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Oregon wildfire recovery hampered by seedling shortage, forestry officials say

The wildfires of 2020 ravaged Oregon state forestlands, and forestry officials say that the supply of new seedlings won't meet the need for reforestation.

Posted: Mar 17, 2021 10:25 AM

SALEM, Ore. — Efforts to replant Oregon state forestlands scorched by the 2020 wildfires are being hampered by a short supply of new tree seedlings, the Oregon Department of Forestry said on Wednesday.

“Seedlings were already in short supply in Oregon before the fires,” said Kyle Abraham, Chief of ODF’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.”

Those estimates are still preliminary, Abraham said, but the number of seedlings needed is likely two or three times the number typically needed for reforestation in Oregon each year.

Beyond the severity and size of the 2020 fires, ODF cited three other major factors in the shortage. Nurseries are facing labor shortages, making it difficult for them to ramp up production. Seedlings also have a short shelf life once taken from a nursery, and nurseries usually grow expressly for landowners who regularly buy seedlings — often filing orders years ahead of time. Moreover, there are few nurseries that specialize in the needed forest species.

“Trees must be grown from the appropriate seed – seed that is adapted to the area where it will be planted," Abraham said. "That generally takes two years. While seed inventories are generally strong for most areas of the state, there are some isolated gaps. We’re also working to help fill those gaps.”

ODF is working with Oregon State University's Extension Service and the Oregon Small Woodlands Association to address the need for seedlings. The latter two groups surveyed landowners about their needs, finding that the surveyed group alone needs about 3.5 million new 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 non-profit associations that serve small-acreage landowners to help address some of these needs,” said Abraham.

The group is now looking through a few options — procuring or growing seedlings first for smaller landowners in cooperation with private and public nurseries, finding ways to expand in-state nursery capacity, and developing the necessary logistical structure to collect and batch seedling orders for those smaller landowners.

Climate change means that seedlings planted today will grow and mature in different conditions than those that exist today, ODF said — meaning that seedling species need to be chosen and placed carefully.

Forestry officials have compiled a list of contractors for landowners who need help planting trees. ODF and the OSU Forestry Extension are also offering educational resources for people who want to plant trees themselves.

“I encourage landowners to reach out to forestry professionals, neighbors, and associations of woodland owners to identify resources and get answers for successful reforestation,” said Abraham.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 348766

Reported Deaths: 4161
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Multnomah54797689
Washington37988313
Marion36055444
Clackamas29094304
Lane26966298
Jackson22632300
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Umatilla14241144
Linn12380120
Douglas11795240
Josephine9233195
Yamhill8517110
Klamath7709110
Polk715380
Malheur551574
Benton529130
Coos489691
Columbia371343
Jefferson361450
Union313146
Lincoln310638
Wasco281540
Crook274745
Clatsop239529
Baker198028
Tillamook193328
Hood River188337
Morrow181623
Curry178122
Harney108424
Grant97612
Lake89011
Wallowa67012
Gilliam1484
Sherman1463
Wheeler991
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Riverside3693444990
San Diego3641044163
San Bernardino3563155566
Orange3227415518
Sacramento1576212279
Santa Clara1445181890
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Ventura1005241164
Contra Costa99234982
Stanislaus851571315
Tulare78945951
San Francisco54031645
San Mateo53828622
Monterey50696582
Solano45761334
Santa Barbara44836521
Merced41781577
Sonoma40711402
Placer38902415
Imperial35642764
Kings32369314
San Luis Obispo29653329
Madera23518281
Butte23364260
Shasta23360334
Santa Cruz20861218
Yolo20147247
Marin17581243
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Yuba994282
Tehama9298104
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Calaveras381780
Del Norte356141
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Trinity86011
Modoc6698
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