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Forest Restoration Needs in Oregon

The abnormally warm, dry weather that parked itself over southern Oregon and much of the Northwest last winter could usher in a doozy of a fire season. Collaborative restoration projects aim to mitigate that danger, but money is scarce and huge swaths of the state are at risk. This map, based on an analysis of forest restoration needs by The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Forest Service, shows how much forestland in each watershed requires restoration work.

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Bruce Daucsavage: 'The change is about more than just the mills'


Ochoco Lumber Company's Bruce Daucsavage
Photo courtesy of the subject

In August 2012, Ochoco Lumber Co. announced plans to close its mill in John Day, Oregon, due in part to a shortage of timber supply from neighboring public lands. The announcement meant that rural Grant County would be losing its last surviving sawmill — and with it about 70 jobs in a community already reeling from the recession.

The John Day mill seemed destined to become another painful chapter in Oregon’s history of rural economic decline, but three years later, it’s being celebrating as a Douglas fir-sized success story. The difference: an unlikely alliance of environmentalists, timber leaders, and public officials working together to complete the Malheur stewardship agreement, a ten-year forest thinning project expected to produce a reliable timber supply while also improving forest health.

Thanks to that agreement, the John Day mill is hiring workers again and exploring new opportunities to expand. InvestigateWest caught up with Ochoco Lumber president Bruce Daucsavage to discuss drinking scotch with environmentalists, funding collaboration, and re-tooling mills to succeed in today’s marketplace. We also invite you to join us at the 2015 Forests and the Economy Symposium on May 27 in Portland, where Daucsavage will be one of the panelists.

 

The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

 

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After the Wars, Common Ground in Oregon's Forests

A pile burning operation in the Deschutes National Forest clears undergrowth to lessen the risk of megafire. Credit: William Saunders 

ASHLAND -- This spring’s high school graduating seniors were newborns the last time the U.S. Forest Service proposed a major forest thinning project around here — and the outcome was a disaster. Nicknamed “HazRed,” the controversial fuels-reduction proposal included plans to commercially log large sections of forest, with trees as wide as six feet reportedly marked for removal. In the explosive public backlash, residents bombarded the Forest Service with negative comments, conservation groups filed appeals, a district ranger was fired (then rehired), and years of administrative and legal wrangling undermined the public’s already uneasy trust.

“The Forest Service had a different direction then,” says Marko Bey, co-founder and executive director of the nonprofit Lomakatsi Restoration Project, which manages forest restoration projects in Oregon and northern California. “There was a lot of contention.”

Today the buzz and rattle of chainsaws along a steep slope in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest tells a story of redemption in Ashland’s watershed. It’s an unseasonably balmy morning in March, and a 12-man Lomakatsi crew is carefully clearing out densely packed, spindly fir trees from around the thick trunks of pines and black oaks. The brush buildup is the legacy of a century-plus of suppressing all forest fires, an official government policy now widely understood to be misguided. Fires clean out forests. Now, though, forests around Ashland and across the state are so packed with dense growth that fears of unnaturally catastrophic wildfires loom.

This summer could be especially severe. As crew members cut and slash their way across the 90-acre unit, Mt. Ashland towers in the distance, its paltry snowpack a reminder of the abnormally warm, dry weather that parked itself over southern Oregon and much of the Northwest last winter. With fire officials saying these conditions could usher in a doozy of a fire season, every treated unit counts. Come summer, the work might make the difference between a manageable fire and a catastrophic blaze.

The Lomakatsi crew labors on. “One acre at a time,” Bey says. “One stick at a time. If we have a fire in here, we’re going to be able to deal with it much better than five years ago.”

Bey’s stick-by-stick approach is no joke. His technical team carefully plans treatments in advance, identifying landslide hazard zones (look for the orange-and-black ribbons) and selecting which trees to cut (marked blue). And while most of the thinned brush is piled and burned to reduce fire fuels, the crews also leave some downed trees untouched to mimic natural “wind-fall” events.

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Listen: Lee van der Voo on Think Out Loud

On Monday, Lee van der Voo talked with Think Out Loud's Dave Miller about her new report, "How Cash Sent the Portland Home Market Spinning."

