Accelerating Adoption of Sustainable Practices for Small Forest Producers

Final report for OW14-003

Project Type: Professional + Producer
Funds awarded in 2014: $47,167.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2017
Grant Recipient: Northwest Natural Resource Group
Region: Western
State: Washington
Principal Investigator:
Lindsay Malone
Northwest Natural Resource Group
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Project Information

Abstract:

Through the project, Accelerating Adoption of Sustainable Practices for Small Forest Producers, NNRG focused efforts on understanding information needs of forest producers and how they make decisions. We collaborated with Ecotrust to introduce producers to tools and examples to inform decisions and consider active forest management. This process included interviews with 9 producers and collecting stand measurement data from their forests to model scenarios in Ecotrust’s Forest Planner. 

Producers indicated that they made decisions to actively manage their forests based primarily on their understanding of their forest’s health and their income needs. The most important factors guiding their decisions were their forest management plans and recommendations from forestry professionals who had reviewed their site specific issues. Producers indicated it was critical to have information specific to the conditions of their forests, considered their management objectives, and the status of markets (e.g. timber prices, contractor availability, and the availability of seedlings) in order to make decisions.

We respond to producers’ interest in tools for evaluating forest health and desire for economic examples, by introducing producers and natural resource managers to Ecotrust’s Forest Planner, the Biodiversity Field Assessment, and sharing case studies about restoration thinning and selective harvests conducted by other producers.

In 2015 and 2016, NNRG hosted two workshops for forest owners reaching 36 producers, and held one training attended by 20 natural resource professionals. NNRG provided more than 33 one-on-one field visits with producers managing more than 4,000 acres of forestland.

From 2015-2017, NNRG worked directly with eight producers to evaluate and complete commercial thinning projects across 262 acres in the Puget Sound region of western Washington. These projects generated more than $1.4 million for the regional economy and contributed to more than 159 weeks of contractor activity for three logging operators.

NNRG completed three case studies of producers considering active forest management and conducting harvest activities. We used ESRI’s Story Map platform to share the case studies and are distributed these accounts of producers’ management experiences through newsletters and social media to more than 3,000 people in our network.

Through interviews and site visits, NNRG incorporated feedback from producer impressions of Forest Planner to share with Ecotrust to further refine the mapping program.

Project Objectives:

The goal of the project was to empower forest producers to switch from non-management to active ecological management and remove barriers to sustainable forest management by giving producers and professionals better information about expected long-term outcomes.

We focused our efforts to accomplish this goal by disseminating information through trainings and one-on-one field visits to forest producers and natural resource professionals about decision making tools and encouraging active forest management through uneven-aged silvicultural methods. NNRG worked toward this objective by:

  • Hosting two workshops for forest owners reaching 36 producers, and one training attended by 20 natural resource professionals; overall, reaching 56 producers and professionals.
  • Conducting 33 site visits with forest owners on more than 4,000 acres across western Oregon and Washington.
  • Interviewing nine forest owners to understand their goals for forest ownership and how they make decisions.
  • Developing three case studies of landowners practicing active forest stewardship by using uneven-aged management techniques.
  • Assisting eight forest producers in carrying out commercial thinning harvests on 262 acres of forestland. These harvests generated more than $1.4 million for the regional economy and contributed to more than 159 weeks of work for three logging contractors.
  • Distributing examples of forest producers’ management experiences and goals through mailings and social media to more than 3,000 people.
  • Introducing producers to Ecotrust’s Forest Planner which now has 700 registered users and an average of 100 uses per month.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Phil Aponte
  • Mark Biser
  • David Diaz (Researcher)
  • Kirk Hanson (Educator)
  • Rod Hanson
  • Rick Helman (Educator)
  • Gordon Hogenson
  • Elona Kafton
  • Lindsay Malone (Educator and Researcher)
  • Ruth Ferris
  • Peter Hayes (Educator)
  • Helen Daly
  • Amy Grotta (Educator)
  • Emily Asmus
  • Steve Romein
  • Thelma Mosebar
  • John Yoachim
  • Ed Bressette
  • Matt Patton

Research

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

33 Consultations
6 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
6 Published press articles, newsletters
2 Tours
2 Workshop field days

Participation Summary

87 Farmers
20 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

NNRG and Ecotrust reached more than 56 forest owners and natural resource professional through three workshops; two of which include field tours. In addition to the group trainings, we conducted 33 site visits to forest owners in western Oregon and Washington across 4,000 acres.

We provided 9 on-forest site visits with producers and conducted in-depth interviews to understand landowners’ information needs, sources, and decision making processes.

Through through the workshop trainings, the field guide for the biodiversity assessment tool, and Forest Planner – we have more than 6 pieces of curricula that we shared with producers during this project.

