Tuesday, October 15, 2019

2020 World Forest Institute International Fellowship Program – Applications from July 1 to October 15, 2019


The award-winning WFI Fellowship program brings natural resource professionals from around the world to our World Forestry Center headquarters in Portland, Oregon USA. The Fellowship is a 6-month professional development program designed to help you take your career to the next level. You will join a global cohort of professionals in weekly study tours around the Pacific Northwest learning how natural resources are managed in this part of the world. You will conduct interviews with experts in your field of study and visit people and places that will advance your knowledge and skills. Fellows return home with new ideas and new motivation to create change in their home countries.

Sharing about the forests of your country
We are looking for motivated mid career professionals (3- 5 years of relevant work experience) who want to explore, expand their knowledge and networks, and engage with others in forestry/ natural resource management. Fellowships are open to any country, including U.S. citizens. The Fellowship program offers partial scholarships through the Harry A. Merlo Foundation, but applicants must be able to cover at least 50% of the program fee ($5,000). Over two decades, 148 Fellows from 47 countries have participated to date. The Fellowship term is 6-months with a non-negotiable start date of April 6, 2020. Application deadline is Oct 15, 2019.

Scholarships Available based on qualifications and need!!

For more information and how to apply, please visit:
    Showcasing natural regeneration
    Visiting a drinking water watershed
    Hiking in US Parks
    Learning from the forest industry

      Friday, August 16, 2019

      Beers and Payment for Ecosystem Services? Wine not?

      Date of Visit: August 7, 2019
      Type of event: Study tour
      Topic: Payments for Ecosystem Services
      Organization: City of Astoria
      Location: Bear Creek Watershed, Astoria, Oregon
      Hosts: Brian Kittler / Forest program Director of Sustainable Northwest, Ben Hayes /City of Astoria Forester (Springboard Forestry)
      International Fellows: Richard Banda (Malawi), Fen-hui Chen (Taiwan), Temitope Dauda (Nigeria), Zhongyuan Ding (China), Ana Kanoppa (Brazil), Will Maiden (United Kingdom), Romain Matile (France), Rodolfo Vieto (Costa Rica)
      WFI Staff: Shadia Duery / International Fellowship Program Manager, Rick Zenn / Senior Fellow

      One of the local microbreweries
      in Cannon Beach, Oregon
      You may have heard that the best craft beers can be found in the Pacific Northwest, right? But what is the real reason why a small town on the Oregon coast is among the best brewing cities in the USA? We went to check it out.

      My colleagues from the World Forest Institute’s International Fellowship Program and I visited Bear Creek Watershed, an important water treatment plant that, during the summer, supplies around 4 million gallons of drinking water a day to the approximately 15,000 people of the city of Astoria.

      Faced with an area of about 3,800 acres of forest with native species (Western Hemlock, Douglas-fir, and Cedar) and the need to unlock funds, local policy-makers made the decision to avoid intensive timber harvest, as this method could threaten local water quality. Instead, in 2014, they came up with an innovative financing mechanism, a Carbon Project. The project’s objective is Improved Forest Management with the intent of increasing carbon stocks throughout the project period through three tools: i) Extending the harvest rotation of already established plantations; ii) Delaying harvest; and iii) Reducing the volume of harvest in the future (about 25% less than the “business as usual” scenario).

      Bear Creek Reservoir

      Hosted by the City of Astoria forester Ben Hayes (Springboard Forestry) accompanied by Brian Kittler, Forest Program Director from Sustainable Northwest, we had the opportunity to see a low-impact harvest model that avoids sediment runoff.

      The finance mechanism adopted by the city of Astoria was the concept of payments for environmental services. Reducing the volume of timber harvested in the Bear Creek Basin increased the carbon stocks that were traded (or sold) on the voluntary market. From January 2014 to September 2015, the project is estimated to have resulted in the removal of 262,154 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (mtCO2e) emissions and the generation of approximately $2 million in revenue for the city. The transparency of the project’s process is guaranteed through the American Carbon Registry and an agreement with The Climate Trust.

