Owning family forestland is worth the hard work.But believe me, it’s no picnic. I’ve gained new respect for tree-planting crews.
I discovered this while replanting a section of our 89-acre woodland this past winter. My husband, Rex, plus my father and I, spent two weekends planting 1,600 Douglas-fir seedlings on about six acres.
On four cold, wet and dark February mornings, we headed out to our property in the Coast Range near Mist. We pulled on raingear, loaded our tree bags with seedlings and grabbed planting shovels. After a while, we developed a rhythm: Pace distance, notch hole, plant seedling, tamp soil. Repeat.
On and on we worked, stopping only long enough to gobble our sandwiches with cold hands. At dark we returned home, grateful for warm showers, and collapsed into bed. The next morning, we got up and did it all over again.
After four days of this regimen, my bones were tired and my muscles were sore, but my conscience was clear.
Despite the hard work, owning and managing forestland is deeply satisfying. There are both “hard” and “soft” benefits:
• Firewood for us and my parents, and ferns for our yard
• A stream of timber revenue as part of our retirement income
• The satisfaction of seeing the tangible fruits of our labor mature into trees
• Family bonds that grow stronger working side by side
• A peaceful refuge to enjoy deer, elk, birds and wildflowers
• An inheritance for our children
Above all, we’re happy to keep our forestland green. We don’t want to see forestland taken out of timber for other uses. And we’re happy to contribute to Oregon’s economy. It’s why we work in the forest industry.
While I may complain about the work, I wouldn’t give it up for anything.
But next time, I will consider hiring a planting crew!
OFRI Business Manager
“Hello? This is an owl calling. Anyone home?”
No, it’s not the script for an annoying marketing call. Instead, it’s what I was doing on a recent perfect summer evening in the Douglas-fir forest of Oregon’s Silver Falls State Park, southeast of Salem.
Yes, making owl calls. “Owling,” in the vernacular.
I was teamed with Fran Cafferata Coe, a wildlife biologist hired by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department to research whether any northern spotted owls still occupy this territory. Fran is also documenting all owl species within the park.
In the twilight, we headed down the trail. Our eyes and ears were turned on. As was our neat little boom box playing the pre-recorded owl calls.
The value of owl research
The spotted owl, a dark-eyed raptor with brown plumage and white spots, has been the subject of large-scale and long-term studies since it was listed as a state and federal threatened species in the 1990s. Along with research into the owl’s biology and habits, surveys are determining population numbers and establishing preferred habitat. The results of these surveys are especially important to landowners, who use them to make management decisions about creating and protecting spotted owl habitat in their forests.
In the woods, our job was to walk a designated eight-mile loop, stopping at 12 specified locations and calling for 10 minutes per station.
We traipsed without response for eight stations. Then, at the ninth station, boom! It was the haunting, eight-note hoot-hoot-wahoot, hoot-hoot wahoo of a barred owl. (Spotted owls employ a four-noted hoot-hootoot-hoo.)
Where are the spotted owls?
I flashed my light into the trees. The barred owl loomed about 25 feet above us, watching us as we watched him. I could have stayed longer, but Coe nudged me. It was time to move on to the next station. Our evening ended with the additional sighting of a juvenile barred owl flitting through the trees. No spotted owls seen or heard.
Are barred owls displacing spotted owls? Scientists are assessing this threat. Some think the barred owl’s adaptability and aggressive nature may allow them to more successfully compete for the spotted owl’s ecological niche. Others think spotted owls clam up in the presence of barred owls.
That may be so. On this night in the Oregon woods, I heard a hoot-hoot-wahoot, hoot-hoot wahoo but not a hoot-hootoot-hoo.
“Hoos” to know?
OFRI Director of K-12 Education Programs
For more information on owls in Oregon’s forests, check out these links and OFRI publications.
A Guide to Priority Plant and Animal Species in Oregon Forests
Wildlife in Managed Forests — Northern Spotted Owl
Wildlife in Managed Forests — Oregon Forests as Habitat
The Spotted Owl’s New Nemesis, Smithsonian magazine, January 2009
Experimental Removal of Barred Owls to Benefit Threatened Northern Spotted Owls, Draft Environmental Impact Statement, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, March 2012
A study of water quality on the McKenzie River watershed shows that pesticide contamination of the water supply presents a negligible threat to human health, The Register-Guard newspaper reported on Aug. 8.
The 10-year, $1 million study examined contamination by herbicides, insecticides and fungicides - collectively called pesticides - in tributaries as well as the main stem of the McKenzie River, which flows into the Willamette River near Eugene.
According to Karl Morgenstern, the drinking water source protection coordinator for the Eugene Water & Electric Board, the study measured contaminant levels in parts per quadrillion, well below any threat to human health.
EWEB conducted the study with the U.S. Geological Survey, testing 28 sites during the first major storms following a dry summer and during spring squalls.
Morgenstern said the study confirmed his suspicion that urban areas and areas with higher-density homes are the primary threat when it comes to pesticides. The surprise in the study, he said, was how little pesticide was detected coming from forestlands, which make up 92 percent of the watershed.
Forest landowners use herbicides to control competing vegetation after a regeneration harvest to quickly establish tree seedlings. Herbicides used in forestry are applied under stringent labeling requirements and generally by licensed contractors who have been trained in the lawful use of herbicides. Rules for herbicide use are outlined in the Oregon Forest Practices Act and on product labels. The rules are administered by the Department of Forestry, the Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
I recently toured two Oregon sawmills and came away impressed with their innovation, technology and high degree of utilization. Today’s mills use every part of the tree except the shade. Efficient utilization of the wood resource is one of the keys to their staying in business.
At Seneca Sawmill in Eugene, long, debarked logs move along a conveyor into the “merchandiser,” where they are lifted and scanned in a process reminiscent of a full-body MRI. Based on current market prices, a computer calculates how the log should be cut.
Large-diameter logs go to the large-log mill to become dimension lumber; medium-size logs go to the stud mill to become 2x4s and 2x6s. The smallest logs, or “top wood,” – often barely 3 inches on the small end – go to the hew-saw mill, where they are first squared up or “hewed” by rotating knives and then made into studs. The chunks, chips, bark, sawdust and shavings by-products are sorted out and then either sold or used on-site.
On-site, the bark and hog fuel, along with other logging residues, feed Seneca’s cogeneration plant. The fuel burns so cleanly and the emissions are treated so effectively that the emitted air is virtually clear, with no particulates. Seneca Sustainable Energy provides steam to dry the lumber and also generates nearly 19 MW of electricity, which is sold to the local utility.
Another mill I toured recently, Malheur Lumber in John Day, which is part of Ochoco Lumber Company, has invested in a new product line that provides a market for small-diameter materials from forest restoration and thinning treatments in nearby national forests. Malheur Lumber makes forest biomass pellets and bricks for home, commercial and industrial heating systems.
Modern, innovative sawmills such as Seneca and Malheur employ local residents and inject thousands of dollars into local economies. They also provide important markets for the products of the active forest management needed to keep our forests healthy and sustainable.
As I look around the West, with its critical need for active forest management, I see many states with no mill infrastructure to use the byproducts of thinning and restoration efforts. In Oregon, we have 116 active primary wood-products mills, which is down from the 185 that operated in 2003. Let’s recognize the job they’re doing to modernize, use resources wisely and help sustain our forests and forest economies.
May the forest be with you,
Director of Forestry
Photos: Seneca Sustainable Energy in Eugene. Bricks and pellets at Malheur Lumber in John Day.