Institute for Working Forest Landscapes

Evolving to Meet Future Research Needs

In the past, research in the College of Forestry (CoF) has been conducted under the broad umbrella of the Forest Research Laboratory (FRL), and continues to be partially funded by the Oregon Legislature as one of three Statewide Public Service Units, along with the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Extension Service.

In November 2013, the College launched the Institute for Working Forest Landscapes (IWFL) to focus research programs on innovative approaches for managing landscapes that will enhance people’s lives and improve the health of our lands, businesses and vital ecosystems. The IWFL will develop adaptive forest management techniques that integrate social, ecological, and economic objec­tives at the landscape level.  It will continue to operate under the auspices of the FRL to more clearly focus the work of College faculty and students to meet the needs of Oregon.

The Institute for Working Forest Landscapes

Research in landscape level management of Northwest public and private forestlands


The ultimate goal of the research programs at the OSU College of Forestry is to provide innovative approaches to enhancing people’s lives while also improving the health of our lands, businesses, and vital ecosystems, and to do so collaboratively with active involvement of multiple partners with different perspectives. In support of this vision, the College of Forestry is launching a new research institute to develop adaptive forest management techniques that integrate social, ecological, and economic objectives at the landscape level.

IFWL Graphic


The Institute is founded on the premise that individual and community livelihoods are intimately linked to the health and productivity of surrounding landscapes regardless of ownership boundaries. It will seek to develop and test new active management models that bridge public and private forestlands in support of sustainable economic, biological, and social conditions that are the signature characteristics of healthy working landscapes and their associated communities. Moreover, the Institute will advance the public’s awareness of the importance of active management in support of broad scale healthy working landscapes by establishing a demonstration research forest where on‐the‐ground research will explore how pro-active, management of forest lands can provide employment stability and public access in rural communities, ecological integrity, and long-term protection of key environmental attributes. This new vision builds on the College’s longstanding role as Oregon’s principal research engine for providing science-based information about forests and their value to people and communities.

Key Opportunities the Institute will Address

1.  Improving the Health of Rural Communities and Citizens
Many Northwest rural communities have lost opportunities for family-wage jobs that drive local economies, provide basic public services, and support a healthy social structure. One consequence is disappearing manufacturing infrastructure that would otherwise support future forest restoration activities on public lands. The economic base and future opportunities of these communities can be strengthened by a more diverse economy that is interwoven with a fully functioning, working landscape that produces merchantable timber. New research endeavors will explore the linkages between healthy working landscapes and healthy people, and examine how development of new forest products associated with advanced manufacturing technology, restoration activities, markets for
ecosystems services, and tourism-based markets can be integrated with active land management to augment efforts to revitalize our rural communities.

2.  Increasing the Competitiveness of Oregon’s Private Landowners and Businesses
While Oregon remains the largest lumber producer in the U.S., a more robust and profitable value chain can be established by producing higher quality, value­‐added products that capitalize on the quality timber our forests produce. Healthy buildings and building materials, certification systems, manufacturing, renewable materials, and wood engineering and design all have a role to play in expanding markets that offer great opportunities for growing Oregon’s economy. Research partnerships with private sector manufacturers can drive the innovation necessary for resurgence in the Oregon wood products sector just as has occurred in Canada, New Zealand, Chile, and the southeastern U.S.

3.  Enhancing Ecosystem Health with a Landscape Approach
Factors  important  to  the  ecological  health  of  forest  landscapes  cross  all   ownerships –- catastrophic  fires,  at‐risk  species  habitat,  water  quality  of  rivers  and  streams, and wildlife populations. None  of  these  distinguish  between  public  and  private  lands,  yet management decisions for each are often quite different and with significant implications for the other. Many of our most intractable challenges can be addressed, and our greatest opportunities for meaningful conservation realized, by implementing a landscape scale approach to forestland management based on partnerships and collaboration. The institute will conduct fundamental research to increase our understanding of ecosystem dynamics, and applied research to refine, validate, and scale a suite of adaptive management techniques.  It  will  also provide on‐the‐ ground demonstration projects to highlight management techniques on public lands to move us forward.

