Category: Blog


From the Interim Executive Director, September 2017


Is it possible to own forestland and not even know it?

If you have an employer pension or other retirement account, there’s a chance that some of your investments involve not just stocks and bonds, but also alternatives such as real estate and commodities. For institutional investors managing their pension funds and endowments, timberland has become one of those alternative investment options, attractive for its relative stability and the possibility of earning returns that are better than bonds and safer than stocks.  Once rare amongst institutional investment portfolios, timberland is now mainstream.

For over a decade, the World Forestry Center has organized an annual conference called “Who Will Own the Forest?” which was created to provide a forum for this rapidly developing field of institutional timberland investing. It’s where everyone in this field comes to meet and exchange ideas on the latest trends impacting the sector.

“Who Will Own the Forest?” was the brainchild of World Forestry Center directors Bill Bradley, an attorney with Sutherland (now Eversheds Sutherland), and Rick Smith, then Managing Director at Forest Systems LLC. From the beginning they made it clear that they wanted the gathering to become a World Forestry Center event, not something that belonged to any single company. The World Forestry Center, being neither an institutional owner of commercial timberlands, nor an investor or service provider to the sector, could provide a third-party nonprofit platform for the diverse groups we hoped would attend. It was a far-sighted and selfless gift that Bill and Rick gave us.

The diversity of professions represented at “Who Will Own the Forest?’ is testament that managing forests today requires a broad and evolving skill set from various disciplines and perspectives. Today, timberland owners, investors, managers, lawyers, land conservation groups, carbon offset advisors, lenders, appraisers, insurers, and foresters come from as far away as New Zealand and Finland for this 2.5-day event.

The conference is also a demonstration of the World Forestry Center’s mission to create and inspire champions of sustainable forestry by highlighting how people from seemingly disparate walks of life are working together to create solutions that address economic, community, industry and environmental needs. We heard from a panel composed of leaders from the city, education, and business communities in Springfield, Oregon, where they have established a unique collaborative to foster the future workforce of the wood sector. Another session invited forestry deans from Oregon to Georgia to discuss changing student demographics, ways to teach soft skills beyond technical know-how, and how to attract and retain diverse talent to forestry. Their stories illustrate the challenges sustainable forestry faces, but their commitment and successes are inspiring.

There’s always a sense of excitement as folks gather and meet up with old acquaintances and make new ones at our annual conference. Many of our southern attendees had to brave hurricane-related challenges to make it here. It’s proof that “Who Will Own the Forest?” is not just another timber conference. It’s about the opportunity to establish and build on relationships. It’s also gratifying to see, with the convergence of disparate groups—financiers and foresters, land trusts and investors, pension funds and carbon managers on our Oregon campus, that there is increasing overlapping of mutual interests for cooperation in the management of forests for multiple uses. Finding common ground for action is always a good thing.

Sara Wu, Interim Executive Director

September 2017


Leaders Gather at WFC to Discuss Science and Practice of Protecting Forest Streams


On August 10th, more than 75 legislators and their aides, professional foresters, biologists, land owners, lawyers, professors and conservation organizations from all over Oregon, Washington and California convened in Cheatham Hall to consider the challenges of current management of the region’s forest riparian zones. Sponsored by the Oregon Society of American Foresters (SAF) and 11 other organizations including the World Forestry Center, the day-long event featured 15 speakers who shared their professional expertise and different perspectives on this complex and often controversial topic. WFC Board Chair Jennifer Allen welcomed everyone to the workshop and encouraged thoughtful discussion of the issues.

Elizabeth Howard: Lawyer at Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt

Matt McElligott: Board Member, Public Lands Council and Rancher

Dr. Dana Warren: Assistant Professor at OSU












WFC’s Senior Fellow, Rick Zenn, Keynotes Taipei Conference


Senior Fellow Rick Zenn was invited to provide the closing keynote address at the 2017 Taiwan Forestry Bureau Nature Center 10th Anniversary Conference at the Taipei City Youth Development Center this past May.

