What a Healthy Forest Looks Like

A healthy forest is a forest that’s thriving and resilient, providing many functions to its inhabitants throughout the natural cycles of change. Read on to learn more!

Do forests really need our intervention?

The forest ecosystems of the east Cascades of Central Oregon are complex. All of them are forests that are historically adapted to fire.

And our mid- and lower elevation forests (think forests of ponderosa pine and mixed conifer species around Sisters, Bend and Sunriver) in particular evolved with frequent fires that burned on average every 10 to 25 years - regularly enough to “clean up” and maintain healthy, resilient forests for millennia.

But a history of unsustainable forest management practices has created unnatural forest conditions: overly dense forests, full of young trees...fewer of the older, larger fire-tolerant species…overgrown, shrubby understories.

All of this contributes to a lack of resilience in the face of natural fire, insects, diseases and climate change. It’s negatively impacting the plant, fish and wildlife communities that rely on and thrive in these fire-adapted forest conditions. And it means we now face a greater likelihood of high magnitude and high severity wildfires, which threaten the values we care about—and the forest itself.

Forest Restoration is More than an Act of Nature

Leaving these unhealthy, overly dense forest stands untreated is not in the best interest of nature or people. In some parts of the forest, we are past the point of allowing nature to take its course. These forest stands need our help to get back to health.

The Solution is Ecologically-Based Forest Restoration

Carefully planned and implemented forest restoration is the best path forward to improve fire-dependent habitat, reduce risks from out-of-control wildfire, steward the forests, and protect all the values we care about so deeply. 

“In the face of global climate change, the best hope for those of us in fire-prone areas is to have ecosystems restored to more natural and self-regulating conditions.

Such systems are ready to cope with the changes likely to come our way. Just like in human medicine, a person has the best chance to fight off and recover from an illness when they are healthy.

It is important to make sure our forests are in their most natural, healthy condition so they, too, are able to endure disturbances like fire, insects, disease and climate change.”

- Wally Covington, Ecological Restoration Institute

How Forest Restoration Proceeds

The Deschutes Collaborative is working to increase forest and watershed restoration efforts to help put our forests on a trajectory to be healthy again. Our projects are lowering the threat of unnaturally large wildfires across 250,000+ acres of public forest in Central Oregon.

It's Working

The Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project has resulted in the restoration of tens of thousands of acres of forest...and more is planned in the months and years to come.

These forests are healthier and more resilient. About 400 jobs have been created through projects in the DCFP landscape, ranging from harvesting and processing of the small and medium-sized trees that come from restoration projects to producing value-added goods from restoration by-products, like pine paneling, wood fiber, and forest biomass products.

And the communities of Central Oregon are safer. Restoration work around Sisters completed in the Sisters Area Fuels Reduction (SAFR) Project helped firefighters slow the advance of the 2012 Pole Creek Fire. [Watch the video on our Resources Page]

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(c) 2023 Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project