Listen to the full interview here:

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How Cash Sent the Portland Home Market Spinning

Julieth Buri waters flowers in front of the Portland house she and her husband, Justin, bought in 2014. Photo: Leah Nash for InvestigateWest

Justin and Julieth Buri were about to lose. Again.

This time it was a pink-colored bungalow, a 1,382-square-foot house on Northeast Fremont belonging to the estate of Veona Monroe, a church devotee and the matriarch of a large Portland family.

It needed work, but they were smitten, if not optimistic. Justin Buri, by day an advocate for tenants, knew well the scarcity of Portland houses. They offered $250,000 — the asking price — and crossed their fingers. This time it took a full day before another buyer outbid them, paying all cash. Seven months later, the house sold again, remodeled, for $483,000.

“It was a nightmare,” Justin Buri said of the couple's house-hunting days. From the time those days began in October 2013 until they ended the following May, the Buris were outbid 16 times for homes, many times by all-cash offers.

“Sometimes we wouldn’t even get beat by that much, but because it was a cash offer, the owner would prefer it,” he said.

So goes the story. Cash is king in red-hot Portland real estate, representing a full one-third of single-family home sales last year. Depending on which urban myth you subscribe to, many first-time home buyers are just out of luck either because the Metro-area urban growth boundary makes housing scarce and pricey, or because Portland is so great, housing is being gobbled up by a flood of New Yorkers and Californians racing here for a slice of nirvana. It’s a post-Portlandia feeding frenzy, right?

Well, no. Not entirely.

26 Investors Who Have Way More House than You

'For Sale' and 'Sold' signs are common in the Humboldt neighborhood of Portland. Photo: Jason Alcorn

There are 26 investors who purchased more than 10 homes for cash in the listed market in Multnomah County through the recession. The equity firms in the bunch were American Homes 4 Rent and Equity West Capital Partners. Equity West Capital Partners topped the activity list, followed by Dilusso Homes, run by real estate mogul Chris Baird, who has purchased more than 500 properties in California, Alabama and Oregon, at least 29 in Multnomah County for cash and more than 100 others in Multnomah County through a combination of cash and other means.

Also high on the list were a trio of private investors: Pak Leong, Hongbo Li and Fuk Chan, who sometimes partner on deals. AAV One, owned by private investor Tina Lei, landed on the list as well, along with private companies Red Gap Holdings and JET Investments. BKB Investments and NSI Investments, private-investor upstarts in the flip market, have since left the game. BKB’s AJ Kitt said the company couldn’t make money on its flips. NSI’s Nick Stearns said he has retired.

Remodelers Eden Enterprises, Willamette Valley Properties, John Reilly and Wilde Properties were also frequent cash buyers, mostly working on the inner east side. John L. Scott Realtor King Brendenkamp bought in east Portland along with Gresham and Troutdale.

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This is Where Top Investors Buy Homes for Cash in Portland

 
Explore More of our Portland Housing Reporting

Methodology for Our Report on Cash Buyers

Here is the methodology for our reporting on home sales for cash in Multnomah County, Oregon.

InvestigateWest obtained a list of 17,776 cash real estate transactions — the property address and the close of escrow date — occurring between 2006 and 2014 from Oregon Multiple Listing Service. The City of Portland’s Bureau of Technology Services matched 11,236 of the records to property ID numbers.

InvestigateWest matched an additional 3,800 transactions by writing a web crawler, a simple computer program that ran property searches on MultCoPropTax.org, a website maintained by the Multnomah County Department of Assessment & Taxation. The web crawler also downloaded all sales information for each available property ID, including the buyer and seller names, the sale date and price.

We then matched 11,785 cash transactions to the web crawler’s output. For each buyer name, we added up the number of single-family home purchases and total cash spent. Each cash sale was then matched to the next transaction for the property in order to reveal gains on flips and to observe when properties were acquired and how they were next sold. Overall cash activity was summarized by zip code and month.

This data was contextualized within the larger cash marketplace with help from RealtyTrac, the real estate information company. RealtyTrac provided data on overall cash transactions in Portland, Vancouver, Beaverton and Multnomah County, as well as data detailing foreclosure and auction activity, affordability for buyers and total cash purchases in the listed, auction, and private contract marketplace. The company also provided data on institutional investor sales and on how many cash purchases were later financed.

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