Restoring Oregon’s forests after devastating wildfires

September was one of Oregon’s most destructive and damaging wildfire seasons in recent history, burning nearly one million acres across both public and private lands. Restoration and regeneration of Oregon’s forests will likely take years and require more than 100 million tree seedlings.

But Oregonians will not walk away from the forests we love.

The private timberland lost as much as 15 billion board feet of timber – enough wood to build 1 million homes. Despite the losses, private forestland owners and operators were focused on the front lines, supporting federal and state firefighting efforts with more than 650 employees and more than 350 pieces of privately owned equipment.

“Throughout the state, countless examples exist where private timber companies provided the only personnel and equipment on vast sections of fires, with foresters and loggers selflessly working thousands of hours to protect lands and communities, irrespective of ownership, only to return after a shift to help their own families and neighbors evacuate.” said Kyle Williams, Director of Protection for the Oregon Forest and Industries Council. “It was truly an outstanding response to a worst-case scenario.”

Despite the best efforts of firefighters, wildfires converted a massive amount of wood into air pollution, emitting more carbon into the atmosphere in a few weeks than both the state’s energy and transportation sectors – which were previously Oregon’s largest sources of emissions.

One large fire year can emit up to 15 million tons of carbon, which is equivalent to a quarter of Oregon’s annual human-caused emissions and twice as much carbon as all the cars in Portland emit in one year.

After a fire the pollution continues, as damaged trees quickly become susceptible to insect infestation and rot, emitting more carbon into the atmosphere as they decay and creating deadly conditions for firefighters should a future wildfire re-ignite in that same forest in the future.

Not only do studies demonstrate that post-fire harvest increases the effectiveness of reforestation, studies also demonstrate that young growing trees capture carbon at a higher rate than older trees, so re-planting with new seedlings after a fire maximizes the forest’s ability to capture carbon in the future.

“While the 2020 wildfires will deeply impact our industry for years to come, the forest products sector will continue to be a cornerstone of Oregon’s economy and we will continue to do what we do best — grow, harvest, and replant new forests while manufacturing carbon-friendly wood products to meet our country’s needs,” said Kristina McNitt, President of the Oregon Forest and Industries Council. “This is our contribution, and the Oregon way – creating green jobs and locally sourced material to rebuild our homes and communities after this tragedy.”

If you’re interested in assisting those who lost homes or livelihood from fires, visit our Wildfire Resource Page for a list of ways you can help.

We’re focused on actively and sustainably managing our forests in Oregon.

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