      Add Low-impact harvesting reduces sediment runoff
      But what about the benefits? The revenue from the sale of carbon credits were invested in the city’s public services, including the local library, city parks, and fire trucks. There is also the added benefit of maintenance of water quality. And here is the key point! As is well known, over 90% of beer is made up of a substance called H2O. So, to make good beer, in addition to malt and hops, you will also need a forest! In summary, as Ben Hayes mentioned, a healthy forest is the highest-quality water filter.

      Ana Kanoppa, International Fellow from Brazil
      An International Fellow’s Thoughts and Perspectives 

      Generally, forests, regardless of the region where they are located, comprise issues that go beyond environmental subjects (and may include economic, social, and political aspects). For example, in my home country, Brazil, this means that maintaining forest cover can increase water security in large cities, promote the rural economy by helping the agricultural sector, and mitigate climate change. In fact, as we can see, the benefits are collective! So, if I could make a slogan for the special Pacific Northwest region, it would be: keep calm, plant trees, and drink good beer! Cheers, Saúde, Salud, Santé, 干杯,(Gānbēi!), 乎乾啦(ho da la)!

      Friday, August 9, 2019

      Small is Beautiful: Zena Forest Products

      Date of Visit: July 17, 2019
      Type of event: Study tour
      Topic: Small Forest Land Ownership
      Organization: Zena Forest Products
      Location: Rickreall, Oregon
      Hosts: Sarah Deumling / Owner and Forest Manager, Ben Deumling / Owner and Sawmill Operations Manager
      International Fellows: Richard Banda (Malawi), Fen-hui Chen (Taiwan), Temitope Dauda (Nigeria), Zhongyuan Ding (China), Ana Kanoppa (Brazil), Will Maiden (United Kingdom), Romain Matile (France), Rodolfo Vieto (Costa Rica)
      WFI Staff: Shadia Duery / International Fellowship Manager

      Zena Forest Products is a German-American family-owned business located in the Eola Hills of the Willamette Valley, Oregon. The Deumling family has managed Zena Forest, a 1,300-acre parcel of FSC-certified forestland, since 1987 with a focus on maintaining a healthy and diverse ecosystem. This forested land comprises the largest contiguous block of forest in the Willamette Valley and includes large areas of endangered Oak Savannah and Oak Woodland.

      Zena Forest contains the headwaters of the Rickreall, Yamhill, and Spring Valley watersheds and is home for a number of threatened and endangered species. The forest is protected by a conservation easement, through which the Deumling family sold the development rights and carbon credits, both in perpetuity. The conservation easement also mandates minimum harvest levels as well as habitat preservation and enhancement measures.

      An example of Zena Forest Products' plywood flooring. The upper third section of the board
       is the most useful for flooring board surface, resulting in extremely efficient hardwood usage.

      Forest Management
      Zena forest is composed of approximately 50% mixed conifers, dominated by Douglas fir, and 50% broadleaf species, dominated by Oregon White Oak (Quercus garryana, ±75%), and Bigleaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum) and Oregon Ash (Fraxinus latifolia, 25%).

      The overall management goal of the forest is to create an ecologically sustainable and economically viable, uneven-aged and mixed-species forest, including all tree, plant, and animal species native to the area. In practice, this translates into:
      · No clear-cutting: Single trees are selected to harvest based on the overall health of the forest, not on maximum profit.
      · No compaction: Equipment is operated on permanent, widely-spacede skid trails instead of on the forest floor.
      · No chemicals: Invasive species are removed by hand (i.e. with machetes).

      Additionally, Oak and other broadleaf species are managed at high densities to improve tree shapes.


