familyforest_31

What does the future hold for Oregon’s family-owned forests?

Cary Renzema interrupts a stroll around his 50-acre forest to point out tiny purple petals peeking out from the forest floor. “Beautiful little orchids,” Renzema says. “Once you start looking, there are hundreds of those things around here.”

For 13 years Renzema has studied this forest’s quirks and charms, explored its groves of cedar trees and patches of vine maple and wild rose about 25 miles west of Portland. Today, though, those sights are bittersweet. As part of a divorce settlement, he may have to log this second-growth forest, leaving thousands of stumps where trees have stood for three generations.

Family Forests

Family foresters nervously eye possible new logging rules

The federal government has been telling Oregon for over a decade that its rules to protect threatened coastal salmon are not up to snuff. Now, the state is faced with a loss of federal dollars unless it gets with the program. In response, the Oregon Board of Forestry is weighing whether to require timberland owners to leave more trees standing along streams to better protect fish habitat. And that’s got owners of small timber lands especially worried. In Oregon, timber holdings under 5-thousand acres are often described as “family forests,” as opposed to the large commercial forest lands owned by timber giants such as Plum Creek and Weyerhauser.

A small, privately owned forest outside of Portland.

Can carbon markets help Oregon’s small forests?

When cancer comes calling, what if owners of small forest plots had another choice but to sell or to cut? That’s the premise of a pilot program being launched in Washington and Columbia counties of northwest Oregon. Anchored by the Pinchot Institute for Conservation and an $820,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Forest Health/Human Health Initiative envisions what planners call an “A-Tree-M” card for forest owners who are threatened by medical bills but don’t want to cut or sell. The source of the income: Emerging markets for sequestering planet-warming carbon dioxide. Are they serious?