Oregon logging history map

Oregon Wild has compiled an  interactive map of logged and thinned areas on public and private lands across the state of Oregon.  If nothing else, it’s hard to look at this and accuse anyone wanting to keep logging out of new parts of their public lands of being an “extremist.”

Oregon Wild intends to use this mapping tool to help advocate for forest conservation and demonstrate that while there have been temporal pulses of increased logging intensity over the years, logging is always very active on both public and private forests in Oregon. In fact, if anything, the analysis on this site underrepresents the true extent of logging taking place.

The tool is also a great visualization of the few Wilderness and roadless wild lands remaining in the state – while it does not highlight these areas, they are clearly visible by their noticeable lack of logging units. These last bastions of wild landscapes are far too rare in Oregon, a reason Oregon Wild is working to protect what is left.

We can also use the tool to push back on misinformation spouted by timber interests.

  • Many say that logging on public land was “shut-down” by the spotted owl and Northwest Forest Plan, first implemented in 1994, but the data shows that logging continued apace throughout the Northwest Forest Plan region after the plan was adopted.
  • Logging advocates also say we need the increase the “pace and scale” of logging to reduce fire hazard in the dry forests of eastern and southwest Oregon, but the data show that thinning has already occurred across vast portions of these forests.

15 thoughts on “Oregon logging history map”

  1. Jon Haber wins the day with: If nothing else, it’s hard to look at this and accuse anyone wanting to keep logging out of new parts of their public lands of being an “extremist.”

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  2. This is a cool map — very informative. Note that, at least for federal lands, the harvested areas are not all clearcuts. On the Willamette National Forest, for example, I found these and lots of similar treatments:

    Project Name: BUCK PARK THIN
    Activity: Commercial Thin
    Area: 209 Acres

    Project Name: N/A
    Activity: Two-aged Coppice Cut
    Area: 197 Acres

    Project Name: HORN RIDGE
    Activity: Shelterwood Establishment Cut
    Area: 133 Acres

    The earliest sale I found, so far, was:

    Project Name: QUARTZVILLE #4
    Activity: Stand Clearcut
    Area: 62 Acres
    Date Planned: 12/31/1965
    Date Contracted: 12/31/1965
    Date Completed: 12/31/1965

    It is also worth noting that the vast majority of the harvested areas were replanted. Oregon law requires replanting on non-federal land.

    It would be interesting see an overlay of areas burned by wildfire.

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  3. I’m very familiar with that ranger district on the Willamette National Forest, as my wife and I would spend pretty much all of our free-time in that area for about a ten year period.

    As you look at that map, and see all the red, please keep in mind that most all of this logging on U.S. Forest Service land targeted – and destroyed – ancient, old-growth forest ecosystems.

    While human beings seem great at cutting down ancient, old-growth forest ecosystem….humans are terrible at replanting ancient, old-growth forest ecosystems.

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    • Humans are really good at burning up old growth too.. On Willamette National forest I would estimate that they kill by fire, hundred of thousands of old growth trees every summer.
      All logging on public lands for at least the last 20 years have been thinings. (with the exception of small amounts of fire salvage.)
      You can be sure anything published by Oregon Wild will be biased and against logging.
      Remember when the “Clinton plan” came into effect it reduced federal timber harvesting by over 90%. The private industrial forests where more than glad to picked up the balance. The results haven’t been the best for our forests.

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  4. As always, we see people blaming the present for what happened in the past. No one in the Forest Service is planning on going back to the 80’s. Maybe we should focus on moving forward, and managing what has grown back, since then? Site specific conditions should be the focus, and not the clearcuts of the 80’s.

    Similarly, we shouldn’t focus on what Trump says, as he isn’t the policy maker.

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  5. The map is very informative, but also misleading. Just looking at the Umpqua – There are Fire Salvage marked as clearcut, even though the green trees were left – while the stocking is very low as a result of the fire severity that killed most the trees, the general public will be mislead in to believing that this was a “clear cut” by the general perception. There are numerous “Overstory Removal” & “Seed Tree Cut” marked as clearcut which is not true, unless you want to change the definition of clear cut to mean that over time every tree is cut – which means the world is a clear cut, over time. This was just a quick glance at areas
    What would be interesting is to be able to over lay a fire history map and see how fire size relates, if it does, to management timing……..