      Zena Forest Products counts on a small-scale, sawmill facility with a production close to 50,000 bf/year of the aforementioned hardwood species (Oregon White Oak, Bigleaf Maple, Oregon Ash) and occasionally-purchased Madrone (Arbutus menziesii) logs. This facility runs for eight hours a day, five days a week.

      The Deumlings are currently focused on lumber, countertops, wooden heat registers, handmade stair parts, cabinets, and flooring plywood. In addition, oak sawdust for mushroom production is a by-product of their sawmill operations.

      Their log supply partially comes from nearby landowners, who, in many cases, are changing their land use from Oak Savannah to agricultural uses. This regional hardwood log supply is unstable, and the Deumlings fill in the supply gaps with their own wood, while procuring maximum efficiency from their use, as illustrated by their flooring plywood production, which is their hardwood star product. 


      The drying process includes air drying to 20% humidity, followed by kiln drying. Some small volumes are slowly dried to acquire higher value. Because of the strong cell walls of Oak wood, this product is particularly good for barrels after the drying process is finished. In contrast, some green wood is sold for canoe and boat construction due to its pliability. 


      The Deumlings are strongly focused on developing high-quality hardwood products that will differentiate them in the market. 

      An International Fellow’s Thoughts and Perspectives 
      Rodolfo Vieto, International
      Fellow from Costa Rica

      Learning about the family history behind the creation of Zena Forest Products, their forest management approach and learning process, and specially about the determination they have put into developing and maintaining their own business model is a great source of inspiration for me during my Fellowship program.

      As a Costa Rican, I have had the opportunity to experience freedom, at least in the most standard way of conceptualizing it: what gets me close to the way Americans value and pursue freedom. As I learned from E.F. Schumacher during my early university years, I give all my admiration for the way the Deumlings are demonstrating that “small is beautiful”.

      Monday, July 15, 2019

      Tribal Land Management: Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation

      Date of Visit: June 21, 2019
      Type of Event: Study tour
      Topic: First Foods Upland Vision
      Organization: Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation
      Location: Pendleton, Oregon
      Hosts: Eric J, Quaempts / Director, Department of Natural Resources; Andrew Addessi / Supervising Forester; Gordy Schumacher / Program Supervisor, Range, Agriculture and Forestry; Brian Endress / Assistant Professor, Oregon State University, Eastern Oregon Agriculture Research Center
      International Fellows: Temitope Dauda (Nigeria), Richard Banda (Malawi), Fen-hui Chen (Taiwan), Zhongyuan Ding (China), Ana Kanoppa (Brazil), Rodolfo Vieto (Costa Rica) Will Maiden (United Kingdom), Romain Matile (France).
      WFI Staff: Vivian Bui / Professional Programs Coordinator, Rick Zenn / Senior Fellow

      International Fellows with CTUIR tribe members and hosts at the Nixyaawii Governance Center in Pendleton, Oregon
      The study tour trip of the 2019 International fellows to eastern Oregon would not have been complete without learning about the local Native American tribes. For this reason, we headed out to visit the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) on our return trip to Portland on June 21, 2019. We were welcomed at the Nixyaawii Governance Center in Pendleton. At the Center, one could notice the intentional effort and dedication put in place to create an atmosphere of culture, from the display of beautiful handmade traditional crafts that represent the rich culture of the CTUIR to the exceptionally warm reception that we received. Instantly, an aura of appreciation of Native culture and traditional values filled the air. Another reflection of their warm hospitality was the gifting of beautiful tribal accessories to all the International Fellows.

      The CTUIR includes three Native American tribes - the Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla-Walla - who all share the reservation. Originally, the reservation covered 6.4 million acres of land, which was ceded to the US government in 1855. This amount of land represents the minimum area needed for CTUIR ceremonial and subsistence needs. Currently, the CTUIR have about 172,000 acres of land within their reservation boundary, which constitutes just 3% of the ceded land. 