NNRG produced 3 case studies using ESRI’s Story Map and developed 3 case studies for a total of 6 publications. Each case study has been promoted through NNRG’s newsletter, which goes out to more than 3,000 readers as well as through other social media mediums. 

Learning Outcomes

65 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation

Project Outcomes

8 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
25 Farmers intend/plan to change their practice(s)
Project outcomes:

In working with producers through interviews and site visits, NNRG was able to respond directly to producers’ questions and specifically evaluate their forests and make recommendations that support active management to improve forest productivity, enhance biodiversity, and generate income.

Significant outcomes from this project include eight forest producers carried out commercial thinning harvests on 262 acres of forestland. Their harvests generated more than $1.4 million for the regional economy and provide more than 159 weeks of work for three logging contractors (3+ FTEs for 1 year). These harvests were thinning treatments to remove the disease-infected and declining trees from the stands and make space to interplant areas with a diverse assortment of native tree species resistant to diseases expressed in the stands and a means to optimize timber values in future years and unknown markets. At least seven of the producers had been passive managers or had a portion of their decision makers inclined to passive management; providing these landowners with decision making tools and a forest health assessment was essential to their deciding to commercially thin the forests.

The one-on-one site visits to producers also resulted in 25 producers pursuing active forest management by beginning to develop or update their forest management plans, begin treatments to enhance their forests through: young stand thinning, remove invasive plants and noxious weeds, improve drainage along roads and culverts, or evaluate stands to plan future harvests.

Producers who engage with forestry professionals, extension agents, conservation district technicians, and other natural resource professionals can become highly motivated to access the information, cost-share resources, and other tools that cultivate and support active forest managers.

Success stories:

A story of success from this project comes from a family tree farm on Puget Sound in western Washington with several generations and more than a dozen individuals involved in the decisions to manage the forest. Many family members had no desire to commercially harvest timber from the forest as their knowledge of timber harvests was solely based on seeing the clear-cuts that are used in even-aged management. They felt such methods were not aligned with their aesthetic values, recreational objectives, and desire to provide wildlife habitat for species that need more complex structure and forest cover. NNRG interviewed the resident family members and their information needs, sources, and decision making factors. While taking stand measurements to use in Forest Planner, we helped them conduct a forest biodiversity assessment. The results of the assessment showed that some stands were highly productive and “good to grow” into complex, structurally complex forest that didn’t need much management, while other stands were overstocked with a single species and showing signs of lost productivity that would benefit from thinning, and still a few stands with highly commercially-valuable trees were starting to succumb to root rot disease and those trees should be individually selected out of stands. By sharing a site-specific report about the health of the forest with the family’s decision makers-that was mindful of the family’s objectives- they began to consider active management options to improve the long-term health of their forest and yield income for the land to pay for its upkeep. The harvest employed three contractors for 6 weeks each, supplied more than 192,000 board feet of raw logs to markets, and removed diseased and dying trees from 80 acres. The initial site visit with the landowners took place in summer 2015, decisions were made in 2016 and early 2017, and they completed their harvest in summer 2017.

Recommendations:

Through NNRG’s work on this project, as well as other collaborations with peers in extension agencies, conservation districts, research institutions and other organizations we have found that there is a lack of information and examples of case studies on un-even aged forest management and the economic and ecological outcomes of this approach to forest management available to producers in the Pacific Northwest. We see this as an information gap that needs to be bridged. Many producers inform us that prior to working with NNRG or attending an ecological forestry workshop that the only forest management option they were aware of was that of even-aged management. While clear-cuts are highly efficient and economically viable, this management method does not align with many producers’ stewardship objectives and so they opt for passive management. Introducing these producers to the concepts and methods used in uneven-aged forest management more closely suits their stewardship objectives and empowers them to consider active forest management and commercial timber harvests (thinning vs. clear-cut). NNRG will continue to build off our work in this project to collaborate with partners to develop case studies and collect metrics to generate a database about the economic and ecological outcomes of uneven-aged management.

In testing Forest Planner with landowners as part of this project we found producers had several requests for improving the user interface, refining data inputs, and clarifying resources to interpret the results from the modeling scenarios. Overall the scenario work in Forest Planner was a good conversation starter for producers, but had greater interest in having forestry professionals provide site specific recommendations on what management activities they implement in their forests to meet their objectives. Specific feedback was shared with Ecotrust for their incorporation into developing improvements to Forest Planner or other tools for producers. We have found collaborating with Ecotrust to benefit our work with forest producers. Ecotrust has the expertise to develop technical spatial tools that resonate with producers, while NNRG has the expertise of working with producers on-the-ground to carry out stewardship practices and management activities; our roles and specific services are complimentary to one another and the Northwest forest producer community.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.