Like most Oregonians, I’ve been spending a lot more time at home this spring. One thing I’ve noticed on the weekends is the frequent use of fireworks in my neighborhood. I live in southwest Portland, and I don’t think my neighborhood is particularly unique. I’m used to seeing this around holidays like New Year’s Eve, Memorial Day, Labor Day and Fourth of July, but usually this doesn’t happen the rest of the year. I’m sure people are bored and looking for a little fun in their backyard or cul-de-sac.
The issue is that these aren’t normal times. We’re heading into fire season in Oregon, and it looks like this year will be very. I’m worried that the increased use of fireworks will lead to an increase in this summer. Wildfires can start in a campground, on a neighborhood street and even in a backyard. One factor all these situations have in common is proximity to trees.
I know that during this global pandemic many of us don’t want to hear one more thing we can’t or shouldn’t do right now. I understand that feeling, and I miss seeing my friends, going to church, volunteering and just the general sense of freedom of movement.
One thing to keep in mind with fireworks is that even though they can be purchased legally, that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of accidents. I experienced a very close call when my kids were little, and ever since I have had a great amount of respect for the professionals who put on fireworks shows safely. I was sitting on a blanket on the Oregon coast and watching a public fireworks display. Nearby many people were setting off their own personal shows, and they definitely rivaled the public one. I didn’t realize how close we were to a personal show until a firework went off about 50 yards away from me and my family. Instead of going straight up in the air the firework shot sideways, and I heard it whiz between me and my daughter. I looked over at my husband and we quickly left the beach. Since then, I don’t go down to the beach or out on the street to enjoy the Fourth of July fireworks. I watch them from a safe distance.
This year going to a beach or park to watch a community-hosted fireworks show isn’t going to be an option, because it would be hard to maintain the social distancing that’s required to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. It’s sad that we won’t have public fireworks displays this summer, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe to get close to a private display. Instead, I’m thinking of some fun alternatives to enjoy a fireworks-free summer this year. Here are a few ideas:
- play a game of flashlight tag
- use a camp stove to make your favorite s’mores
- have a red, white and blue water-balloon battle
- enjoy red, white and blue glow sticks
- think of the stars on the U.S. flag as you stargaze on the Fourth of July
I know these probably won’t replace a good old-fashioned fireworks display, but hopefully next year we will have our fireworks again and we’ll appreciate them even more.
For the forest,
In the midst of navigating through uncertain times and all the changes that have impacted our daily lives, taking a walk in the woods is one thing you can still do. Not only will you come away with a deeper connection to our natural environment, but there are some amazing health benefits as well.
A walk in the woods can leave you feeling restored and rejuvenated. Exposure to forests strengthens our immune system, reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, increases energy and improves our mood. The Japanese call this shinrin-yoku, which means “forest bathing.”
As Oregonians, we have an abundance of opportunities for getting out into the forest. Nearly half of Oregon is forestland and we are home to 11 national and six state forests. Portland is home to Forest Park, which is one of the largest urban forests in the United States. Eugene is home to Hendricks Park, which provides visitors a chance to walk among 200-year-old Douglas-fir trees, ferns and wildflowers.
However, given the unprecedented crisis we face with the coronavirus outbreak, it’s imperative that while we enjoy the forest, we also adhere to the requirement to maintain physical distance and follow state and local guidelines.
As counties begin to enter Phase I re-opening, please check online before you venture out to your favorite forest hiking trail. There are restrictions in place to limit crowding, and operations could change during the day.
No matter where you live in Oregon, the opportunity to take a walk in the woods – while still maintaining appropriate distancing – is easy to find. Take advantage of this no-cost opportunity to improve your health and well-being.
It seems that only a few months ago, I was a Zoom novice, or Padawan. Now I feel I’m approaching at least Zoom journeyman level, and strive to become a Zoom master. It’s amazing what a pandemic can do to change the way you do business.
There’s a lot going on in the webinar world for woodland owners in Oregon. In this blog, I want to talk about three webinar series that are ongoing or just starting. The cool thing about webinars is, you can attend live or view recorded sessions after the fact.
