Thursday, June 28, 2018

Five Days at MC Ranch

Date of Visit: June 18 - 25, 2018
Type of Event: Study Tour
Topic: Forest Practices in Eastern Oregon
Organizations: Merlo Corporation, Oregon Department of Forestry, Oregon State University, Boise Cascade
Location: La Grande, Oregon
Hosts: Rex Christiansen / MC Ranch Manager, Jana Peterson / ODF Stewardship Forester, Francisca Belart / OSU Extension Harvesting Specialist, Tony McKague / Boise Cascade Log Buyer, Kaden Titus / Boise Cascade Log Buyer
International Fellows: Jeen Bunnik (Netherlands), Meei-ru Jeng (Taiwan), Xuejiao Li (China), Thammarat Mettanurak (Thailand), Tuan Manh Phan (Vietnam)
WFI Staff: Rick Zenn / Senior Fellow, Vivian Bui / Professional Programs Coordinator

(Left to right) Front: Xuejiao Li, Cathy Christiansen, Vivian Bui, Meei-ru Jeng, Rex Christiansen
Back: Kyle Porter, Thammarat Mettanurak, Heather Hoeft, Jeen Bunnik, Tuan Phan

The World Forest Institute International (WFI) Fellows have recently returned from an action-packed, five-day adventure at the Merlo Corporation (MC) Ranch located just southwest of La Grande in northeast Oregon. Each year, WFI Fellows are invited to MC Ranch to learn about forestry issues and practices on the "dry side" of the state (i.e. east of the Cascade Range). Rex Christiansen (MC ranch manager) and his family, staff, and associates welcomed us with open arms and made us feel at home during our stay. Read below for a summary of our grand ol' time in La Grande:

Rex Christiansen grew up on a ranch in Pilot Rock, south of Pendleton. Out of eight siblings, he is the only one working in the timber industry. He has been a ranch manager for over 30 years and during his first year working at MC Ranch, Harry A. Merlo (the ranch's late owner) turned over timber management to him. Rex is a firm believer in the "school of hard knocks" or "learning by doing." As he says, "I don't manage land, I manage resources. Managing for resources helps to avoid issues down the road."

At the log deck
Rex taught us about forestry practices at MC Ranch. The ranch harvests approximately 1 to 1.5 million board feet over 8,000 acres of timberland annually. No clearcutting occurs at MC Ranch, only selective harvest. In fact, when harvest time comes, Rex prefers to not hire high-production loggers, as he is concerned with looking at post-harvest natural regeneration. Additionally, no tree marking or aerial spraying of herbicides takes place on the ranch. Only pine species are planted here, with larch and fir regeneration occurring naturally. Multispecies forests are maintained to increase resilience against pests and disease. Tree stands are regularly thinned to increase long-term growth rate. MC Ranch produces timber for multiple sorts of pine logs, fir logs, firewood, pulp, and biomass (which is sold to nearby Eastern Oregon University for heating).

Improvements in forestry practice are continuously made at MC Ranch. For example, seedling survival was low (~30%) one year. It was a WFI Fellow who discovered that the seedlings had been poorly planted, with seedling roots having been cut too short or planted too shallowly. This discovery was taken into account the following year, resulting in a 90% seedling survival rate. Another highly successful improvement on the ranch has been the purchase of a mulcher to process brush piles and to grind up post-harvest stumps. The resulting mulch reduces soil erosion and the spreading of weeds and increases soil moisture retention and nutrient content, thereby reducing the need for herbicides and eliminating the need for fertilizer. MC Ranch was the first ranch in Oregon to own this type of equipment.

Enjoying Anthony Lakes
When asked about wildlife conservation efforts at MC Ranch, Rex states that sustained active management is necessary because the landscape is past the point of maintaining its "natural" state on its own. A 20'-wide buffer zone is maintained on both sides of fish-bearing streams to minimize sediment runoff during logging. Additionally, logging operations are restricted around sensitive wildlife areas, such as those used for elk calving, deer fawning, and sage-grouse breeding. Logging is also limited on steep slopes due to the rough terrain, leaving these areas for wildlife. Only very selective logging is allowed in wetland habitat. In areas where logging does occur, there have been times when harvested logs have been brought back post-harvest to serve as wildlife habitat. One out of ten slash piles formed as by-products of logging operations are also left behind for wildlife. Much of the fencing on the ranch allows for wildlife movement, meaning it is constructed at a height of 18 - 40", which allows for deer and elk young to crawl under the fence while adult animals are able to jump over. MC Ranch welcomes the elk herds, as their presence provides a prey base for predators, such as mountain lions and wolves, and thus distracts the predators from preying on cattle. Likewise, in March and April, Rex and his staff provide supplemental food sources for elk and other wildlife so as to distract them from browsing on newly planted tree seedlings.

