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SAF Woodcut for December 2007 Flood Victims in NW Oregon

Portland Chapter, Oregon Society of American Foresters

In early December 2007 a major hurricane force storm ripped through northwest Oregon and southwest Washington. With winds exceeding 140 mph, nearly 1 billion feet of timber was blown down (400 million board feet in northwest Oregon and 600 million in southwest Washington). Extensive rains accompanied the storm, bringing 15-20 inches in the three-day storm, and causing significant damage to roads, bridges, railroads and rural communities.

One of the most damaged communities was Vernonia, Oregon. Vernonia is a timber dependent town of 2,500 residents in the Oregon Coast Range, on the banks of the Nehalem River. Roughly 800 homes in this town were flooded, along with all the schools and many businesses. Many folks lost everything they owned.

Many of Vernonia's residents heat their homes with wood. Winter supplies were washed away in the flood, and folks were left without wood in a cold, wet Pacific Northwest winter.

To help provide some assistance to the flood victims, past OSAF State Chair and Portland Chapter member, Bob Alverts, initiated a woodcutting effort. The Portland Chapter received unanimous support from the Oregon Society of American Foresters to move forward with the Woodcut Project.

With assistance from OSAF Foresters Fund Chair, Tim Keith, the Portland Chapter applied for and received a $1,500 SAF Forester's Fund grant to help cover project expenses. Many in-kind donations were made to further this effort. This project received cash donations from individual SAF members as well as various OSAF chapters. In addition, the Woodcut Project received donations of wood, logs, log hauling services, use of chain saws and related equipment, as well as the use of private land to store logs for their conversion to fire and fuel wood. Generously, Krispy Kreme donated donuts for the countless volunteers who assisted in the efforts. The total budget for this effort exceeds $50,000 for all services rendered including volunteer labor and donations.

The goal was to cut and deliver at least 100 cords of wood to the flood victims of Vernonia. All wood procured through the Woodcut efforts has been distributed to flood victims through the Columbia County Disaster Relief office.

The Woodcut project has been a cooperative between SAF, timber and logging companies, Columbia County Commissioner and Disaster Relief Coordinators, Oregon Department of Forestry, Bureau of Land Management, Stihl Northwest, Precision Outdoor Power Equipment, Boy Scouts of America, AmeriCorps members, church groups and other volunteers. Before each Woodcut event we had a brief discussion about forestry, the storm, damage and resulting needs, as well as a safety discussion.

To date this project has received press coverage from local newspapers. Major media entities in Portland have expressed interest in covering our effort, but have not shown during the weekend Woodcut events. They are interested in covering additional work this fall.

In six Saturdays of woodcutting volunteers have cut, split and delivered over 40 cords of wood from Weyerhaeuser Company and BLM lands. In addition, many timber companies have donated and delivered logs to meet our 100 cord goals, including: Longview Timber Company- 40 cord equivalent, Green Diamond Company- 10 cord equivalent, Roseburg Forest Products- 10 cord equivalent. These plus the equivalent of 10 cords of pine logs from DR Johnson Lumber of eastern Oregon have exceeded the Woodcut Project's goal of 100 cords. This project has taken a life of its own and more logs are planned for delivery this fall and winter continuing to surpass our expectations. (See attached photos of woodcutting and splitting volunteers, and woodpile in Vernonia).

Throughout the Woodcut effort we made many new friends. These events have given us the opportunity to talk about forestry, the role disturbance events play in shaping the forests and communities in which we live and work, discuss the flood and the needs of those affected, held safety tailgate sessions, and developed relationships that involve a host of public, private, and non-government interests.

Partners involved with the project include: Portland Chapter- OSAF, Coos Chapter- OSAF, Umpqua Chapter- OSAF, individual SAF member volunteers and donors, Oregon Society of American Foresters, SAF Northwest Office, Oregon Department of Forestry, Oregon State University Forestry Extension, Bureau of Land Management, Columbia County Commissioner, Columbia County Disaster Relief Office, Longview Timber Company, Weyerhaeuser Company, Green Diamond Resources Company, Plum Creek, Roseburg Forest Products, Starker Forests, DR Johnson Lumber Company, Blue Mountain Lumber Company, Iron Triangle Logging, Mike Pihl Logging, Associated Oregon Loggers, Mason, Bruce and Girard Consulting Foresters, Stihl Northwest, Precision Outdoor Power Equipment, Small Wood News, Krispy Kreme Donuts, AmeriCorps members, Boy Scouts of America Explorer Post 459, Boring Fire District, church groups and local Vernonia resident volunteers.

A $1,500 Forester's Fund grant was applied for and received. In addition, individual SAF members donated $200 cash; Coos Chapter donated $300 for reimbursement of log hauling costs; Umpqua Chapter donated $490 to cover hauling costs of load of logs donated by Roseburg Forest Products; at least $40,000 in donated log value, logging and hauling costs; $2,000 in donated chain saw and related equipment use; at least $500 in donated use of log splitters; $50 in donated doughnuts; and well over 1,000 hours of donated volunteer time. Our total budget to date is roughly $50,000 in equivalent value.

This project has been very rewarding. It has helped connect rural and urban people and provided for basic needs on behalf of several hundred flood victims. It has clearly helped SAF get back to its roots and develop relationships with a number of agencies, companies, and volunteer organizations. We intend to continue our assistance for as long as it is needed.