Oregon wildfires lead to unprecedented demand for seedlings
Wildfires like the Riverside Fire in Estacada have had a variety of effects, including a significant demand for forest tree seedlings.
"Seedlings were already in short supply in Oregon before the fires," said Kyle Abraham, chief of Oregon Department of Forestry's private forests division. "Now, rough estimates are that somewhere between 80 and 140 million additional seedlings could be needed to reforest just the non-federal lands that burned in 2020."
The 138,000-acre Riverside Fire began last September near Estacada and reached full containment in December. The incident was deemed controlled Sunday, Feb. 14. It was one of multiple wildfires across the state at the time.
The range of seedlings that will likely be needed in the aftermath of last fall's wildfires is two to three times the typical number of seedlings needed each year for reforestation in Oregon.
Several factors have contributed to the state's limited seedling supply, including labor shortages, financial risk and lack of nursery space. Many nurseries mainly grow for landowners who are regular purchasers and file orders years ahead of time. Additionally, few nurseries specialize in forest species.
OSU Extension and the Oregon Small Woodlands Association have surveyed landowners about their seedling needs, and the group surveyed needs about 3.5 million trees to fully reforest.
"ODF has convened a working group with representatives from state and federal land management agencies, the forest and nursery industries, OSU Extension and nonprofit associations that serve small-acreage landowners to help address some of these needs," said Abraham.
The group is considering options to procure or grow seedlings for smaller landowners, ways to increase in-state nursery capacity and ways to collect seedling orders for smaller-acreage landowners — including helping with storage and transportation logistics.
ODF also has lists of contractors who can help landowners plant trees. The agency is exploring ways to help landowners work with a single contractor across multiple ownerships to help implement site preparation, planting and maintenance for family forest landowners.
ODF and OSU Forestry Extension have educational resources and can offer tree planting lessons for people who want to plant trees themselves.
Abraham encouraged landowners to contact ODF if they need assistance in reforestation.
"Our goal is to help landowners reforest," he said.
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