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

Among the many challenges facing landowners affected by the 2020 wildfires will be reforestation.  One of the top issues will be tree seedling availability: Seedlings are in very short supply now, and it is likely to remain that way for several years. 

The shortage is partly a demand issue.  The wildfires affected about 350,000 acres of private forestland to varying degrees.  That includes 70,000 acres owned by about 1,000 family forest landowners.  This means about four million additional seedlings are now needed above the expected demand created by regularly planned harvest and reforestation.  Everything that is already in the production pipeline has already been absorbed.

The shortage will also be a production issue.  There are limits how quickly seedlings can be grown (typically 1-3 years) and most importantly, there are limits on capacity at every step in the production & planting process such as greenhouse space, nursery workers and cold storage.  Clearly, a coordinated approach is needed to address this.

Nursery production is an intensive operation

OSU Extension is working with the Oregon Department of Forestry, Oregon Small Woodlands Association, nursery producers and other partners to develop extra capacity needed to produce, deliver and plant seedlings in response to this problem.

Issues to be addressed include:

  • Determining the need for seedlings (by area, elevation, species).
  • Nursery production capacity which may be limited by both infrastructure and labor.
  • Storage and distribution logistics. 
  • Planting labor force capacity

At this time, we are still trying to measure and map the need for seedlings.  If you are a landowner affected by the 2020 wildfires needing to plant trees in the future(or know someone who is), we want to hear from you. Please follow this link and fill in our seedling needs survey. This will put on you a mailing list and we will get back in touch with you with details as they develop. 

If you need help with this, please contact the Linn County Extension office 541-967-3871 or email

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

Slash is the term used to describe the treetops, limbs and other woody material left behind after a timber harvest. The amount of slash left behind will depend on several factors, including the size and quality of the harvested trees. Universally, how the slash is dealt with is an important consideration in the logging process. Heavy amounts of slash left on the ground can be a fire hazard and it makes tree planting more difficult and more costly.

Piling and burning is the most common method of slash treatment nowadays. However, some landowners are looking for alternatives to burning for various reasons. Pile burning can be challenging due to weather conditions or smoke restrictions. When logging contractors are busy, they may be reluctant to include pile burning in their contract due to the time involved, leaving it up to the landowner. And, there are greenhouse gas considerations with burning slash. For all of these reasons, it is worth looking at the pros and cons of other methods of slash treatment.

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

Often around this time of year, I’ll get a question from a small woodland owner asking whether it’s worth the trouble to try to water their newly planted tree seedlings. My standard reply has always been “No”.  Of course, in most cases, it’s not even a practical consideration, because the logistical challenges of delivering water to hundreds, if not thousands of seedlings on steep or rough terrain far from any water source far outweigh any potential benefits.  I also point out that our Douglas-fir trees are adapted to withstand dry summers. After all, millions of Douglas-fir trees are planted each year in Oregon, and most of them make it without any supplemental water. And, I know one or two woodland owners who have watered trees that they were concerned about, only to have them die anyway.

But this year, after fielding the question of watering young trees again, I started to think a little more about my standard answer. After all, all signs are pointing another drought year. Scientists predict that summers in the Pacific Northwest are only going to get hotter and drier in the future.  In light of these factors it doesn’t seem like an unreasonable question. Continue reading

Jen Gorski, OSU Forestry and Natural Resources Extension, Clackamas County

Oregon forest landowners and Christmas tree growers are having difficulty locating seedlings to buy.

In response, the Oregon Department of Forestry, OSU Extension and other partners are working hard to identify and solve the problems limiting the supply. It’s not an easy fix; many pieces account for the problems and the solutions.