      One of the most interesting cultural aspects of the CTUIR is their tradition of First Foods. First Foods constitute an array of products collected from the land by the CTUIR. These foods serve a fundamental role in the health, wellbeing and cultural identity of the tribes. The CTUIR consider these First Foods as the minimum ecological requirements necessary for the sustenance and cultural needs of their members. The CTUIR’s First Foods are water, salmon, big game, roots and berries, and they represent the grouping of similar species. For example, the salmon category also represents the other fish species collected by tribes. Among the CTUIR, the First Foods have a serving order, and observing this protocol is very important. The CTUIR creation belief has it that this serving order is based on the order in which each of the First Foods volunteered to take care of humans in the time before people. In their narrative, the creator asked the plants and animals, “Who will take care of the Indian people?” Salmon was first to promise his knowledge, then came the other fishes lined behind him. Next was Deer and other big game, then Cous and other roots, then huckleberry and other berries. In return, the CTUIR people promised to respectfully harvest and take care of the First Foods. The First Foods serving order is followed during festivities and in homes. The serving order serves as a reminder of the promise by the First Foods. It also signifies the tribe’s reciprocal responsibility to respectfully harvest and take care of the First Foods.

      The need for the CTUIR to ratify their own agreement to take care of the First Foods has made forest and landscape management of great importance to them. The CTUIR’s management of their land predates pre-European times, as evident in the description of their wild land and food production system. The CTUIR have been described as hunter-gatherers or foragers. Traditional knowledge and intuitions passed down through generations have been used to manage their land and resources, taking into consideration the need to respect the land. For example, fire is used in such a way that both promote the prevention of future wildfire and their traditional values. So, for the tribes, management of their land to continue producing goods in perpetuity has been more like a lifestyle and a significant part of their tradition. Although the current size of the CTUIR reservation does not stop traditional management practices, it significantly limits certain activities and the flow of management practices due to multiple land ownership types within the reservation. Within the reservation, the type of land ownership determines land management. The types of land ownership found within the CTUIR reservation are:
      • Fee land
      • Allotted trust
      • Tribal trust, and
      • Tribal fee

      Currently, the CTUIR manage their land with a variety of management practices. This includes, but is not limited to, pruning, sowing seeds after harvesting, thinning, and coppicing. The land is managed for:
      • Maintenance and improvement of timber, grazing, wildlife, fisheries, recreation, aesthetic and cultural or other traditional values
      • Regulating water run-off and minimizing soil erosion
      • Healthy, resilient and dynamic upland ecosystems able to support the continued natural production of First Foods

      Although the types of management practices applied allow commercial thinning to some degree, CTUIR land is not predominantly managed for economic profitability. Ecosystem services, cultural values and habitat seem to be of greater interest to the management of tribal land. Somehow, they all go hand in hand. For example, the use of fire as a tool for forest management allows Native Americans the privilege of restoring ecological functions as well as tradition, as fire was used in the past in 20- to 25-year intervals.

      Lessons Learned

      Land ownership systems have great impact on management. In places where the land ownership system is not well-structured, or where the land is too fragmented, there could be negative consequences for sustainable management. The First Foods approach is important to the local Native American tribes, and, in turn, the land is important to First Foods - the relationship is mutual. This has led the CTUIR to constantly explore better ways to manage their land and resources sustainably.
      The idea that the people must harvest the first foods as part of their responsibility to the first foods is legendary and very consistent with the concept of sustainable management. It promotes use and not preservation. The concept of ‘no logging’ or ‘no collection’ is not sustainable management; rather, use in a very respectful manner is. 

      Every landscape has a story behind it. Learning about the story of this landscape and the traditional practices behind it can contribute significantly to sustainable management. One way to do that is by incorporating indigenous peoples in the decision-making and planning process.

