12 Mar 2008, 5:40pm
Saving Forests
by admin

We Had to Think Ahead

Guest Post by Bear Bait

If you depend on science alone, the effort fails. There is art involved. Forestry is science and art combined. My experience over 49 years getting a paycheck from the woods, or from imparting some consultation to someone who needed my help. Science and art…

Diversity is having 10,000 groups of 100 or less people managing their little part of the landscape to provide for their sustenance, the survival of their DNA to another generation. All will do things a little bit differently. Their diet preferences will differ, as will how they adorn themselves or shelter themselves. And by happenstance or serendipity, they will move plants and animals and change the local landscape with accidental or set fire, changing a stream’s flow a little bit to spread water, cleaning under a tree so as to prevent ground fire from killing it and losing the annual nut crop. Slow, little tiny needed change. And it all becomes diversity.

Now compare that with a Forest Plan. An EIS for a watershed. A directive from the Chief’s office. That is a dulling one size fits all policy, and that is armor-plate without art. That is mindless dreck piled on more mindless dreck. The land now shows that. The whole of the National Forests and BLM lands now reflect top down planning. No subtle differences on the ground, no preferences for some one thing over another. Mindless lock step march to sameness, all in the name of diversity. Human diversity, forest diversity, plant diversity, animal diversity. Cookie cutter forestry. Paint by the numbers forestry.

That is what got us Swiss needle cast in off-site Doug fir in the fog belt. That got us high elevation Idaho Doug fir seed planted in the Hebo Burn oh so long ago. Super trees. Ten by ten spacing. And the industrial foresters will tell you if you don’t overplant, you end up with limby ice cream cones. So they grow their trees, and the govt should grow their own.

Hay-Soos Crisco, Shotgun, where in the hell did all the meadows go? The fens, the wet meadows, the wide riparian zones, the lakeside meadow, the savanna? All are now trees. You hike into the wilderness and the sign says you can’t gather firewood or camp anywhere near the lake. Like sure, dude. The Molalla Indians had those signs everywhere. Don’t! No! Cease! Can’t!… At least they burned off the grass in late summer or fall, and it all grew back thrifty and strong the next year. Now that meadow by the lake has been lost to encroachment of trees.

In the whole of the west side of the Cascade range, on USFS land, there is only one grazing allotment and I think they are trying or have eliminated that one to cutthroat trout issues. The rest were lost to tree encroachment. Or deliberate tree planting. The Feds planted the meadows with trees. Is planting trees in a meadow as egregious a strike against nature as cutting all the trees down in a clear cut? I would think so.

So why don’t they keep on burning a clear cut every other year, don’t plant it, and get another meadow and some diversity in the forests? Central Planning will not allow it. And that is where the art in forestry went.

There once was a time when a forester would create or renew a meadow, because he had to provide for all aspects of use. Not today. No chittum patches to maintain now. No sheep graze. No pitch gathering. Nobody cutting into those low elevation old growth fir to tap the contents of the pitch rings from past fires. I might be the only person reading this blog that ever watched pitch collected from Doug fir. saw it over by the Avery tract north of Lebanon one day while looking at a BLM sale that Willamette was sure to buy unless Simpson tweaked their nose… Davis battle… Dale D vs John D… Santiam scion. Bored in, and the pitch began to run, and the saw came out and the spigot was pounded in and old 5 gallon steel Union Oil grease buckets began to catch the flow.

A forester what had the science and art would allow that sort of thing. A Ranger had the authority to do it his way unless he spent too much money and the SO’s auditor shut him off. The Ranger was a pillar of community in the days when people were a part of the USFS. Nowadays they are on the job a couple of years and move on to bollix something else somewhere else. No investment in the community. No serving on the school board, county planning commission, city council, being a boy scout leader. And they are only at the Ranger Station a day or so a week. Most of the time they are off attending “Non Hostile Workplace Conference” touchy feely internal fiefdom deals. The Supervisor’s Energy Savings Workshop. Whatever. The day in the Clinton Administration that it became policy to make Federal secretaries District Rangers or BLM District Managers due to their GS rating, with no experience in resource management, as the day the whole deal fell in the shit pile. To this point, I don’t see even fingers rising to edge to try to crawl out. Mostly the good people left, the culls stayed behind, and politicos make policy in Executive Office Bldg… weather vane forestry… whatever the BINGO wind brings…

