Nothing beats going on a hike on a sunny day in Oregon, especially when you’re in the company of Forest Service experts. Accompanied by two Crag summer interns, Derek Leuzzi and Alix Jacobson, I recently joined a group of Hood River Valley residents, Forest Service employees, and interested citizens on a tour of the Faller Thin timber sale. The sale is located north of Mt. Hood, along the Lake Branch of the West Fork of the Hood River. Our tour group was meeting as part of the Hood River Collaborative Stewardship Crew. We visited the Faller sale to get an idea of the type of work the Forest Service is considering in another area along the West Fork of the Hood River, Red Hill. Much the work the Forest Service may propose in Red Hill consists of thinning previously logged stands.
We toured three sites, two slated for thinning, and another that had been thinned a few years back as part of an earlier sale. Most of the forest along our route consisted of tree “plantations,” forest stands that had been heavily logged around 80 years ago and are now managed for future harvest. For me, one of the highlights of the day was seeing some spectacular old growth Douglas fir tucked away between these denser, younger stands. Somehow these old trees had avoided the axe. To me, they now stand as a reminder of what once was, and hopefully what our forests, managed for harvest or otherwise, will become.
While walking through the Faller sale, Derek, Alix, and I talked with soil scientists, hydrologists, and fisheries biologists about the ins and outs of logging, the impact of different equipment and logging techniques on the ecosystem, and the science behind the requirement that foresters leave riparian buffers along streams.
We also spoke with one of the district’s silviculturists about the historic make up of the forest, and the ecological need behind these types of thinning operations. She explained that thinning sales like Faller are an attempt to remedy the effects of past clear cuts. On their own, the dense, even-aged stands that make up Faller are unlikely to return to the diverse, big-treed and historic forests we desire. Clearing out space between trees and opening up the canopy will allow the remaining trees to grow to their full potential. The thinning will also allow light to filter down to the forest floor, spurring the growth of a robust understorey.
Organized in part by the Forest Service, the Stewardship Crew was formed to take advantage of a type of timber sale known as the stewardship sale. Unlike a typical timber sale in which the public comments after the sale is proposed, the stewardship sale requires public input from the very beginning. As part of a stewardship sale, the Forest Service considers the public’s comments as the sale units are conceived of and delineated on the ground. This provides an opportunity for members of the public to let the Forest Service know which actions and sale units are likely to spark controversy before the sale is officially proposed. Taking these comments into consideration, the Forest Service can then amend the sale as needed before formally submitting the proposal. And once a stewardship sale is complete, the Stewardship Crew will have an opportunity to use the sale’s proceeds to pay for restoration projects within the area.
In my opinion, an added benefit of a stewardship sale is the opportunity to learn from forest service experts about siliviculture and the history of the forest. Stewardship sales also offer the public an inside look at all the work that goes into putting together a timber sale. All in all, I had a very enjoyable walk through the woods.