OSU Halts Old-Growth Logging, Says Loss Of 400-Year-Old Fir Was “Mistake”

Oregon State University halted logging operations in the McDonald-Dunn Research Forest after conservationists and reporters confirmed that a clear-cutting operation had harvested old growth trees, including a Douglas fir which was over 400 years old.  

A local man named Doug Pollock, who lives by McDonald-Dunn and frequents the forest, brought attention to the significance of what happened.  

 “Once I got up there and saw the damage and counted the rings, I said, ‘Those bastards!’” Pollock told reporters.   

Pollock did some research, and found that not only had the forest management plan for McDonald-Dunn not been updated since 2005, it was actually suspended in 2009 – meaning the forest had been operating without a plan for the past 10 years.  

Collecting his neighbors and the local like-minded to take action, Pollock founded “Friends of OSU Old Growth” and began personally emailing OSU President Ed Ray about the issue. A petition from the group had gathered around 140 signatures by mid-July, and has grown to 460 signatures on July 23.   

Interim Dean of OSU’s College of Forestry Anthony Davis released a memo on July 12, about one month after what is known as the No Vacancy harvest took place. It stated that “the future research and ecological benefit of these older trees should have been considered before the harvest was scheduled,” and said that no trees older than 160 years will be harvested until ongoing work on a new “comprehensive management plan” for college research forests is completed.   

He defended his decision to reporters, saying that allowing the No Vacancy harvest was still “the right thing to do.”  

“If you make the choice of letting those trees die, you lose the choice of letting them generate revenue,” Davis said.  

Davis disagreed that the OSU College of Forestry should take a much more conservationist approach to managing its research forests, banning logging and harvesting. He claimed his goal is to “strike a new balance” between OSU’s mission, the ecological value of old growth forests, and “the value of wood products that forests can generate.”  

Retired College of Forestry faculty member Norm Johnson, one of the architects of the Northwest Forest Plan, told reporters he was encouraged by Davis’ memo, because it was one of the first times the forest management recognized the value of old growth trees as being at least as much as harvested timber.  

By Ian MacRonald