      Temitope Dauda, International Fellow
      from Nigeria, in her "Yor-Walla" outfit,
      a combination of a CTUIR tribal necklace
      and a Yoruba (from Nigeria) dress
      An International Fellow’s Thoughts and Perspectives 

      Among the Yoruba tribe of southwest Nigeria, there is a saying that no matter how much clothing a child has, he would never have as many rags as an elderly person. In a conservation and sustainable management context, modern science is the child’s new clothing, and traditional knowledge is the elderly person’s rags. The role of indigenous knowledge in the sustainable management of forest and landscapes cannot be overemphasized, and this has become very evident. Not that modern science is irrelevant, but for a holistic solution to a sustainable management problem, exploring the insight from local people on their ways and manners in which forest and landscapes have been managed is very useful. For example, among the Yoruba, it is considered taboo for women to enter certain forests, which are called sacred groves. Women who do so forcefully do not live to tell the story. Over the years, this restriction has helped to maintain forest ecosystems. Some of the oldest and largest trees in Nigeria can be found in such forests. The logic behind this is that women constitute the greatest disturbance to the forest through the collection of fuel wood, wood bark, etc. This taboo restricts their movement and, as such, promotes the wellbeing as well as sustainable management of these forests. So, finding out about the First Foods upland vision approach and restoring its practice will promote sustainable management, as evident on CTUIR land. 

      Furthermore, the First Foods upland vision approach is holistic at a landscape scale. It encourages sustainable use and management of certain products from across all landscapes for the CTUIR, and, interestingly, these resources follow an elevation gradient, from the lower-elevation river, wetland, and riparian systems (water and salmon) to the higher-elevation grasslands (roots) and forests (berries), highlighting the importance of the entire landscape to support and produce the full array of First Foods. Also, big game occupies the full elevation gradient, with several species like mule deer and elk seasonally migrating across the ecosystem. So, it’s a whole landscape thing. This idea gives in to the fact that all landscapes are connected and constantly interacting, and management of landscape should be done at a scale that incorporates such interactions and connection.

      One very important take-home lesson for me is to learn more about culture and traditions as well as historical trends of landscapes when addressing conservation issues. This, with the realization that current landscape habitants (flora and fauna) may have different interestsand that the wicked problem of our changing climate shapes a lot of things, will help change the lens through which we view conservation and thus promote a more sustainable landscape.

      Friday, July 12, 2019

      Long-Term Ecological Research: HJ Andrews Experimental Forest

      Dates of visit: June 27-28, 2019
      Type of event: Study tour
      Topic: Long-term ecological research
      Organization: HJ Andrews Experimental Forest (Oregon State University)
      Location: Blue River, Oregon
      Host: Don Henshaw / Information Manager
      International Fellows: Richard Banda (Malawi), Fen-hui Chen (Taiwan), Temitope Dauda (Nigeria), Zhongyuan Ding (China), Ana Kanoppa (Brazil), Will Maiden (United Kingdom), Romain Matile (France), Rodolfo Vieto (Costa Rica)

      International Fellows with Don Henshaw (right) in front of a trailhead in old-growth forest
      Introduction of the history of H.J. Andrews
      Experimental Forest and its 71st anniversary
      After a week-long “cowboys and cowgirls” adventure at MC Ranch, the 2019 International Fellows went on a 2-day science extension adventure to attend HJA Day at Oregon State University's (OSU) H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, where we met many ecosystem scientists and postgraduates, as well as nature artists and historians. HJA Day is an annual field gathering to share information about research, outreach, education, management, and arts and humanities, and is hosted by the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest’s Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) program This year’s event marked the 71st anniversary of the 1948 establishment of the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest. The H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest is a world-renowned center for research, natural resource management, and the humanities. It has been a charter member of the National Science Foundation's LTER Program since 1980, focusing on the study of ecosystems over the long term and to allow those long-term measurements and observations to inspire ecosystem questions. 

