Results in the Dry Forest Zone

Posted by Dylan Kruse on April 24, 2014

Our 5-year project has wrapped up with strong results, but this is just the beginning of great things to come.

Photo by Michael Hatten

Sustainable Northwest and our partners in the Dry Forest Zone (DFZ) project - the Ecosystem Workforce Program, Wallowa Resources, and Watershed Research & Training Center - are pleased to present 'Stewarding Forests and Communities,' a report on the final results of this five year project. Developed in 2009 to spur restoration forestry and economic development across eastern Oregon and northern California, we have seen excellent results across the whole region.

During the past two decades, land managers and community leaders in the West have adopted sustainable land management methods to make forests healthier, and to maintain profitable local businesses that are beneficial to their communities. However their efforts were often siloed and were not making a big enough impact to offset the vast threat of wildfire and the effects of climate change that are increasingly pressing the region. Nor were these singular efforts being presented to federal lawmakers or agencies that have the need and ability to implement policies to replicate these successes and ensure lasting change. The core goal of the DFZ project was to bring these innovations to others facing similar challenges, to share learning and methods with other land stewards, lawmakers, and agencies, and to expand the important innovations to new forest regions. 

To achieve this, we and our partners enabled ongoing stewardship of public and private forestlands  by building new infrastructure  for products  that make use of forest restoration by-products and benefit local rural economies. An example of these products is wood heating pellets, in which thinnings from restoration projects and sawmill residuals are densified and converted into pellets. The pellets are then sold to the local school or hospital to be burned in an EPA-approved high efficiency boiler. The school spends much less on the wood pellets than they would have on heating oil or propane, and it helps offset the cost of forest restoration work and keep local companies in business. Local systems like this are possible when collaborative forest restoration groups and strong local nonprofit organizations are involved  with restoration efforts and agree on the work that needs to be done in the forest. To make solutions like these an option in the future, we've brought these success stories to legislators and federal agencies  to encourage new laws that will make ongoing sustainable forest stewardship possible. 

Over the 5 year project we've been fortunate to log many accomplishments. Among them, this project has:

  • Supported 72 jobs in the region (which roughly equates to 12,000 jobs in Portland)

  • Restored nearly 9000 acres with thinning, prescribed fire, and other land management treatments
  • Teed up the assessment of over 200,000 acres of national forestland for future restoration work
  • Facilitated the passage of federal policies and programs that support sustainable forest stewardship, including the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program, permanent reauthorization of stewardship contracting, the Community Capacity and Land Stewardship Program, Eastside Restoration Strategy, California Senate Bill 1122, and the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Strategy.


We and our partners are proud to measure these important successes, but we're even more excited to recognize that this is just the beginning. The real success is the foundation we've created for an increase in the pace and scale of restoration in the coming years. Over the next 10 years we'll be expanding restoration efforts, beginning with 9 million acres of forest across Oregon. And along with this ecological restoration, local community businesses will also remain viable into the future. 

Read the full report here

Dry Forest Zone Maps

We have also published an accompanying set of statistical maps of the Dry Forest Zone available on Ecosystem Workforce Program's site. These maps depict the most current information regarding the ecological, economic, and social trends and conditions in the DFZ region. They are essential viewing for anyone interested in collaborative forest management and natural resource-based economic development. 

Thank you to the US Endowment for Forestry and Communities and USDA Rural Development for providing important funding for this project.