Tree School Online
Oregon State University Extension Forestry and Natural Resources is working with the Partnership for Forestry Education under the leadership of the Oregon Forest Resources Institute to bring you this 15-week webinar series. You can participate in many of the classes that were set for Tree School Clackamas, which was canceled due to the pandemic, along with some new classes developed exclusively for Tree School Online. These FREE webinars are held every Tuesday until July 28. There is a 10 a.m. and a 1 p.m. webinar each Tuesday. More information, including a webinar schedule and registration, is available here.
You can find recordings of all the Tree School Online webinars that have already happened, as well as other educational videos for forest landowners developed by the Partnership for Forestry Education, on the Know Your Forest YouTube channel.
Oregon State University Extension Fire Program Webinars
The newly formed OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Fire Program, for which I’m proud to serve on the advisory committee, has also started a new webinar series featuring presenters from OSU, the Oregon Department of Forestry, Keep Oregon Green Association, Firewise USA and others. Two of the webinars have already taken place, but a third on fire-adapted communities and the Ready, Set, Go! program is scheduled for May 22. More information, including webinar descriptions, registration and access to previous programs, is available here.
Maintaining a Healthy Forest in an Uncertain Climate – Webinar Series
A new OSU Forestry and Natural Resources Extension webinar series for forest landowners and managers, “Maintaining a Healthy Forest in an Uncertain Climate,” is being produced by the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center. The series runs Wednesdays from 6 to 7:30 p.m., beginning June 10 and ending July 15. The webinars will be offered live, giving viewers a chance to ask expert presenters questions in real time. While this series has an ecological focus on southwestern Oregon, landowners from all areas of western Oregon are welcome to attend. More information, including a schedule, webinar descriptions and registration, is available here.
ALL THESE WEBINARS ARE FREE FOR ALL PARTICIPANTS. They are also all being recorded, and will be available to view online soon after the live sessions.
So when the pandemic is getting you down and you need to learn some forestry, follow the advice of a master and “Use the Zoom, Padawan.”
For the forest,
Director of Forestry
We know you’re all feeling isolated right now. So are we. It’s true that as a wildlife biologist I spend a lot of time by myself in the woods. I actually love being alone – when it’s by choice. Now that we’re supposed to self-isolate, I want nothing more than to lead wildlife tours and bring folks into the woods with me! I hope we can all be together in the woods again soon. Until then, I thought you might have some extra time to read. The following is a reminder about some of the educational resources the Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) has available for you to learn about forest wildlife right now, from the comfort of your home.
Our Wildlife in Managed Forests series of publications is updated frequently with relevant information that stems from research conducted by our partners at the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI), Oregon State University, (OSU) and the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station (PNW), to name a few.
Have you ever wondered about forest carnivores? We encourage you to take a look at our Fisher and Humboldt Marten publication. It will teach you a bit about the biology of these fascinating forest carnivores, and it highlights current research aimed at learning more about these creatures’ habitat needs, along with management recommendations for forest landowners.
Beyond having plenty of time to read about forest wildlife, another activity many can still do is bird-watch from their kitchen windows. We have two resources that will teach you more about forest-dwelling songbirds. First is our Early Seral-Associated Songbirds publication, and second is our Guide to Priority Plant and Animal Species in Oregon Forests booklet. The Early Seral-Associated Songbirds publication discusses habitat requirements for songbirds that rely on young forests, also known as early seral habitats, which are often created as the result of wildfires or logging. This publication has a lot of great pictures, and some of the species are commonly found in urban environments too, such as the white-crowned sparrow or the spotted towhee. The Guide to Priority Plant and Animal Species also has many great pictures, and can be used to learn about forest-dwelling wildlife.
If you’re a forest landowner, it’s also a great time to think about plans for your forest. Our Oregon Forests as Habitat publication has recommendations for every age of forest that can be incorporated into your forest management plan. Beyond the recommendations in Oregon Forests as Habitat, you can find many more resources for forest landowners on OFRI’s KnowYourForest.org website. Additionally, we partner with the Woodland Fish and Wildlife Project, a cooperative effort between state agencies, federal agencies and universities to provide information on fish and wildlife management to private woodland owners and managers, to write short publications on a variety of wildlife topics. If you’re interested in wildlife-friendly forest-fire fuels reduction, cavity-nesting birds and many topics in between, we suggest checking out their website.
We hope to see you all out in the forest as soon as we get through this.
Fran Cafferata Coe,
OFRI Contract Certified Wildlife Biologist®