August 07, 2001 11:00 pm

By Alice Perry Linker

Observer Staff Writer

NORTH POWDER Sustain (adj.: sustainable): (1) To maintain or keep going continuously over a long period; (2) The mantra recited by Oregon State Universitys new dean of the School of Forestry.

Hal Solwasser repeated the word sustainable numerous times during his visit to Union County and the working forest and ranch owned by Chris Heffernan near North Powder.

Speaking to more than 80 people during an outdoor dinner at the ranch, Solwasser said he is traveling through Eastern Oregon talking about sustainability and the importance of maintaining what we have.

The dean has a vision of forests sustained by type of use, from environmentally protected forestlands to tree plantations with few management regulations.

The dinner followed a tour of a portion of the 1,000 acres of forest land on the 1,332-acre Heffernan Ranch. The tour, open to the public, included private landowners and U.S. Forest Service representatives.

Solwasser, who became dean of the forestry school last year, said the era of high harvest on public land has been succeeded by a time of protectionism for publicly owned forests.

The changes in policy on public land have resulted in heavily harvested private land, he said. Its certainly pushing the limits (of sustainability).

Well have the protectionist approach to federal lands until something happens to change that maybe a catastrophic fire.

Citing the declining acreage of forestland worldwide and the steadily increasing population, Solwasser called for a different approach to providing wood for people.

He suggested that the various types of forest owners federal, state, commercial and small private sort out where they want to be. He said that a variety of management approaches from industrial logging to wilderness areas could be developed.

Included in the management would be multi-use woodlands, where logging, grazing and wildlife exist together.

There is a place for tree farms, as well as a place in society for small woodland owners who manage their forests for human and wildlife use, and for forests set aside as preserves for wildlife, he said. The challenge is to find a balance.

The dean said that OSU can be a key player in helping to sort out the balance.

Solwasser suggested that Americans should look to other areas of the world, especially Scandinavia, for ideas about continuing a steady supply of logs, without decimating the forests. Scandinavian foresters have formed associations committed to sustainable yield to keep the mills running.

We have to sell the environment with the product, take an aggressive marketing strategy, he said.

Solwasser praised the efforts of Heffernan and other family

woodland owners for their


These families are stewards of the land, contributing to conservation, he said. These are people doing good things for the economy and the environment.

To build an area of common ground, were going to need to have a larger public dialogue.

Related story, photos, on Portrait page Aug. 8, 2001