Over the week, we also had the opportunity to speak to professionals from Boise Cascade, Oregon Department of Forestry, and Oregon State University Extension. Each of them shared some of their expertise with us:

Things are getting a little toasty!
Boise Cascade operates multiple mills in northeast Oregon: a pine mill in Pilot Rock that employs 100 people, a smaller pine mill La Grande with a staff of 70, and a stud mill in Elgin with a crew of 130-140 people that is now being converted into a plywood plant. The company purchases approximately 100 million board feet of Northwest softwoods annually, including larch, Douglas fir, ponderosa pine, and white fir. They also create and sell particle board from sawdust shavings and glue.

Stewardship foresters from the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) provide general technical assistance to landowners to ensure that they are following the Oregon Forest Practices Act.  The department provides cost-share programs to assist landowners in reducing the fuel load on their properties, an increasingly important endeavor as housing development continues upslope towards the Elkhorn mountains. In this region, ODF is engaged with the U.S. Forest Service and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in a cooperative effort known as the East Face of Elkhorns Project, whereby the three agencies work together to enact a Cohesive Wildfire Strategy that will make communities fire-resistant across private and public lands. Over two and a half years, the project has successfully applied the Cohesive Wildfire Strategy across 5,600 acres, with 900 acres remaining.

The overall purpose of the Oregon State University (OSU) Extension Service is to educate the public, mainly small woodland owners, on forest practices through outreach efforts, including various workshops and courses. The goal is to make forest practice policies easy for landowners to understand. Through OSU Extension, private landowners can receive expert advise on topics such as harvesting, road management, and watershed management.

On the last day of our stay, Rex left us with some parting lessons that he's learned over the years. "Live life. Respect the land. Respect people. The world is smaller than we think."

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Senior Fellow, Rick Zenn Keynotes National Conference in Australia, Meets with Alums, and is Guest Instructor at National Arboretum

Senior Fellow, Rick Zenn Keynotes National Conference in Australia, Meets with Alums, and is Guest Instructor at National Arboretum

Zenn addressing the national STEM Conference
A round trip across the international dateline and back that included thirty-eight hours in the air allowed for Senior Fellow, Rick Zenn time to catch up on reading, movies, and brush up on his eucalypts.

Zenn was invited by Forest Learning Australia and the Primary Industries Education Foundation Australia (PIEFA) to address the national STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) conference in the city of Canberra, sponsored by the Australian government and PIEFA. Zenn promoted the Oregon Forest Literacy Plan and urged participants to “see forests in three dimensions” when looking at career opportunities for students in the forest sector.

Rick in the Snowy River National Park,
 located in the alpine and East
Gippsland regions of Victoria, Australia.
“PIEFA is doing important work and Ben Stockwin and his board are taking a leadership role. Lots of good things are happening in Australia in food and fibre education.” Zenn said.

Zenn was also a guest instructor at the National Arboretum Canberra at a two-day workshop led by the director of Forest Learning Australia, Beth Welden. Several leadership exercises from the World Forestry Center International Educators Institute (IEI) program were combined with lively hands-on learning activities from the Forest Education Foundation team from Tasmania.
Forty professionals from business, government, associations, higher education, and local schools participated. World Forestry Center program alums Phil Lacy of PF Olsen Australia, Liz Langford of VicForests, and Darcy Vickers of the Forest Education Foundation in Tasmania, also served as instructors. The Fenner School of Forestry at the Australian National University hosted an evening lecture and BBQ dinner on campus.

(Left to right) WFI alumus, Tony Scherl, Dr. Cris Brack, and Rick Zenn at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia 
“The beautiful hilltop location above the city,” Zenn said, “was the perfect setting for the workshop. We were surrounded by smart, passionate people who are working hard to protect Australia’s forests and all want to share their knowledge and experience. Beth organized a super event to help everyone improve their skills, share resources, and think more creatively when helping students, stakeholders, and the public understand and value sustainable forestry.”

Liz and Peter Langford arranged for Zenn to join them on a three-day field study tour to visit the mountain and coastal forests of Victoria and East Gippsland. He also met with our alums working in Melbourne and Canberra. “It was wonderful to see everyone again and catch up on news about their families and careers” Zenn said. “There is a strong connection in Australia to the World Forestry Center and the World Forest Institute.”

(Left to right) WFI and IEI alumni, friends, and family in Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia:
 Mick Hodder, Danielle and Blair Freeman, Krystina Kny with baby Erik, Lee Meizies,
Phil and Janice Lacy, Kathy Overton, Rick Zenn, and Liz Langford. 

Monday, June 11, 2018

Vanport International, Inc.

