I have been concerned about how I have been describing the harsh winter weather we had. I have heard other farmers, loggers, neighbors and city folk talking about the same winter I had, and they agree that it was a tough season but they don’t talk about the amount of damage that is noticeable around here.
Until I went to a meeting of our local chapter of the Oregon Small Woodland Association (for you jokesters, this means private woodland owners not small landowners). There is a yearly gathering held to see first-hand how a neighbor is working their tract of timberland. It is a jam-packed day of tours through the woods with professionals like Foresters, Naturalists, Arborists and Conservationists.
The big group of people are divided up and each guide walks us through different areas of the forest to point out issues that this timberland owner is facing and how they are dealing with it. This year happened to be a tract that had been converted from an old prune orchard nearly 50 years ago and needed to be thinned for optimum tree health and growth. What was thinned last year from the acreage was sold to mills for small logs and pulp logs which paid for the cost of the thinning. Or that was the plan.
The winter weather moved in early creating bogs where roads had been made. Huge log decks sat all winter waiting for some dry weather just to be able to ship to the mills. The hillside that had been thinned took the brunt of the heavy snow, ice and wind. Many trees were unable to support the rough weather. The thinning job went from looking beautiful to a tangle of leaning, broken and fallen trees leaving large gaps in the canopy and creating laddering fuels for fires. This plot of land received a lot of damage.
During the Forester tour, the professional was heard to say, “This forest was hit hard with the weather, but you should see Mike and Susan’s place for real damage.” Not exactly how I would like to be remembered, but what we do with the damage will show what kind of forest owners we are. Now I don’t feel so bad yammering on about the work that needs to be done so you will be hearing more about the cleanup and restoration for a long time to come.