Zenn was introduced by Emeritus Professor Dr. Wang Xin from National Taiwan University and followed new TFB Director General Dr. Hwa-Ching Lin, formerly deputy director of the National Taiwan Museum and the Taipei Zoo, who outlined TFB’s impressive “Learn from Nature, Learn with Delight” initiative. Zenn spoke about the Oregon Forestry Literacy Plan and the work of the World Forestry Center. He also participated in the TFB Community Fair at the Taipei Peace Park and was a special guest at the Nature Center staff reunion.

“The conference showcased so many great programs and projects,” Zenn said. “Over the years, leaders from TFB have come to Oregon to visit the World Forestry Center and participate in our International Educator Institute (IEI). It was an honor to be invited to Taiwan to celebrate TFB’s many accomplishments.”

Many thanks to Dr. Chin-ying Lee of the Chinese Society for Environmental Education, Drs. Yi-Hsuan Hsu and Li-Hsin Weng, of the TFB leadership team, and Dr. Chou Ju of NTNU, among others for being great hosts and hard-working, inspirational colleagues.


World Forestry Center Hosts “Diversifying Our Urban Forests: People, Partnerships and Trees” Conference


Oregon Community Trees, Oregon Department of Forestry, and the US Forest Service organized a full day of impressive speakers, spirited discussion, and thoughtful debate about the future of urban forestry at the World Forestry Center June 1. More than 150 people attended the event in Miller Hall.

Dr. William Sullivan, Director of the School of Landscape Architecture at University of Illinois, Jill Jonnes, author of the new book Urban Forests: A Natural History of Trees and People in the American Cityscape, and Dr. Paul Ries of Oregon State University College of Forestry were featured speakers.

The World Forestry Center has sponsored and hosted state and regional urban and community forestry conferences since 1992. Many thanks to Senior Fellow Rick Zenn and the Oregon Community Trees board of directors led by Ruth Williams of Davey Resources Group for supporting this great partnership.

RZ Ranch June 2017 830

World Forest Institute Fellows Enjoy MC Ranch Field Camp and speak at Eastern Oregon University


Before climbing off her horse, Shreejita Basu, WFI fellow from India, flashed a big grin and unwound one of those crowd pleasing elbow-elbow-wrist-wrist-wrist waves worthy of any Rodeo Princess in America. After several long, hot days of travel, site visits, and tours, Shreejita and seven colleagues in the WFI international fellowship program stood with the horses at the corral and laughed and reminisced with local hosts Rex and Catherine Christensen of the MC Ranch.

“We learned so much! Thank you Rex and Cathy!” they cheered, followed by hugs all around.

For the past 12 years, the award winning MC Ranch, located in Oregon’s Blue Mountains southwest of LaGrande. The ranch hosted an intensive multi-day field forestry practicum for the WFI fellows to learn about Eastside forestry issues and options for private landowners to actively manage dry forest landscapes to meet diverse economic, social, and environmental objectives. The original MC Ranch forestry project and the field camp for WFI fellows was started by Harry Merlo, retired CEO of Louisiana Pacific. Merlo passed away in 2016.

More than two dozen local land owners, managers, loggers, mill operators, biologists, fire fighters and guests met with the WFI fellows June 19-23 to cover a wide range of topics such as buying and selling timber in Eastern Oregon, reforestation, forest practice laws, stream restoration and habitat enhancement, climate change, insects and disease, forest fuels reduction, firefighting, cattle ranching, hunting, fishing, tourism, and opportunities for biomass.

Fellows also toured the Integrated Biomass Campus and Enterprise High School biomass boiler in Wallowa County. “It is amazing how this all works” observed Oscar Hernandez, WFI fellow from Guatemala. “It is really all about the community and the local people. You can’t do this level work without good people all along the forest value chain.”