      Marie Tosa, OSU graduate student, explaining her
      research on mammals and birds
      Sam Schmeiding, OSU historian, showing his collection
      of H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest historical documents
      At HJA Day, the introduction of its history, and this year's 71th anniversary, we moved to four presentation sites. I particularly enjoyed the class on “Mammals and Owls” as it was interesting to see the wide and varied diet of the animals that in the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest. This was displayed through food webs and highlighted how the Barred Owl has a more varied diet in comparison to the Spotted Owl. This is one reason for the ongoing decline in Spotted Owl numbers. The “Looking Back to Look Forward” site demonstrated a set of dynamic long-term climate data and how air flows operate in the landscape and influence the temperature. “Art, Humanities and Andrews History” showcased numerous displays about historical documents, illustrations, and photographs. “Science and Management Partnership” discussed the societal perceptions of forest features and functions. Field trips were also arranged to give the attendees a close look at how the scientists do their work, such as exploring the connection between soil and trees within the context of carbon capture and how microclimate gradients influence endophytic fungal communities.
      Zhongyuan Ding, International Fellow
      from China, with his signature pose

      An International Fellow’s Thoughts and Perspectives

      It’s impressive what the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, as well as the LTER program, have been working on. Ecological research with a long-term perspective is crucial, especially with the consensus that long-term phenomena play a central role in ecological science. Moreover, it requires successional leadership and intergenerational cooperation to facilitate meaningful data collection. It’s difficult but it works at H.J. Andrews. In my opinion, the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest it not only records history but is a part of it itself.

      Wednesday, July 10, 2019

      Non-Timber Forest Products: Oregon Woodland Cooperative

      Date of visit: July 2, 2019
      Type of event: Study tour
      Topic: Non-timber forest products from small woodlands
      Organization: Oregon Woodland Cooperative
      Location: Beaverton, Oregon
      Hosts: Neil and Ardis Schroeder
      International Fellows: Richard Banda (Malawi), Fen-hui Chen (Taiwan), Temitope Dauda (Nigeria), Zhongyuan Ding (China), Ana Kanoppa (Brazil), Will Maiden (United Kingdom), Romain Matile (France), Rodolfo Vieto (Costa Rica)
      WFI Staff: Shadia Duery / International Fellowship Program Manager

      International Fellows with hosts Neil and Ardis Schroeder (center) underneath their grapevine
      Neil and Ardis, our hosts for this study tour, have known each other since childhood. When they gave us a tour of their backyard forest, we could feel their passion for the trees and land. Neil’s father was also a forester who would ask for extra seedlings of various species from different experimental forests during his work travels. Neil would help his father plant these seedlings on their forestland when he was little. Now, these trees are ready to harvest, and some have just been installed as flooring in Neil’s daughter’s room. So, using timber from trees you have planted yourself is possible.

      Neil Schroeder explaining how to make Christmas
      boughs from Western Red Cedar 
      The Oregon Woodland Cooperative (OWC) currently has 75 members with approximately 30,000 acres of land. During the 1940s and 1950s, loggers purchased timber from small family-owned forests at prices far below normal market value. Sawmills tend to pay less to small private forestland owners than to large timber companies. Additionally, landowners need revenue to pay their land tax. Therefore, OWC was founded in 1980 in order to protect the rights of small woodland owners and to strengthen the local economy. OWC members are all private forest landowners who own and manage family forest farms. The average size of their land is between 45-50 acres. Some members, like Neil, are very active and help the coop voluntarily, while some others are not as active but like to show their support for the OWC’s ideals.

      In addition to timber, the co-op provides many non-timber forest products (NTFPs) from their members’ forests, including products to heat your home (firewood), decorate your surroundings (boughs, rustic furniture), and improve personal health and well-being (essential oils and aromatherapy). The co-op emphasizes providing sustainable, local, consistent, and premium-quality products. Direct delivery from the forest owners to stores is offered. They harvest to order to supply the freshest greens possible. Order far in advance is not necessary. All these aspects make the co-op very successful and competitive.
      Various marketed and potential non-timber forest products of OWC

      You can find more information about the Oregon Woodland Cooperative in our previous WFI blog entry.