4.   Increasing Public Trust in Active Management of Public & Private Lands
The reservoir of public trust that forestry is conducted in a socially and environmentally responsible manner has been greatly diminished over the past two decades, giving rise to legal challenges and calls for greater regulation. Restoring broad scale public understanding and trust entails more than compliance with existing laws. It requires proactive, transparent, and collaborative land management so that multiple interests are vested in the outcomes sought. Today, nearly all interests see the need to rebuild public trust in active management of forestlands toward broadly supported outcomes. The Institute will provide forums for that to occur.

Proposed Institute Structure and Thematic Areas of Research


The basic and applied science and engineering conducted by the Institute will be organized in four broad thematic areas framed to promote the College’s vision for healthy forest landscapes. Each area will have a research budget and an annual call for proposals.

Membership of the current Forest Research Laboratory Advisory Committee established in Oregon law will be re‐configured to provide a cross section of expertise and stakeholder interests necessary to serve as the Institute’s advisory board. Along with the Dean of the College of Forestry, this committee will assume an oversight role, help develop annual research priorities, and seek to establish active, collaborative research partnerships.

Additional institute scientists will be composed of research associates from related institutes and universities. Every scientist in the Institute can have association with any or all of the four thematic areas. Over time, incentives will drive project teams to build collaborations that overlap multiple themes.

Research Themes

Intensively Managed Forests
Research will focus on increasing the productivity, resilience, value, and marketability of private and industrial lands. The work of the Center for Intensive Planted Forest Silviculture, Vegetation Management Research Coop, Swiss Needle Cast Coop, Northwest Tree Improvement Coop, Hardwood Silviculture Coop, the Pacific Northwest Tree Improvement Research Cooperative, and the Tree Biosafety and Genomics Coop will be included in this thematic area.

Project initiatives will examine issues like financial management of plantations, growth and yield modeling, reforestation, forest operations, and biodiversity management, as well as how private lands can be managed more effectively to achieve overall landscape management goals by using markets for ecosystems services and other incentive-based systems. Research in this area will form a strong connection to the “Resilient Ecosystems” and “Competitive and Innovative Products” themes.

Healthy People and Communities
Research will focus on the myriad of ways that local economies and people’s lives are interconnected with public and private working landscapes, and how these economies and lives can be improved by actively utilizing forest ecosystems to provide both timber and non‐timber forest products from our public lands (including ecosystem services, recreational uses, and tourism) via new and innovative collaborations among varied interests and stakeholders.

Social scientists will explore how conservation collaboratives can work effectively, how community forests can improve rural livelihoods and access to natural resources, and enhancing the impacts of recreation uses of forest lands on local economies.

This theme is strongly connected to the “Resilient Ecosystems” theme, providing the research to help rebuild trust in public and private land management.

Resilient Ecosystems
The science undertaken in this thematic area will learn how the components of the ecosystem work, individually and together, such that we have a deeper understanding of what constitutes a healthy ecosystem. This fundamental knowledge will help us develop and refine active management techniques to improve ecosystem  health, resilience, and function. This basic knowledge will also enable us to value the wide range of ecosystem services that forests provide, from climate change mitigation to clean water to biodiversity protection and generation. Research will take a broad, landscape view to not only develop management strategies that meet vital ecosystem-health goals, but also strengthen the connection between communities, people, and the landscapes they inhabit. Because intensively managed private lands are often present in a mosaic on the landscape, research in this thematic area will be closely connected to the “Intensively Managed Forests” theme with researchers examining how these lands can be effectively co-managed, or how land swaps could take place to improve overall landscape  and community health. Fire ecology, climate science, and ecosystems management are critical tools in this theme. The Watersheds Research Coop will be included in this thematic area.

Competitive and Innovative Products
Research will examine and partner with industry to develop new products that are well suited to Oregon’s natural resources and competitive position in the global markets that now define manufacturing and sale of wood and other renewable materials. This thematic area seeks to not only increase the value of Oregon’s natural resources, but also enhance the overall value added in products manufactured in Oregon’s communities.

Healthy buildings and building materials, certification systems, management science, manufacturing, and wood engineering and design will be important components of this research area, as will identifying innovative mechanisms for expanding current markets. University of Oregon’s College of Architecture will be a natural partner, as will the OSU Colleges of Engineering and Business. Urban forestry and ecology and interactions with the built environment are emerging areas of investigation in this theme. We will study the impacts of natural building materials on public health in association with the College of Public Health and Human Sciences. Research in this thematic area will overlap with both "Intensively Managed Forests" and "Healthy People and Communities." The Center for Wood-Based Composites, the Environmental Performance of Treated Wood Coop, and the Utility Pole Coop will be included in this thematic area.

