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

Many readers are aware of the interest in, as well as the importance of pollinators. Pollinators include many kinds of insects, and even some birds and mammals.  But the pollinators attracting most of the attention are our native bees. 

The Master Gardeners are great advocates of pollinator stewardship and do popular trainings on caring for mason bees and growing pollinator gardens.  The potential and also the need for supporting pollinators in urban/suburban settings, as well as in a larger agricultural landscape is clear.

But what about all the forestlands in Oregon? 

Well it turns out that many forest and woodland properties can and do provide native bee habitat.  Sometimes very good habitat that many of us would not even recognize.  So what does it look like? 

A new planing in a clearcut or other open area can have a great mix of nesting and flower resouces. Photo B Withrow-Robinson

The building blocks of native bee habitat are places to nest and flowers for food, located close enough together for bees to reach both. 

Most of our native pollinators nest in the ground, many preferring bare mineral soil to dig their tunnels.  Others nest in wood, in pithy centers of stems and branches and other woody debris.  Flowers that provide nectar for the bees to eat and pollen to feed their brood are a clear requirement; but that we need a procession of flowers over the season is easily overlooked.

So, open areas with a mix of bare ground, some woody debris and an abundance of flowers blooming throughout the season nearby is a pretty good thumbnail sketch of awesome pollinator habitat. 

Family forestlands in our area are often pretty diverse places.  You can generally expect to find a variety of woodland conditions from dense conifer stands, to hardwood areas.  There are often also a variety of open spaces like meadows, road edges and landings or recently harvested areas. In short, local woodland properties often have all the building blocks of great pollinator habitats.

Keep in mind that a thriving community of pollinators needs resources not for just one species of bee but for many kinds.  It needs a wide range of conditions:  different nesting substrates, and a wide variety of flowering plants that produces different shapes and sizes of flowers, in an ongoing succession of bloom from early spring into fall. 

Big leaf maple s an important and abundant early flower. Photo B. Withrow-Robinson

How about your place?  As a woodland owner you likely have some bee habitat already and can probably do some easy things to keep it or improve it.  It is often best to start with knowing what you have.

Take some time to thik about this, then take stock next spring and summer.  Pay attention to what is flowering on your property, as well as when and where it blooms.  Note (and identify) what you have in abundance, and pay attention to things that are particularly popular with a variety of insects. Channel your inner child, or better yet, involve your kids or grandkids in this! This would be a great journaling activity, combining observations, note taking, drawing and photography. Great fun! 

Ocean spray is an attractive summer flowering shrub important to pollinators. Photo B. Withrow-Robinson

Once you know what you have, you can think about ways to protect or improve it.  I’ll be back next time with some resources and ideas about that. 

Jim Johnson, familiar long-time leader of the Forestry & Natural Resources (FNR) Extension Program retired last winter.  Jim served 15 years with OSU, primarily as Associate Dean and Forestry Extension Program Leader but also led international programs and was interim Department Head for two departments in the College.  Jim did a lot to strengthen the FNR program in his time with us.  We wish him well in Virginia where he has moved to be close to a small flock of grandchildren.

Dr. Holly Ober has followed Jim as FNR Extension Program Leader.  She started here at OSU on June 1, taking the position of Associate Dean for Science Outreach and Program Leader for Forestry and Natural Resources Extension in the College of Forestry. 

Dr. Ober previously served as Associate Program Leader for the Natural Resources Extension Program in Florida.  She was also a Professor and Extension Specialist.  Her research there looked at the mechanisms that influence wildlife habitat selection and wildlife productivity in forests to better inform management strategies to balance multiple uses.  She is a recognized expert in bat ecology.  As an Extension Specialist, she taught landowners and land managers about sustainable management practices to provide habitat for wildlife while also meeting their other objectives.  A familiar topic here in Oregon. 

Holly is actually returning to Oregon, having received her PhD from OSU in Forest Science and Wildlife Biology in 2007.  Please welcome her when you get a chance.

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

Earlier in this series (click here), we talked about some of the reasons people are interested in growing a diverse forest, some of the key components of diversity, and also some of the many ways to enhance your woods’ diversity.  The idea was to show that a landowner often has a very wide range of future options, but often needs to make choices and take actions to achieve their goals.  I know this may have seemed academic to some readers, so we will share some examples of how this looks in practice.

A meadow creates open areas where sun loving plants such as oak thrive and also forest edges that are attractive to certain wildlife.

A good example of managing for diversity to meet some specific wildlife and timber objectives is Cedar Spring tree farm near Airlie, owned by Dave Hibbs, Sarah Karr and their family.

Sarah is an avid birder, determined that any property they own provide benefits for wildlife as well as for her family. Dave is a retired OSU forestry professor interested in producing future high quality timber along with other benefits from their woods.  So, Dave and Sarah are typical of many families, with co-owners having some different objectives and priorities.  But they  have a willingness and ability to manage for multiple objectives that can be met by growing a diverse forest. So let’s take a look at some of the ways they do this.

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By Amy Grotta and Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension

Through a creative and carefully planned harvest, this mature forest has undergone a structural diversity makeover.