      Lessons Learned and Highlights from this year's Fellows:
      1. Learning about NTFPs was very important for me as someone who is looking to increase income generated by forests.
      2. The OWC’s target is a niche market with high-quality products.
      3. Creating a coop allows for the respect of loggers and reaches a niche market which provides members with regular benefits and income.
      4. We discussed issues such as drying firewood to ensure any pest species present leave the wood before it is transported and sold.
      5. We were shown a new forest business opportunity; Neil showed us a variety of products that can be marketed through the aggregation of value to NTFPs but for this to be successful, you need to remove the middlemen from the value chain and encourage joint commercialization.
      Besides regular firewood, OWC also provides
      smaller wood pieces for chiminea use
      6. This is an interesting case study for eco-cultural tours; Neil also shows interest in marketing agroforestry products from Central America.
      7. Discovering the full potential of forests to make forestry more profitable and offer more opportunities for the younger generations.
      8. Woodlands can provide much more economic benefits than just timber.

      An International Fellow’s Thoughts and Perspectives 

      Although the sale of timber remains the primary source of income from forestland, NTFPs are essential for most small landowners because timber supply is inconsistent, and you have to wait for a long time in between harvests. A long period of trial and error is usually required before any product becomes marketable. Neil, who is always willing to learn new ideas, plays a vital role at the co-op, as do some other volunteers.
      Fen-hui Chen, International Fellow from Taiwan,
      immersing herself in various NTFPs

      Telling stories behind the product, and creating connections between the client and the product, is a great strategy and really makes things different. I believe people are willing to pay more money if they know where and how goods are made, especially if it was in a sustainable way.

      Taiwan’s forests cannot be used for timber forest products by law. Local and indigenous Taiwanese people who live in or close to these forests are seeking sustainable NTFPs to improve their livelihood. As a researcher, I am always looking for creative, new, unique, and marketable NTFPs from our forests. This tour helps me to think outside the box!

      Monday, July 8, 2019

      Wildfire Incident Response: Blue Mountain Interagency Dispatch Center

      Date of Visit: June 20, 2019
      Type of Event: Study tour
      Topic: Wildfire Incident Response
      Organization: Blue Mountain Interagency Dispatch Center
      Location: La Grande, Oregon
      Hosts: Jamie Knight / Natural Resource Specialist (Oregon Department of Forestry)
      International Fellows: Richard Banda (Malawi), Fen-hui Chen (Taiwan), Temitope Dauda (Nigeria), Zhongyuan Ding (China), Ana Kanoppa (Brazil), Will Maiden (United Kingdom), Romain Matile (France), Rodolfo Vieto (Costa Rica)
      WFI Staff: Vivian Bui / International Fellowship Program, Rick Zenn / Senior Fellow

      As a good citizen, if you see a fire, you call 911 to report it. The response to the call could vary from no action, if the fire is immediately stopped, to hundreds of firefighters, engines, and aircraft in the case of an incident type 1.

      But how is the incident response managed?

      First, your 911 call arrives at one of the dispatch centers located across the country. The call is collected by a dispatcher, a person who receives reports of the discovery and status of fires, confirms their locations, acts promptly to provide the people and equipment likely to be needed for the initial attack, and sends the resources to the proper place. The Blue Mountain Interagency Dispatch Center (BMIDC), based in La Grande, Oregon, is the interagency focal point for coordinating the mobilization of resources for wildland fire, prescribed fire, and other all-risk incidents throughout northeast Oregon and southeast Washington. The Dispatch Center also provides Intelligence and Predictive Services related-products to support wildland fire managers and firefighters throughout its zone of influence. After the fire you reported to 911 has been located on the map, depending on who owns the land, the appropriate stakeholder will be contacted for the initial response.

