Why are some forests clearcut?

Private landowners who produce timber can harvest trees in a variety of ways. One option is clearcutting, in which the landowner removes most of the trees in a given area, leaving forested buffers around streams as well as some standing trees and down logs for wildlife habitat.

After harvest, the entire area is planted with seedlings to grow a new forest. The decision to clearcut is influenced by the species of tree as well as climate, landscape and economics.

East versus west.

Douglas-fir trees like sun. If you’ve seen a clearcut recently, odds are it’s been on the west side of the Cascades. West of the Cascades, where eight of 10 trees are Douglas-fir, forest landowners choose to clearcut because the Douglas-fir seedlings planted after harvest grow best in full sunlight.

Rules for clearcuts. Oregon law requires that trees be left as buffers along streams to protect water and fish habitat. And in the clearcut area, a few trees are retained for wildlife habitat. Seedlings must be planted within two years after harvest. Oregon rules limit clearcuts to 120 acres, and adjacent areas in the same ownership cannot be clearcut until the new trees on the original harvest site are at least 4 feet tall.

Where it’s less common. In other climates – such as the drier, sunnier pine forests east of the Cascades – the forest canopy helps protect fragile seedlings from heat and frost, so clearcutting is less common. Trees are usually harvested individually or in small groups.

"Clearcutting today gets a bad rap. For instance, people assume a clearcut means erosion. That’s not necessarily the case with the logging that is practiced today."
Jim Hall Stewardship forestry, Oregon Department of Forestry
A Day in the Woods: Clearcutting

Two extension foresters explain why Oregon forest landowners choose to clearcut

Video
A Day in the Woods: Clearcutting

Two extension foresters explain why Oregon forest landowners choose to clearcut