FOREST PURPOSE, ESTABLISHMENT AND OWNERSHIP
The College of Forestry research and demonstration forests provide a living laboratory and outdoor classroom for students, researchers and others to learn about forests and their management. A collective vision, mission, and set of goals guides the management of all 10 research forests tracts that are owned and stewarded by OSU.
How do the 10 College of Forestry Research Forests differ from the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest or the proposed Elliott State Research Forest?
The 10 College of Forestry Research Forests (Blodgett, Cameron, Collins, Dunn, McDonald, Marchel, Matteson, Oberteuffer, Ram’s Dell, Spaulding) comprise 15,000 acres combined. They are located across the state and are managed by the College of Forestry with the intent of fulfilling the university’s mission to provide opportunities to learn through research, teaching and outreach. The 10 research forests managed by the College of Forestry operate differently than these other forests, although all have a role in providing opportunities for research and learning. The H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest is a 16,000-acre research forest owned by the U.S. Forest Service, located near Blue River, Oregon. The Elliott State Research Forest is a 91,000-acre publicly owned state forest, located near Reedsport, Oregon.
FOREST MANAGEMENT AND FUNDING
The College of Forestry aspires for its research forests to be recognized as models for actively and sustainably managed forest systems. The McDonald and Dunn Research Forests are guided by a forest management plan that aims to support a broad set of goals and values. The goals include providing opportunities for learning, discovery, and engagement; demonstrating sound stewardship; providing opportunities for research; promoting forest resilience; serving as working demonstration forests; providing opportunities for recreation; fostering community connections; showcasing financial sustainability; demonstrating accountability; and striving for continuous improvement through adaptive management. Revenue generated through timber harvest is used to meet these objectives, as well as to support the College of Forestry’s education, research and outreach mission.
The College of Forestry aims for its research forests to be globally recognized as models for actively and sustainably managed forest systems. Timber harvest is one component of active forest management and serves as learning and research opportunities for foresters, civil engineers, wildlife biologists, ecologists, silviculturists, social scientists, small woodland owners, community members and others. Also, timber harvests are key to creating forests with a variety of characteristics. For example, even-aged, two-aged, and multi-aged stands each offer habitat for different plants and wildlife. Active management through timber harvest can also maintain or improve forest health, by limiting insect and disease outbreaks and reducing risk of wildfires.
Additionally, a foundational College of Forestry principle is that the research forests must be self-sustaining. Funds required for management of the forests are not provided by the College of Forestry, Oregon State University, the State of Oregon or by taxpayers. Revenue must be generated through sustainable timber harvests and reinvested in the forests.
Sustainable harvest is an important aspect of active forest management. With some exceptions due to economic factors and weather events, the volume of harvests within OSU’s Research and Demonstration Forests have remained consistent over time, below the 6 million board feet/year target outlined in the 2005 McDonald-Dunn Forest Plan.
From 2018-2020, timber harvest in the Blodgett Research Forest was increased to contribute to construction costs of the Oregon Forest Science Complex.
All harvested stands within college research forests are replanted, as reforestation is an essential component of sustainable forest management. Operations on all research forests comply with reforestation guidelines stipulated by the Oregon Forest Practices Act. On average, 5-10% of revenue generated through timber harvest each year is used to plant 75,000 - 125,000 seedlings within OSU’s research forests.
State of Oregon Forest Practices rules and regulations recognize slash treatment as a tool for wildfire risk reduction, protection from insect and disease outbreaks, and as a process to prepare a recently harvested site for planting. Slash can be treated through chipping and mastication, or through burning. Research forest staff use different approaches for each harvest site. For example, mastication (chopping) is used in areas where it is desirable to limit smoke. In areas where slash piles are burned, staff follow Oregon’s Smoke Management regulations, which are overseen by the Oregon Department of Forestry.
The College of Forestry’s philosophy is to use the least amount of herbicide possible to meet specific needs. Recently harvested sites are treated with herbicides to temporarily reduce competing vegetation and allow tree seedlings to establish after being planted, and to meet state of Oregon reforestation requirements. Herbicides are also used to control or reduce invasive plants like false brome, Himalayan blackberry, English hawthorn, and Scotch broom. Herbicides are used in some restoration efforts to reduce invasive plants and allow the seeding or planting of native vegetation into meadow, prairies, oak woodlands and other areas. Herbicide applications are conducted in compliance with state of Oregon and federal regulations under the supervision of a licensed pesticide applicator.
Currently, approximately 3.7% of land in the McDonald-Dunn Forests are old forest reserves. These patches are permanently protected. In addition, individual old trees (known as “legacy trees”) within younger forests are retained when younger forests are harvested.
