An entirely human-caused threat to forests is conversion to other land uses. In other parts of the world, destruction of forestland for agricultural use continues to be a major threat. But when forestland is lost in Oregon, it tends to happen because of residential or commercial development.
In the four decades between 1974 and 2014, about 247,000 acres of private Oregon forestland was converted to other uses, mostly to low-density housing. When a forest becomes a housing development, for instance, the benefits it provided to society as a forest, including carbon sequestration, clean water and wildlife habitat, are lost.
Fortunately, Oregon has done remarkably well in protecting forests from development. In fact, Oregon’s loss of forestland between 1974 and 2014 was less than half the loss seen in neighboring Washington state over the same time period. That’s due largely to differences in Oregon’s land-use and forest-practices laws, which work in tandem to help keep forests as forests.
It may sound counterintuitive, but one of the best ways you can help Oregon forests stay forests is to buy forest products such as paper and wood. This is because when private landowners have an economic incentive to preserve forestland by earning income from selling timber, they’re less likely to sell it for development into housing or other uses. Landowners are also required by Oregon law to replant trees after a timber harvest, ensuring these forests will remain forests into the future.