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  6. I think this would have been a great effort IF we could trust that people with varying perspectives and levels of knowledge were involved in the development and QA/QC of the information. I could see something like “from Leiburg to 2020, a history of forest vegetation, logging and fire in Oregon.” I’d get Bob Zybach and perhaps a university professor to head up the effort and it would involve on the ground observations (what can we tell from these stumps or lack thereof), oral histories, written history, government records, and satellite info, and integrate all that information.

    Historical perspective: I was on the ground working in silviculture on the Winema, Deschutes, Fremont and Ochoco during the early 80’s and the transition to clearcutting (based on the latest science from OSU, professors came out to talk to us about that). You could call me and others here pieces of “living history.”

    So….I find a couple of problems here.
    1. GIS and remote sensing don’t go back to the early 1900’s so.. how do folks know what was done then? I guess historians and others can reconstruct place by place (railroad logging, big fires, etc.) but have they done that? Where did the data come from?

    2. For the Fremont, the site says “Detailed logging records are not available for this National Forest, therefore only all known clearcut areas are shown in the color below. ” But how do you know they are clearcuts if there are no records? Perhaps by satellite? But how would you tell clearcuts from burned areas?

    3. So I went to the Ochoco, and discovered (similar to Steve) that units that were “overstory removal””shelterwood removal” and “shelterwood establishment” were colored as clearcuts. The point of all these is to establish and release a new generation of trees, so there must be young trees to release. Or in the case of shelterwood establishment, you are cutting some (but not all) trees to leave openings for seedlings to become established. Is this intentional, not taking the time to learn about definitions, or just poor QA/QC? How would we know?

    4. QA/QC of government records. I think anyone who has gone into one of our databases scratches their head sometimes.
    There was a big chunk of the BLM colored in near the Chewaucan Marsh in Project Name: North Chewaucan – Mill Creek Firewood Cut Activity: Clearcut Area: 2,440 Acres Date Planned: N/A Date Contracted: N/A Date Completed: 12/31/2004. That’s a big clearcut.. does opening an area for firewood (no contract listed) lead to a clearcut? Was that the intention or the result or a definitional issue on the part of the BLM?

    4. Conclusions.. Jon said “If nothing else, it’s hard to look at this and accuse anyone wanting to keep logging out of new parts of their public lands of being an “extremist.”” Yet if we look at this, there are very few “new parts” and I would bet not many projects being planned in them. No one is planning projects in Wilderness or Roadless, so.. ???? Is this another “Straw Person”?

    Oregon Wild:

    Many say that logging on public land was “shut-down” by the spotted owl and Northwest Forest Plan, first implemented in 1994, but the data shows that logging continued apace throughout the Northwest Forest Plan region after the plan was adopted.
    Logging advocates also say we need the increase the “pace and scale” of logging to reduce fire hazard in the dry forests of eastern and southwest Oregon, but the data show that thinning has already occurred across vast portions of these forests.

    * Sorry, we don’t need geospatial data when we have (and have had) Region 6 Oregon timber sale data that tracks the decreases following the spotted owl. And owls only affected some Oregon forests and not others, so we wouldn’t put those Oregon forests in the mix, to be fair, if we were looking at owl impacts.

    * Logging advocates don’t say it as much as a variety of people say that we need to reintroduce fire to the landscape and to do that we need to do some thinning. Even in eastern and central Oregon trees grow back (albeit more slowly). It seems like it’s hard to argue that (1) we shouldn’t do fuel treatments because you have to keep up with them over time and we can’t afford it, and (2) if you’ve thinned once you shouldn’t need to thin again.

    I hope that others besides me and Steve will weigh in with looking at the areas in Oregon that they know about and comparing it to these maps.