Continuing our series, we’ll now look at steps that woodland owners can take to enhance structural diversity in their forests.  Recall that “structural diversity” refers to the amount of three-dimensional variation in the forest. In other words, a structurally diverse forest has trees of different sizes arranged in uneven patterns across the site.

Why do we care about structural diversity? Structural diversity is important to creating an “older” or “natural” forest look that many people want on their property.

Structural diversity is also a very important part of wildlife habitat. Continue reading

By Amy Grotta and Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension

Our previous installment of this series introduced the key elements of forest diversity. Species diversity (a.k.a. compositional or biological diversity) is one of those elements.  So how do you achieve it, especially if what you are starting out with is a plantation forest with only a few species? The transition to an older forest with many plant species will not happen quickly. However, at every stage in a forest’s life cycle, there are opportunities and choices one can make to move the needle to a more species-rich forest.

The rest of this article and the accompanying infographic takes us through these choices, stage by stage. Continue reading

Brad Withrow-Robinson and Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension.


Many landowners are interested in growing a diverse forest as discussed in the previous post.  Their reasons may include having an attractive woodland retreat, providing habitat for wildlife or having a more resilient forest.  Whatever the reason, knowing what different parts of forest diversity look like is a key step towards getting it.

There are several key parts to diversity: those things that grow and live in a forest, how those things are arranged and when those things happen. Each is shaped or influenced by the physical environment (like soils or elevation) and natural processes (like competition, storms or fire).  Many kinds of diversity can also be enriched by us.

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Brad Withrow-Robinson and Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension.

We often hear from landowners that that they want a diverse, natural-looking forest. Their reasons vary.  Some folks are aware of the many ecological benefits that diversity brings to a woodland property, while others may have been inspired by the beauty of an old growth forest.

Old growth forest at HJ Andrews Experimental Forest, Blue River OR

Of course, it takes centuries for an old growth forest to develop and many of our readers have young stands planted within the last decade or two that may look more like this:

Young D-fir plantation in foothills of the Coast Range

So how do you move from one situation to another?

Happily, a landowner has many ways to influence and encourage diversity in their woodlands. Even if you have just bought some recently cut-over land, it does not have to remain a simple timber plantation if you do not want it to be.  You can grow a diverse forest.  And it can be done within decades rather than centuries.  No, it will not be old growth, but it may help reach many of the diversity-related objectives landowners commonly mention, including an attractive forest setting, better habitat for a variety of animals and a resilient forest.

A network of paths leads from any starting point in a woodland’s development. Each crossing is an event or decision that leads in a different direction and towards a different woodland condition.

In this series, we will be exploring the pathways to a diverse forest in western Oregon. These ideas also apply to an oak woodland, a riparian forest as well as an upland conifer-dominated forest.  In our next post we look at what makes a forest diverse and why it matters.  In later posts we will consider turns you can take throughout the life of the forest to restore, enhance and maintain woodland diversity to match your particular objectives.

Another view of pathways, incorporating competitive zones leading to certain outcomes.


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

Happy fall!
Happy fall!

For the fourth installment in our series on native shrubs that are beneficial to wildlife, I’ve chosen one that appropriate to the season, provides some nice fall color to our forests.  Now I’ve met more than a few woodland owners who are not fans of vine maple; it’s not a favorite of those who prefer a tidy or parklike forest. Working or wandering in mature forests you’ve probably tripped over it or crawled under it and possibly cursed it under your breath.  Nevertheless, vine maple is another of those “brush” species that benefits wildlife in numerous ways. With some tolerance for its rambling ways you can find a place for this species to provide that service on your woodland in concert with your other land management goals.  If you are interested in enhancing wildlife habitat on your property, read on for our species profile.

Species name: Vine maple (Acer circinatum)
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Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Agent, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties.

DSCN3241Continuing on the general theme of young stand management and especially the need for thinning, I’d like to look at strategies for thinning a young stand. Let’s start with some things to keep in mind about Young Stand Thinning or YST (also called precommercial thinning or PCT):

  • The idea of young stand thinning (YST) is to avoid harmful overcrowding later by removing excess trees early on.
  • The impact of thinning out a tree is very local. The overall stocking level (trees per acre) can be misleading. It is the spacing among immediate neighbors that counts.
  • The greatest benefit of YST is increased growing space rather than selection among trees. Creating more growing space to benefit as many leave trees as possible is the primary goal. Culling is secondary.
  • YST is key to achieving longer rotations and many non-timber objectives many family forest landowners desire.

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

oceanspray floweringIf one of your land management goals is to provide wildlife habitat, you’ll want to consider keeping a mix of native shrub species on your property. Shrubs provide a host of services to wildlife, including shelter or cover, nesting space, and food from their twigs, leaves, flowers, and fruit. With thought given to species selection and location, retaining existing shrubs or planting them can benefit wildlife without compromising timber growth or forest operations. This is the third article in our Shrubs for Wildlife series (see others here and here). Each article highlights one species that benefits wildlife in northwest Oregon forests.

Species Name: Oceanspray (Holodiscus discolor)

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