Components of the Institute

1. Research Priorities Roundtable -- A formal mechanism for both receiving key stakeholder input on research priorities necessary for the annual call for proposals in the four themes, and monitoring success of the research programs of the Institute.

2. Research Network –- A network of research scientists that include faculty from the OSU College of Forestry as well as faculty associates from other universities, colleges, and related research institutes.

3. Granting Program –- An annual call for proposals with research funds from public and private sources with advisory board and scientific panel oversight. Researchers will also apply for competitive grants through NSF, USDA, AFRI, NIH, and other granting agencies as well as foundations and private sources. Wherever possible Institute funds will also be used to leverage and match fundraising opportunities with public and private funding agencies.

4. Research Forest –- A forest of mixed ownerships designated as a research area and actively managed in a holistic way for long‐term social, ecological, and economic studies. Activities on the forest will be guided by a collaborative board of stakeholders based on clearly defined protocols set forth in a long-term research plan.

5. Forum on Working Forests –- A public forum for dissemination of research results, white papers, open discussions and consensus building on active forest management in the Pacific Northwest. The goals are to increase awareness of the multitude of benefits provided by our working landscapes, and to provide a sounding board for public input into the management of northwest forests.IWFL Graduate Programs


Relation to College of Forestry Graduate Programs

The College of Forestry offers three graduate programs with approximately 200 students pursuing the advanced degrees shown at right.  These programs and students bridge the research themes of the Institute.  Each of these graduate programs requires students to participate in research projects led by faculty members and associates of the Institute. M.S. and PhD students will be funded by the research projects, and they are expected to publish their results in refereed journals, and to present their findings at national and international scientific conferences. 

In addition, the College of Forestry will provide opportunities for exchange students from other graduate programs in the U.S. and across the world. Our intention is that the Institute for Working Forest Landscapes will become a focal point for international research and study about the role of working forests in a healthy functioning landscape.IWFL Undergraduate Programs


Relation to College of Forestry Undergraduate Programs

The Institute will also create excellent research opportunities for undergraduate students. The College of Forestry offers six undergraduate programs1 with over 800 students, as shown in the diagram to the right.  These programs are all closely related to the research themes of the Institute.  Each of these education programs has a formal internship requirement and students will have opportunities to participate in research internships that bridge the themes conducted by the Institute. In many cases undergraduates will be working in
partnership with graduate students and postdoctoral scholars.

1 The “Ecosystems Management” program is a placeholder name for a new program that is under development by the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society. Its eventual name may be quite different, although its position in the context diagram is expected to be as shown.


Related Research InstitutesIWFL Related Research Graphic

The Institute for Working Forest Landscapes will work closely in partnership with scientists from a number of related research laboratories and institutes. Some examples of these important relationships are shown at right, and many more possibilities exist. In
addition, the Institute will develop many international partnerships as research projects are defined. 

The College of Forestry already has affiliated faculty and faculty and research associates from these organizations and these relationships will be strengthened in the future.


Working Landscapes Research Forest

The Institute for Working Forest Landscapes will include a research forest consisting of a mix of private and public forestlands located near forest dependent communities, and managed in partnership with federal agencies and private land owners. Ultimately, separate  research forests will be established in both eastern and western Oregon, but the Institute will first focus on west side “moist” forestlands. On‐the‐ground research will explore how pro‐active, integrated, management of public and private lands using ecological forestry principles at a landscape scale can provide ecological integrity and long‐term protection of key environmental attributes, sustainable timber production capable of supporting manufacture of value-­added products, and employment stability and public access in rural communities.

Perhaps most important, the Institute’s research forest will strive to serve as a demonstration area for the public to learn about the science behind active management of forests as an integrated component of broad scale, healthy, working landscapes capable of producing key biological and social attributes while also supporting local economies. This landscape approach will attach scientific rigor to the application of holistic management principles on forested landscapes in order to test new, active forest management models that seek to address the most pressing issues our public lands and communities face today.

The ultimate goal of the research programs at the College of Forestry is to provide new science and innovative approaches to enhancing people’s lives while also improving the health of our lands and vital ecosystems, and to do so collaboratively with active involvement of multiple partners with different perspectives. The Working Research Forest will embody this model by working with a collaborative advisory body to help frame and guide research and management objectives toward outcomes that are meaningful to achieving this goal.