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    • Oregon Wild’s “Common Sense Vision for Oregon Forests” is here:

      https://oregonwild.org/forests/forest-protection-and-restoration/common-sense-vision-oregon-forests

      In a nutshell, the vision is that “trees within the hundreds of thousands of acres of former clearcuts are now reaching marketable size, and could offer a responsible alternative to logging our remaining old-growth and mature forests. … Oregon Wild supports a responsible program to thin these dense tree plantations while setting aside our state’s remaining old growth as a legacy for future generations.”

      The vast majority of old-growth in Oregon is already set aside. Straw trees?

      I agree that many of the overstocked plantations on federal lands ought to be thinned — or treated with variable-retention a la Franklin/Johnson’s “ecological forestry.” On the latter, Oregon Wild isn’t yet onboard:

      https://oregonwild.org/about/press/should-controversial-oregon-timber-harvest-become-regional-model

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      • Most of eastern and central Oregon does not have “dense tree plantations” . So.. is OW just not talking about them?

        I think we could resolve all that by OW identifying what they consider to be old growth on a map. Then we could check how many timber sales are in those areas.

        Remember when we were discussing the Goose Project?
        https://forestpolicypub.com/2012/05/10/how-old-is-old-growth-goose-project/
        For some, albeit perhaps not OW, old growth is a moving target.
        Here’s Doug Heiken’s comment from May 10,2012:

        I don’t know that we need a semantic debate about the definition of old growth. Naturally regenerated stands over 80 years old provide a variety of old forest functions. Under the Northwest Forest Plan, stands over 80 years old are considered “late-successional old-growth.” 1994 NWFP FSEIS p 3&4-13. The authors of the Northwest Forest Plan said:
        “It is important to distinguish between an arbitrary definition of ‘old growth’ and an ecological definition that focuses on ecological functions and processes. Many mixed-age stands that include only scattered individuals or patches of old trees in a matrix of mature trees probably function ecologically much like classical ‘old-growth’ stands that have large numbers of old trees. … Therefore, the terms ‘late successional’ and ‘old growth’ used in this Final SEIS include the successional stages defined as mature and old growth, both of which function as old growth.”

        Historical note: I believe the District Ranger at this time was the same Terry Baker who is now Chief Executive Officer at the Society of American Foresters. Might be an interesting interview, Steve? What would he have done differently about Goose Creek if he knew then what he knows now?

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        • I’ll think about that, Sharon. Don’t know if Mr. Baker would want to talk about that now, but it can’t hurt to ask.

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    • I’ve been thinking for years about assembling a photo collection of the largest clearcuts in Oregon history. For instance, here’s a Google Earth image of a section of Bonneville Power Administration powerline corridor that cuts (pun) though the Mt. Hood NF — it runs near my house I can walk to it in a few minutes. Extends from The Dalles to Portland. My back-of-envelop calculation is that it is essentially a clearcut of about 4,000 acres of the Mt. Hood, but it isn’t of Oregon Wild’s map.

      A Section of BPA Powerline, Mt. Hood NF
      https://wp.me/a3AxwY-6p0

      The City of Portland would be another candidate — the former Stumptown. Eugene, Vancouver, and other cities. Vast areas of ag fields, etc.

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  7. True, there aren’t many timber sales in roadless areas. But I think that if the Forest Service had decided it was only going to log second growth forests, there would have been a big announcement. (And I doubt that Oregon Wild did this so they could fight straw people.)

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  8. Here’s the history from a handy site at Headwaters Economics.
    (I don’t know what kind of QA/QC there is for these data)

    Shutdown? Logging continued apace? How about “an abrupt decline in the FS contribution”?

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  9. I took the amazingly simple step of reaching out to Oregon Wild. Here’s some of what I learned:

    Some of you folks are misunderstanding the source of the data. ALL the federal data is from the agencies own timber harvest databases. NOT remote sensing. This data fro the federal agencies is sadly incomplete because the agencies themselves don’t know or haven’t bothered to update their data. I’m told that the Siuslaw National Forest in particular is disappointing in this regard.

    The private land data is from “change detection” using remote sensing and ONLY captures clearcuts since about 2000, so it’s very incomplete. Obviously there was a ton of private land clearcutting in this area of Oregon since at least the 1960s.

    I’d encourage other folks to call or email Oregon Wild if they have any other questions.

    Reply

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