The OSU Extension Service is excited to announce a gift of a 167-acre forest property near Gold Hill to the OSU College of Forestry for use as a teaching, research and demonstration forest.

The Collins Demonstration Forest was established thanks to a generous donation to OSU from Bill and Marion Collins, longtime forest landowners and active participants in the Oregon Small Woodlands Association.

The Collins Forest is the newest addition to the OSU College of Forestry’s Research Forest system that includes forest lands near Corvallis and other parcels around the state. The new forest will be used for classes, tours, demonstrations, and research projects that address important natural resource issues such as wildfire management, forest health, habitat protection and sustainable timber production.

The forest will serve as a centerpiece of the local Extension Forestry and Natural Resources program that serves small woodlands owners, forest managers and operators, teachers, students and the general public. 

“We’re absolutely thrilled to have this property,” says Extension Forester Max Bennett. “The forest has been carefully tended over the years and serves as a great demonstration of the potential of forest land management in southern Oregon. It has a bit of everything — mixed conifer forests, oak woodlands, meadows and seasonal streams. There are a lot of educational possibilities here.”

Bennett says that near term plans for the property include small diameter thinning projects to further mitigate fire risks, establishing more pollinator habitat, and revising the current forest management plan.

“We’ve already hosted several tours and classes on the new Demonstration Forest, and others are in the planning stages,” says Bennett. Those interested in learning more should visit the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center’s (SOREC) web page to see listings of upcoming programs.

The following story by Callie Newton for OSU’s Focus in Forestry magazine provides more details about the donation.

Like many new rural property owners, when Bill and Marion Collins moved onto 160 acres near Gold Hill in Jackson County, they had no idea what to do with their land or how to manage it.

The couple used their small farm to raise cattle for about 13 years. Their interest turned to forestry after visiting the Oregon Small woodland booth at the county fair.

“The OSU Extension had a booth at the county fair, and I talked to the person there about my problems,” says Bill Collins. “We ended up working together to build seven miles of road throughout the property.”

Seven miles of road opened up new possibilities for the Collins’ land and initiated their first phase of forest management, which included selective harvesting.

“It went well, and harvesting made us a little money,” Collins said. “I got a whole lot of help from the OSU Extension, and we went from there.”

Collins was part of one of the first Master Woodland Manager classes offered in Jackson and Josephine Counties. Stephen Fitzgerald, director of the Oregon State College of Forestry Research Forests, taught part of the course.

“It’s been wonderful to keep up with the Collins over the years,” Fitzgerald says. “Their forest is incredibly well managed and well taken care of. It’s an example to foresters of what good stewardship looks like.”

Max Bennett says the Collins’ property was one of the first private woodlands he visited when he started his position in 2000. “They worked a lot with my predecessor, Allan Campbell” Bennet says. “And they’ve been very generous with their property and with their time over the years. I’ve used their properties to host classes, tours and workshops on topics like basic woodland management, small-scale timber harvesting and thinning.”

Collins says it’s important to him to give back, “because the community helped me,” he says. In 2018, Collins took his love for the community and Extension to another level when he, along with his family, decided to donate his land to the Oregon State University Foundation.

“We are very pleased with the news of this donation,” says Zak Hansen, director of development for the College of Forestry. “We’ve had a couple of these kinds of discovery forests donated in the past, and it’s a great opportunity for extension agents in those areas to use the land as a resource for their programs.”

Fitzgerald says he is excited to have another parcel under the Research Forest banner.

“With this land, we will continue our tradition of providing excellent teaching and Extension outreach,” he says. “It gives me peace of mind to know that the land is so near an Extension station. There will be a strong OSU presence, and we will make sure it’s well utilized.”

Bennett agrees. “This is an opportunity to continue doing what we’ve been doing on this property for many years,” he says. “We will continue to use it as a demonstration site and as an example of a very well-managed, multi-generational working forest.”

Bennett says many of the small woodland owners he works with in Jackson and Josephine Counties are concerned about issues of forest health and fire, and the Collins property will help him address and educate the public about those issues.

While the donation process wasn’t simple, Collins still encourages others to considering donating their land. “I didn’t know it was so hard to give stuff away,” Collins said. “But it was worth it. We’re very proud to be part of the newly-created ‘Collins Demonstration Forest’ here in Jackson County.”

The Collins will continue living on their property as long as they choose. When they leave, their house and its five acres will be held or sold at the discretion of the OSU Foundation, and the money will be used for extension programming and scholarships, with preference given to students from Jackson and Josephine Counties. The bulk of the donated acreage will be held for at least 20 years.

“If it’s working the way it should be in 20 years, we will continue to hold onto it,” Hansen says. “This gift is a wonderful portrait of the Collins’ appreciation for the extension programs and their care for future generations.

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