      Jerry Garrett from the Blue Mountains Interagency Dispatch Center
      in front of a map depicting local landowner's’ properties
      On private forested land, the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) would take charge of the incident response. As Oregon’s largest fire department, ODF's Fire Protection program protects 16 million acres of forest, constituting a $60 billion asset. These lands consist of privately-owned forests as well as some public lands, including state-owned forests and, by contract, US Bureau of Land Management forests in western Oregon. ODF is also part of an extensive fire protection network that includes landowner resources, contract crews and aircraft, inmate crews, and agreements with public agencies across Oregon, the US, and British Columbia. ODF's firefighting policy is straightforward: Put out fires quickly at the smallest size possible. Most of the lands protected by the agency are working forests that produce revenue and support jobs. It is crucial to prevent fire damage to the timber resource that is an essential element of Oregon’s economy. This aggressive approach to firefighting also safeguards ecosystem values, such as fish and wildlife habitats.

      Kelly Hedgepeth explaining the Blue Mountain Rappellers’ staff rotation
      On federal land, the incident response depends on which agency manages the land; the US Forest Service or US Bureau of Land Management could be engaged. Close to the BMIDC and along the airport tarmac are situated different headquarters of air tank companies and some of the best firefighter crews, all ready for action once the fire season has started. An interesting example of the Federal Wildfire Incident Response are the BlueMountain Rappellers. Kelly Hedgepeth, Blue Mountain Rappel Base Manager, explained that the base is one of six rappel programs in the Pacific Northwest Region and is composed of a Type-1 Crew that staffs a Regional Initial Attack Helicopter. The mission is to provide a highly trained and qualified aerial-delivered firefighting force

      Ryan (pilot and, Ben (mechanic) from Columbia Basin
      Helicopters between two K-1200 KMax helicopter
      On private and public lands, private companies are hired during incidents for implementing material, engines, aircraft, and personnel. An excellent example of this is Columbia Basin Helicopters, Inc. Established in 1996 and based in La Grande, Oregon, the company performs aerial application and firefighting. In addition to helicopters, the company operates a number of fixed-wing, single-engine air tankers for state and federal agencies. During the fire season, the crew is operational 24/7. Columbia Basin Helicopters operates four UH-1H helicopters, two K-1200 K Max helicopters, and five Air Tractor 802 SEATS aircraft.

      Romain (International Fellow from France)
      enjoying the American way of life
      An International Fellow’s Thoughts and Perspectives

      As a firefighter myself, it was very exciting to go and visit strategic points of operation for wildfire incident response. In France, a single national agency oversees all incidents without distinction of land status. Here in the US, as each landowner must manage their own wildfire risk prevention, many more stakeholders operate, individually or collectively, in response to wildfires along with federal, state, tribal, and rural fire agencies and private companies.

      Another interesting point is, as lightning fires represent more than 50% of wildfires in the Pacific Northwest (compared to 2% in France), the importance of aircraft response to wildfires. Many specific crews, such as the Blue Mountains Rappelers in La Grande and Smoke Jumpers and Hot shot crews are commonly engaged by air force in the initial attack, thereby avoiding wildfire development that can become far more problematic.

      On the other hand, as a forester, in both countries, I always interrogate myself about the huge difference in two competing budgets: increasing allocations for wildfire response, including aircraft, fire engines, firefighters, and logistics compared to poor investment in our forests in terms of protection issues and ecological rehabilitation. My position in Provence, France, between olive trees and lavender fields, is also concerned about these same components but also, as is the case with every forester, about watershed preservation, ecological habitat protection, timber production, and all the forest benefits that we can and cannot imagine.

      Increasing drought and warm-season periods are posing a wildfire threat all around the world. With the help of research synthesis, public demand, environmental issues, and concerns regarding the protection of human infrastructure, politicians and decision-makers should emphasize the importance of collective forest investment to enhance the environment and preserve it for the next generation.