Midweek, the fellows traveled to Eastern Oregon University to deliver a “Forests Around the World” seminar for the community and attend a reception hosted by EOU President Tom Insko. The fellows also inspected forestry projects on the Umatilla National Forest and met with multi-generational small woodland owners near Mount Emily. Evenings were spent on the banks of the Grande Ronde River swapping stories about the day, travel, and forestry projects around the globe.

WFI fellow from Scotland, Hebe Caras, observed “Seeing forestry as a working landscape on the dry side of Oregon was fascinating, and with many different challenges from western Oregon. I saw the huge challenges of balancing the need for fuel load reduction, tree regeneration / planting, maintaining elk populations as hunting quarry, all within the context of attempting to deliver ecological integrity across a landscape. I had some great discussions about how we did things in Scotland, where we have equally complex but different issues to overcome. I really valued the honest exchange of viewpoints and ideas; that was the best part of the trip, plus of course getting to ride a horse Western style.”

MC Ranch Manager Rex Christensen and his team – Cathy, Kyle, Heather and Blair — were thoughtful and generous hosts. “Their love of the land, record of stewardship at the ranch, and passion to share Harry’s vision and legacy of leadership with guests from all over the world is appreciated beyond words,” said Sara Wu, Acting Director of the World Forestry Center. “The MC Ranch trip is central to the success of the WFI fellowship. We are grateful to Flo Newton Merlo and the Merlo Foundation for supporting this high impact learning experience.”

Many thanks to WFC board member Nils Christoffersen and his crew at Wallowa Resources, Tom Insko and his staff at EOU, Jamie Knight of the Oregon Department of Forestry, and the many local experts who volunteered their time and expertise make the 2017 MC Ranch forestry field camp one of the best ever.


Press Release – World Forestry Center to Host Half-Day Event Focused on Global Forestry Initiatives


Read the press release announcing the half-day event to be held at the World Forestry Center on July 19, 2017, When Small is Big: Forest Initiatives Around the Globe – A conference exploring issues of climate, conservation, and forest management in a global context.

Press release linked here.

June 13, 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                    
World Forestry Center
Media Contact: Chandalin Bennett, 503-488-2137

World Forestry Center to Host Half-Day Event Focused on Global Forestry Initiatives

Portland, Ore.- On July 19 from 8:30 am – 1 pm the World Forestry Center will host a special event showcasing global forestry initiatives featuring the eight 2017 World Forest Institute International Research Fellows. This half-day event will focus on issues of climate, conservation, and forest management, showcasing unique solutions and challenging projects that are being implemented around the world.

The 2017 International Research Fellows span three continents, representing their home countries of Malaysia, Slovakia, India, Guatemala, Japan, Nepal, Scotland, and Taiwan. They were selectively chosen to participate in the six-month World Forest Institute International Fellowship Program at the World Forestry Center.

Keynote speaker Dr. John Bliss (Emeritus Professor, Oregon State University) and invited moderator Rainier Hummel (Forest Practices District Manager, Washington Dept. of Natural Resources) will draw these international stories together in a meaningful way for us here in the Pacific Northwest.

Sponsored by Oregon-based forest products company Vanport International, Inc and Vanport Manufacturing, Inc, this event will deepen your understanding of natural resource issues around the world and inspire and impact the work being done closer to home.

Tickets: $20, includes lunch
Register at by July 15

 Founded in 1966, the World Forestry Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to educating and connecting people to the importance of forests, and to create and inspire champions of sustainable forestry. Based in Portland, Oregon, World Forestry Center provides critical programs in convening and professional development of global leaders and practitioners in forestry and related fields. Through its World Forest Institute Fellowship Program, the World Forestry Center has hosted public and private forest professionals from over 30 countries to advance research, networking, and knowledge exchange. For more information, visit The World Forestry Center is five minutes from downtown Portland, just off Highway 26 in Portland’s beautiful Washington Park. Visitors are encouraged to ride MAX or take TriMet bus #63.