A foundational College of Forestry principle is that the research forests must be self-sustaining. Funds required for management of the forests are not provided by the College of Forestry, Oregon State University, the State of Oregon or by taxpayers. Sustainable timber harvests create an environment for research and learning and serve as the primary source of revenue. Other minor revenue sources include natural gas royalties and rent from communication towers located within some research forest tracts.
A summary of net revenue by research forest tract between 2013-2022 is available here.
After forest operating expenses are covered, any remaining revenue is first contributed to the forest financial reserves, and then to research, teaching and advising. Reserves are required to cover forest operation and staffing costs for a minimum of three years, should timber harvests temporarily decrease or economic conditions result in lower revenue from timber sales.
*From 2018-2020, the College of Forestry temporarily increased timber harvest in the Blodgett Research Forest to contribute to construction costs of the Oregon Forest Science Complex.
Maintaining 15,000+ acres of research and demonstration forests is a significant operational undertaking with many moving parts. This work is managed by 6.25 employees (full time equivalencies), according to a forest management plan approved by the dean. Funds generated from sustainable timber harvests are reinvested in:
- Research Forest Staffing, Equipment and Supplies - Salaries and benefits; research equipment and supplies.
- Forest Regeneration, Restoration and Conservation - Seed acquisition; growing and planting seedings; site prep; browse protection; regeneration surveys; owl, stream and fish surveys; project treatments; fire suppression and mastication.
- Harvest Operations - Logging and transportation costs; unit layout; tree marking and cruising.
- Recreation, Outreach and Cultural Resources - Volunteer program; supplies and equipment; trail and facility maintenance; building rental/leases; outreach and public information; surveys of cultural sites and resources.
- Forest Maintenance, Infrastructure and Administration - Roads and facilities building and maintenance; vehicles; office equipment and business services.
Since 1926, hundreds of research studies have been conducted across the College of Forestry’s 15,000 acres of research and demonstration forests. Researchers and educators from the College of Forestry, other colleges within OSU, other universities, agencies, non-profits and local schools use the OSU Research Forests as a living laboratory and classroom. Students receive hands-on experience in everything from taking forest measurements, to studying aquatic plants and wildlife. The research and learning that takes place in the forests has contributed impactful solutions to everyday and real-world challenges.
From 2017-2023, there have been a number of Honors College theses, MS theses and projects, Ph.D. dissertations, and journal articles produced involving data collection from the research forests. This resulted in over 87 publications. Visit our website to learn more about current and recent research on the forests, or visit our searchable database to learn more about research conducted 1926-2013.
The forests provide opportunities for research on a wide variety of topics, including wildlife ecology, aquatic/riparian ecology, hydrology, plant community ecology, disturbance ecology, soil science, forest engineering, harvest operations, recreation, remote sensing, wood products, silviculture and forest management.
The close proximity of the McDonald and Dunn Forests to the main OSU campus in Corvallis enables visits to the forests by students during classes. Some of the classes that report visiting the forests with students include: Ecological Biogeography, Forest Biology, Forest Ecology, Forestry Experiential Learning, Forest Mensuration, Forest Policy, Forest Road Engineering, Forest Route Surveying, Forest Soils, Forest Surveying, Global Context of the Forest Sector, Harvesting Operations, Harvesting Process Engineering, Introduction to Forestry, Recreation Resource Management, Renewable Materials Manufacturing Experience, Silviculture Principles, Socio technical Aspects of Water Resources, Soil Morphology for Professionals, Terrestrial Vertebrate Identification and Natural History, Wildland Fire Science and Management.
The forests are used regularly for recurring trainings through programs that teach woodland owners and managers such as the Master Woodland Manager program. One-time trainings have recently occurred on topics ranging from pollinator enhancement to prescribed burning to timber cruising. The forests also serve as a location for teaching youth through avenues such as the Get Outdoors Day, the Environmental Leadership for Youth program, and the Discovery Trail in Peavy Arboretum.
The forests also serve as an educational backdrop for local schools, non-profits and other educational organizations that host camps, field trips and more for local youth. These organizations include: Corvallis Environmental Center, Corvallis Parks and Recreation, Corvallis and Albany-area schools, Outdoor Service Guides, Environmental Youth Leadership Institute, Youth Corvallis Composite Mountain Bike Team and countless others.
PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT WITH THE RESEARCH FORESTS
The community is invited to participate in the development of a new management plan for the McDonald and Dunn Forests in a number of ways. Input can be provided at planned community listening sessions (scheduled early in the planning process) and community input sessions (scheduled later in the planning process). Written comments on the research forest management plan can be provided any time using this web form. Questions on the research forest management plan can be sent to this email address.
All community listening sessions are open to public participation. The Stakeholder Advisory Committee and Faculty Planning Committee have been created to advise the dean of the College of Forestry on the new management plan. Meetings of these committees are open to listen in via Zoom, and recordings are posted online. Community members can provide written input using this web form.