CORVALLIS - The last decade of research in sustainable forestry has identified promising techniques to nurture biodiversity and protect ecosystems while still harvesting timber, and many of these advances will be explored this year in a major symposium and workshop series at Oregon State University.

The event combines a symposium, several field tours to research sites across Oregon and a concluding forum on sustainable forest management. It is one of the most comprehensive public outreach and professional education programs the college has ever offered.

It will highlight research findings and forest management experience gained in recent years. In that time, scientists have learned more about how various wildlife species respond to different forest habitats, and managers of both public and private lands have tested ways to harvest timber from their lands while carefully protecting wildlife, plant and animal biodiversity, soils, water, and forest health.

"The early results are now in from at least a dozen studies over the last 10 years on some of these issues, and many of these experiments provide convincing evidence," said Bill Emmingham, a professor emeritus of forest science at OSU. "It's now clear that we can manage forests for a broader array of plant and animal diversity while still harvesting timber, and in many cases active management can achieve diversity or other forest goals much more quickly and effectively than just leaving the land undisturbed."

Even if the goal is to bring a young forest plantation to conditions similar to a "late-successional," or old-growth forest, Emmingham said, those forest conditions can often be more rapidly achieved by careful thinning techniques.

Many of the unknowns in this area have been erased through years of research, Emmingham said. Tools and options are now available for land managers who are dealing with dense, single-aged, Douglas-fir monocultures that provide little wildlife habitat - a status that often describes many of the previously cut forestlands in the Pacific Northwest.

There is no one prescription that's right for every piece of forest land, scientists say, and the very concept of ecosystem management calls for forest landscapes that harbor a wide range of plant and tree species of differing ages, diverse types of wildlife, with management techniques that protect soils and streams while creating landscapes that more naturally resist insect and disease epidemics. The use of landscape planning to drive stand-level management is also an important area for research and discussion.

But with new knowledge, Emmingham said, it's increasingly clear that land managers no longer have to choose between managing land for maximum timber production or leaving it entirely alone. There are more balanced approaches that have been shown to provide many benefits for both diversity and timber production.

This spring's educational outreach program is titled "Silviculture Options for Sustainable Management of Pacific Northwest Forests Symposium: Integrating Research Results Into Management."

It will begin with a symposium at OSU on March 5-6, featuring Jim Brown, the state forester of Oregon, as keynote speaker. Other experts will discuss silvicultural options, economic issues, social attitudes and perceptions, forest health issues, thinning for diversity and timber, impacts on different wildlife species, harvesting systems, regeneration, watershed impacts and many other topics.

In four or more sessions from April to June, participants will tour different forest research sites around Oregon, which demonstrate such things as thinning alternatives to promote diversity, managing forests for both timber and other amenities, management concepts that can aid in forest disease resistance, conservation of Oregon oaks, and other areas of interest. The workshops will produce both guiding principles and management options that should help other managers achieve more sustainable forests.

The final forum in November will include the results of these workshops, in which forest scientists and managers worked together to create these innovative, science-based and specific solutions to complex management problems. A web page will also help disseminate comprehensive information developed from this project. Several hundred participants are expected at the year's activities, including managers from state and federal agencies, the timber industry, small or private woodland owners and anyone interested in the newest forest management concepts.

More information about the events, fees, registration and other details can be obtained at the web site or by calling 541-737-2329.

The event is sponsored by the OSU College of Forestry, the Cooperative Forest Ecosystem Research Program and the Sustainable Forestry Partnership.

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Bill Emmingham, 541-737-6078