When Small is Big: Forest Initiatives Around the Globe
July 19, 2017
8:30 am – 1 pm
Registration includes lunch
World Forestry Center
Cheatham Hall
4033 SW Canyon Road
Portland, OR 97221



Greetings from the Interim Executive Director


I was once asked, “What’s a nice Asian gal like you doing in forestry?” In fact, I am the daughter of a plywood mill manager. For 20 years my father ran a small mill, first in Singapore and then in Malaysia. My father never wanted his children to be a part of his business. After seven banks turned him down for a loan, he sat my twin sister and me down at the ripe age of 10 and said: “Promise me that you will never run your own business.” Taking on the interim directorship of the World Forestry Center is as close as I have ever been to breaking that pinky promise.

I never worked in my father’s plywood mill. Instead of forestry school, I double majored in economics and religion, and later earned a Master’s in Public Administration. Nevertheless, I understood it was my father’s hard-earned livelihood in forestry that put me and my siblings through college and allowed my family to purchase our first house. When I arrived in the US for college and breathed fresh, clean air for the first time, I began to understand that forests not only provide jobs and homes, but also clean air and water, wildlife habitat, scenic landscapes, recreation opportunities, public health benefits, and vital climate mitigation.

It was my affiliation with the World Forestry Center—first as an intern 24 years ago, then as a program manager, and eventually director of the International Fellowship Program—that opened my eyes to the diverse benefits of forests. I learned that the people who work in forestry all share a passion and respect for the land they are managing, whether it’s on family-owned woodlands, large industrial timberlands, public and private lands, or in urban and rural communities. The forestry community’s willingness to share their time and expertise, sometimes over a sack lunch in the field, rain or shine, never ceases to amaze me. Thank you.

So, what is a nice Asian gal like me doing in forestry? I am humbled and inspired by what my friends and colleagues in forestry do every day. It has been a great honor to work with them, to know that our efforts will make a difference close to home or even half way around the world. Our mission, “To create and inspire champions of sustainable forestry” recognizes that our success in the future rests on engaging and working with people here and abroad. Our International Fellowship Program, which has been bringing leaders in forestry to Portland from over 40 countries, is based on a simple belief: We invest in people so they can sustain the world’s forests.

I hope that you will partner with us and encourage others to join this important work. I sincerely thank all of our members, donors, partners, and friends for your support.

Sara Wu
Interim Executive Director



WINGS ~ WHEELS ~ WHISKEY Gala, held on April 8, 2017, honoring the 210 distinguished Inductees of the Forestry Leadership Hall was a smashing success. Thank you to our supporters, sponsors and guests for making the Gala a magical celebration. A very special thanks to Honorary Chair Flo Newton Merlo for hosting the Gala in the Global Aviation Hangar and to our Presenting Sponsor The Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation and Arlene Schnitzer and Jordan Schnitzer.


Photos by Wasim Muklashy |


2016 WFI Spanish Fellow publishes article on Oregon forestry


Each year the World Forest Institute Fellowship Program hosts natural resource professionals as they spend six months in Oregon learning about forestry practices in the northwest.  The program showcases Oregon’s international acclaim as a leader in sustainable forestry, with Fellows visiting forests on private and public lands, wood manufacturers, industrial timberland growers, research agencies and academia.  Our first Spanish Fellow to WFI, Ms. Ana de Miguel Muñoz, just published a new article on lessons learned from her time in Oregon last year. Link here for her excerpt from the Forestry & Energy Review magazine, Vol. 7, Iss. 1, Spring/Summer 2017.


Who Will Own the Forest? 13 – Registration Opens


The Who Will Own the Forest? conferences offer a wide range of perspectives on institutional timberland investing, both domestically and overseas.  We invite you to join our discussions as we address this maturing and evolving asset class, and examine the issues that will impact the demand for commercial timber, diversify values from forestland, and maximize returns to investors.