OSU Clackamas County Extension hosted a meeting in January to discuss the seedling supply. Landowners revealed that certain species or stock types are not always available within a year of planting. This presents some uncertain choices and potential compromise. One year plugs may be available in lieu of 1-1 transplants (2 year old seedlings). The 1-1 transplants have a fibrous root system and a track record of success in challenging conditions. However, future survival of one year plugs is uncertain. Continue reading

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

Tree planting season is upon us. Once the deep freeze departs western Oregon woodland owners will be heading out, shovels and seedlings in hand, to plant the next generation of forests.  The saying “green side up” implies that tree planting isn’t rocket science; but inevitably, come late summer some people will return their planting sites to find that their trees didn’t fare so well.  Weather and other uncontrollable factors cause seedling mortality some years more than others.  But, it’s also easy to unintentionally harm your trees before they even get in the ground. So before you go to a seedling sale this year to pick up a few trees, here are some common cases of seedling abuse and how to avoid perpetrating them.

A balmy sunny day might entice you outdoors, but it's not ideal weather for tree planting.
A balmy sunny day might entice you outdoors, but it’s not ideal weather for tree planting.

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


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photo: VMRC

Last month I spent a morning at OSU attending the annual science meeting of the Vegetation Management Research Cooperative (VMRC). It was well worth the time.

The VMRC’s mission includes conducting applied reforestation research of young plantations from seedling establishment through crown closure and, to promote reforestation success. The VMRC’s research has an emphasis on practical, operational vegetation control, and their research is broadly relevant and readily applied to the needs of family forest landowners, so I do try to keep up on their work.
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By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties

Recent posts on this blog have examined the problem of forest seedling supplies for small woodland owners, and the compromises that sometimes come with limited seedling choices. While the situation has gotten worse in the last couple of years, it is not a new dilemma. Cooperative seedling buying programs, where a group of landowners collectively contract with a nursery for their seedling needs, are one way that small woodland owners have worked to ensure a reliable seedling supply for themselves and their neighbors.

Loading seedlings into WCSWA trucks and trailers. Photo: Bob Shumaker
Loading seedlings into WCSWA trucks and trailers. Photo: Bob Shumaker

Both the Columbia and Washington County chapters of the Oregon Small Woodlands Association (CCSWA and WCSWA, respectively) have organized annual seedling programs for their members for the last 15+ years. The two programs have much in common, with a few differences. They each sell about 50,000-70,000 seedlings/year, distributed among dozens of members. Paul Nys (CCSWA) and Bob Shumaker (WCSWA) have been organizing forces behind these programs since their outset. I talked with Paul and Bob to shed some light on the benefits and challenges of keeping these programs going for the benefit of groups in other areas that may want to consider this approach. Continue reading

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

I got a call a while back from someone having trouble finding the seedlings she wanted and wondering if she could make do with something else.

A bed of western hemlock seedlings in nursery
A bed of western hemlock seedlings in nursery

The caller wanted large, bare root hemlock seedlings from her Coast Range seed zone, but all she could find was container stock from a Washington seed source, and wanted to know if that was an ok choice.

Given the current seedling supply situation, I am thinking many people may be facing a similar choice between the “right” planting stock type and the “right” seed source, if they have any choice of seedlings at all.

When is compromise a sound choice? Continue reading

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


Here is something you should know: Seedlings are in short supply for this winter’s planting season, and the situation is unlikely to improve any time soon.

So what is up? The seedling situation represents something of a perfect storm, with demand rising just as production is down. This is bad news for the folks who’ve noticed timber prices are up a bit and are thinking of a harvest sometime soon.

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

Remember those Magic 8 balls where you would ask a question, shake the ball, and get an answer? I wish life were that simple.

Extension agents get a lot of questions. Some say we are notorious for always answering with “well, it depends.” As an Extension agent I’m as guilty as anyone of using “it depends”, and not because I want to dodge your question. Usually there is more than one answer; more information is needed; and ultimately, you are the one who will be able to answer your own question after more a more thorough evaluation. Here is a sampling of inquiries I’ve received by phone, email, or Ask an Expert over the past few weeks, to illustrate this. Continue reading