As high winds and blustery weather begins to calm, Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) officials are urging forest landowners in NW Oregon to assess damage to trees and natural hazards created from the storm.
35 percent of the state’s 30,500,000 forested acres are in private ownership. Storm cleanup and damage assessment for forest landowners is focused on four key areas:
• Downed and leaning trees
• Forest road safety
• Detecting land shifts or slumps
• Prevention of water pooling behind blocked culverts
The actions are requested as a voluntary self-assessment project; landowners are not required to report results to ODF.
Downed or leaning trees
Downed or leaning trees may pose a significant hazard, and should be cleared only by persons trained in logging safety practices or experienced personnel only.
Trees or other large woody debris that are causing immediate safety threats – such as flooding of buildings or damage to bridges – can be removed right away. On forestland, landowners are required within 24 hours after the action to contact the local ODF office to work through any notice or approval requirements that may apply. If the land is not forested, ODF staff can direct landowners to other state agencies for guidance as necessary.
Blown down trees sometimes land in streams – a natural process that actually helps create better habitat for salmon and other fish species.
Damage estimates on private or state-owned forests from the January 2012 series of storms are not available. Wind disturbance has shaped Oregon’s forests for hundreds of years, similar to fire and landslides. The North Coast December 2007 windstorm damaged about 390 million board feet of timber in Clatsop and Tillamook Counties. The 1962 Columbus Day storm however damaged an estimated 11 to 15 billion board feet of timber in northern California, Oregon and Washington. About 13,000 board feet of lumber are used in the construction of an average American home.
Forest road safety
Landowners are asked to make a general assessment of roads on their forest land to make sure roadbeds remain intact and engineering features such as water bars remain clear and are performing well.
Visual assessments of roads should be performed during daylight and calm weather. If you encounter deep standing water on a forest road – don’t drown, turn around.
Be prepared for potentially softened road surfaces; forest roads in use from October through April in NW Oregon forests must have adequate durable road surface materials to withstand adverse weather conditions. During wet weather, heavy equipment or log hauling from private forestlands and state-owned forests may be suspended if road conditions cannot prevent surface runoff from reaching streams.
Repairs to roads should be made promptly as weather conditions permit. Repairs to older forest roads must be made to contemporary forest road engineering standards. Your local ODF office can provide additional information about forest road standards.
Detection of land shifts and hazards
The wet climate and rugged terrain found throughout northwestern Oregon means that many areas are prone to landslides. Landslides occur on both managed and un-managed forests, and landslides do not just occur on forestlands.
If you live in a potential debris flow hazard area, such as near the mouth of a canyon or the base of a steep slope, you can take measures including listening for unusual sounds, such as cracking trees; and watching for sudden increases or decreases in water flow in a channel or water accumulation in abnormal places.
If you detect conditions that suggest a landslide or debris flow may occur, please contact your county emergency management office and the Oregon Department of Forestry right away.
Check for potentially clogged road culverts that could impound water and create a potential for a debris flow.
On streams and waterways, assess if there is sediment in the water. If water in a river or stream suddenly turns muddy or the amount of water flowing suddenly decreases or increases, this is an indicator that the flow has been affected upstream; if you believe there is danger of a landslide or a debris flow, leave the area immediately.
If they feel they cannot adequately respond to a potential hazard on their land, landowners are encouraged to contact their local ODF office or their county emergency management office for assistance.
I have several downed trees on my property – can I sell them off?
• Cutting downed trees for personal use as firewood is an option. Harvest for firewood or other personal use does not require notification to ODF. Reforestation is not required in yard and garden areas around homes. A list of local arborists and tree care service companies is available from local ODF offices.
• If you intend to sell firewood commercially, then a Notification of Operation form (available from any ODF office or on-line) is required.
• If you have enough timber blown down or leaning to make marketable logs, then hiring a logger may be an option. ODF offices have lists of local logging operators that normally work on smaller operations. Since this operation would be a commercial harvest, it does require the landowner or logging operator to submit a Notification of Operation form to ODF. An ODF stewardship forester will contact either the landowner or contractor prior to the operation beginning.
It is the landowner’s responsibility to ensure that their land meets minimum ‘stocking levels’ (for example, trees per acre, tree sizes) that are required in the Oregon Forest Practices Act. If trees have been removed that fall below that level, reforestation is required to bring new trees into that storm-damaged area. An ODF stewardship forester assisting a landowner will inform them when reforestation is required. Reforestation is the landowner’s responsibility, and information about finding tree seedling sources is available from ODF.