Date of Visit: June 8, 2018
Type of Event: Study Tour
Topic: International Wood Products
Organization: Vanport International, Inc.
Location: Boring, Oregon
Hosts: Adolf Hertrich / Chairman, Martin Hertrich / Vice President
International Fellows: Meei-ru Jeng (Taiwan), Xuejiao Li (China), Thammarat Mettanurak (Thailand), Tuan Manh Phan (Vietnam)
WFI Staff: Shadia Duery / International Fellowship Manager, Vivian Bui / Professional Programs Coordinator

Recently, Adolf Hertrich, Chairman of Vanport International, Inc., graciously hosted the WFI International Fellows at his office in Boring, Oregon to share the history of his company. Born in Germany, Adolf Hertrich immigrated to the United States to study forestry at the University of Michigan. After finishing his studies and serving in the military during the Korean War, Adolf spent 7 years working for the U.S. Forest Service in Mount Hood National Forest in watershed management and recreational services. In 1967, Adolf decided to leave the U.S. Forest Service and start his own forest products business. He had noticed the frequency with which Japanese trading companies came to the Pacific Northwest to purchase logs, so he began to purchase timber sales, sometimes through auction bids, from the U.S. Forest Service. Adolf would then hire a logger to harvest the timber, then sell the highest grade timber to Japan, lower grades to local mills, and 8"-diameter or smaller for pulp. He eventually purchased a mill in Boring, Oregon that had gone unused for 2 years and, by installing new machinery, was able to produce 140' of lumber per minute, roughly 20 times the amount produced by his top competitors.

At first, Vanport exported round logs to Japan but, following the implementation of regulations banning the export of round logs sourced from national forests,  the company was forced to adapt their methods. They learned how to cut logs to lumber in a way that was suitable for the Japanese market, including converting to the metric system and becoming well-versed in the Japanese grading system for lumber strength and appearance. Eventually, Vanport became the first company outside of Japan to receive a grade stamp from the Japanese government, after Japanese mills sent graders to Vanport to verify lumber and mill accuracy. Around this time, Adolf noticed that Japan was ramping up the export of goods to the United States in shipping containers, and that, oftentimes, these containers would return to Japan empty. He seized this golden opportunity to ship lumber to Japan at extremely low transportation costs. Vanport also opened a bank account in Japan, allowing the company to sell directly to Japanese clients while avoiding currency exchange costs.

(Left to right) Tuan Manh Phan, Xuejiao Li, Martin Hertrich, Shadia Duery, Adolf Hertrich, Meei-ru Jeng,
and Thammarat Mettanurak in front of the Japanese-style teahouse that was custom-built for Vanport
by the company's highly skilled carpenter, Matsushito-san

Today, Martin Hertrich, Adolf's son who is trained in marketing and wood science technology, serves as the Vice President of Vanport. After the closure of the Boring mill in 1999 due to a ban on old-growth logging in Mount Hood National Forest, Vanport no longer owned any local manufacturing facilities yet the company continues to export $100-150 million in lumber annually. Nowadays, their main lumber sources are found in Russia, Germany, Canada, and Uruguay, and they mainly export to Japan and China, with Vietnam serving as a growing market.

Read more about Vanport International, Inc.!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Mount St. Helens: Weyerhauser Company

Date of Visit: May 31, 2018
Type of Event: Study Tour
Topic: Industrial Forest Management
Organization: Weyerhauser Company
Location: Mount St. Helens, Washington
Hosts: Mark Sheldahl / Forester, Molly Rasor / Inventory Forester
International Fellows: Jeen Bunnik ( The Netherlands), Meei-ru Jeng (Taiwan), Xuejiao Li (China), Thammarat Mettanurak (Thailand), Tuan Manh Phan (Vietnam)
WFI Staff: Shadia Duery / International Fellowship Manager, Vivian Bui / Professional Programs Coordinator
Special Guests: Jes Munk Hansen (WFI Fellowship alumni) and sons, Andreas and Nicolas Munk Hansen

On this day we visited Weyerhauser Company's 440,000-acre tree farm near Mount St. Helens in Washington. Weyerhauser Company is the largest landowner in the world and one of the last vertically integrated timber companies, owning both timberlands and manufacturing facilities. It is a publicly traded, Fortune 500 company whose investors are interested in institutional, long-term investments. The company's southwestern Washington location is unique, as the mild climate allows timber products to be produced and delivered to clients year-round. Weyerhauser produces 50-70% of its own lumber consumption, roughly 24 Mbf per acre. The company produces 22 different log sorts, with smaller-dimension logs staying in the domestic market due to local sawmill capacity. Despite its high production rate, Weyerhauser harvests only 2-3% of its Northwest timberland each year. This low percentage ensures that the company will maintain a sustainable harvest over the long term. Weyerhauser adheres to state "green-up" regulations which takes into account the aesthetics of timber harvest and limits contiguous clearcut sites to less than 240 acres. Additionally, the company is required to maintain a 128 feet wide fish buffer on each side of every fish-bearing stream, thus leaving about 15% of the area non-loggable. After harvest, Weyerhauser leaves at least 5 trees remaining per acre with a maximum spacing of 800 feet for wildlife habitat. These environmental practices allows Weyerhauser to maintain ecological sustainability in combination with commercial needs.

(Left to right) Thammarat Mettanurak, Shadia Duery, Jes Munk Hansen, Andreas Munk Hansen, Nicolas Munk Hansen,
Jeen Bunnik, Meei-ru Jeng, Xuejiao Li, Mark Sheldahl, Molly Rasor, Tuan Manh Phan

Click here for more information about Weyerhauser Company.