.
The Forest Restoration Research Unit (FORRU) at CMU has been working on this restoration challenge for the past two decades. The FORRU team began their work with basic research on local forest trees, studying life cycles, flowering and fruiting phenology. Likewise, they tackled challenges in nursery production by testing germination and nursery cultural requirements to help them grow and plant viable seedlings. All very much as was done in the Oregon four or five decades ago.
Success in the field came by both controlling the weeds in the plantations for several years after planting (no surprise to us in Oregon) and very importantly, through rigorous and on-going community-level fire suppression.

 


This work has paid off, and they have made great progress in learning how to begin to put forests back on the landscape.

Brad Withrow-Robinson

Lately I’ve been immersed in the subject of forest management planning. From developing a website that helps landowners navigate the process of creating a forest management plan; to collaborating on a revised set of management planning guidelines for Oregon; to teaching Mentored Management Planning workshops; this has been a major theme of my work over the past year.

So I was interested to come across a recent article about management planning in the Oregonian. The article described the management plan that is in place for the city of Forest Grove’s 4,200 acre forested watershed, and the positive impacts that having the plan has had on the land. Though this forest is much bigger than those that most small woodland owners manage, the article demonstrated many of the same principles of forest management planning that I use in my courses.

Management planning starts with identifying goals for the site. The number one goal in the case of Forest Grove’s watershed is, not surprisingly, protecting drinking water quality. Biodiversity and sustainable timber management are secondary goals. These goals drive all of the actions called for in the plan – such as road rehabilitation, erosion control, and carefully planned timber harvests.

Forest management planning has evolved over time. In the 1970’s and ’80’s, most forest management plans were concise timber management plans – laying out succinct timelines for planting, weed control, thinning and clearcut harvest to optimize wood production.  Nowadays we take a much more holistic approach. Today’s plans consider all the different resources on a given piece of land – timber, of course; but also recreational resources, streams, fish and wildlife, roads, aesthetics, soils, and much more. We recognize that most landowners value many other aspects of their property as least as much as the timber resource. Well-constructed plans reflect the suite of values of the landowner and place emphasis on them appropriately.

The other important management planning principle that I took note of in the article was the fact that the plan is being updated, ten years after it was originally written. It is a good idea to revisit one’s plan after a time, both to check that the goals are still relevant and to recognize the progress that has been made towards achieving them.

Washington County Small Woodlands Association, Build Local Alliance, and OSU Extension are teaming up for a fun and educational forest tour on Saturday, June 23rd in Timber. Spend a day in the coast range at Hyla Woods, owned and managed Peter and Pam Hayes, learning about their family’s approach to caring for their forests, maintaining a healthy ecosystem, and producing high quality wood products for local markets.

Some of the day’s planned highlights:

  • interactive walking tour featuring forest management, wood marketing and connecting to the consumer, monitoring forest and ecosystem changes, and more;
  • Barbecue lunch;
  • “Goods From the Woods” display of products that originate from family owned forests;
  • “Iron Builder” competition!

Thanks to support from the abovementioned sponsors and the Oregon Forest Resources Institute, there’s no charge for this event (although a cash donation to cover the food is suggested).  However, you must RSVP for the cooks’ and volunteers’ sake. Since parking will be tight, you can catch a bus shuttle to the event from Forest Grove with the OSWA Annual Meeting contingent. Details on that when you RSVP (did I mention you must RSVP?).

I have been working with the Hayes family, Washington County Small Woodlands Association leaders, and folks from the Build Local Alliance to plan this event and I am really excited about it. I think it is going to be an outstanding day filled with learning for forest owners, users of wood, or those who are simply interested in learning about their local forests. Download a flyer here.