And Industrial Forestry is so screwy now, too. I saw three people in cruiser vests looking at about a 15 yo open grown tree on an industrial tree farm a while back. I surmised they were there watching it grow, hoping they could lay out a unit next week. It was the tallest tree for several miles.

Bob Z. said something about the Tillamook Burn(s). Lots of mistakes. Wrong trees in wrong places. No elevation matching. No site matching. Wrong species in right places. All the salvage logging in the later years was yarding logs and tree lengths down the creek as that was where every tree went… no bark… no lively limbs… just a slick old buckskin riding it snot slick goose greased hide at ever increasing speed to the inevitable crash at the creek or the far bank of the creek. Cats with arches yarding right down the creek bottom. Worst thing ever. But the high stumps kept pileated woodpeckers in forage and nests, the creeks healed and are the best salmon streams in Oregon, the hills are green with trees, and now they thin and log blowdown from the off-site trees.

But they did something after the fires and after WWII. A State bond sale to finance it okayed by a state-wide referendum. They went and did something. Right or wrong, doing something means that some good will come of it and some bad which will be a lesson on how NOT to do something in the future. It is a forest. The next forest will be a whole lot better. And the one after that even better. If we learn from past mistakes.

Doing nothing is doing nothing is doing nothing. You get nothing from nothing. Tick brush… grease wood… more fire… has anyone noticed that there has been no more fire there in the Tillamook??? The “old growth” that burned and spread the first fire in 1933 was fueled not by the huge Doug fir but by a dead hemlock understory wiped out in the 1900-1920 period by hemlock loopers and long aphids. And the centers rotted out after the tops blew out. Hemlock have those cypress -like roots from growing on nurse logs… so when the fire went up hill, and burned into the bottom of those hemlocks, some became chimneys that venturied the hot air and burning globs of molten hemlock snot high into the winds. The fire spotted miles beyond the flame front. No hemlock salvage due to no railroads or highways led to a vast sea of dead hemlock snags, with usual compliment of dead firs, piss firs, and cedars. All the early cruise reports and survey notes mention the dead hemlock… empirical knowledge.

When I was little, my Uncle Allen’s brother was a reforestation push for ODF… Darrel Powers. Big old tall red headed guy. They used mostly convict labor to plant the Burn. That and every kid in Oregon got to spend a Saturday planting 5 trees after a bus ride and a tour. No more. Now they teach kids logging is bad. In those days even my Mom said “Now we’re logging!” when we got something right when doing a chore. Now we’re logging!!! That was a GOOD thing, Martha,

My best memories of the Tillamook Burn were the size of the blacktail deer shot there after WWII… 200 lb and bigger were the norm. All that brush now with sunlight and new nutrition grew big deer, big elk, and big cougars. I saw my first cougar, dead, on the fender of a car at a gas station, and on the other running board and fender was a big buck. I also once saw a spur road out to a knife ridge log landing that at the narrowest part of the ridge. The road was the dirt piled onto three big tree length Doug firs on each side of the ridge like saddle bags, hung there with wire rope. The fill was dirt and sandstone rock. Just suspended there, with holes in the dirt. I did not drive out there, but hunters evidently had. A crappy place to get vertigo. And some rigging rats had raised a tree and logged both sides of that ridge to the creek far below… from that postage stamp landing… in the days of single axle trucks with bad brakes. No wonder people died like flies in the woods.

Ah, the Tillamook Burn. The first place I met a hook tender who had a hook for a left arm. If only his name had been Hook or Hooker instead of Smith. Mutt Smith. Then I could have called him Hook3, or to the third power… It was his Smith River Indian wife Phenola who told me about following her grandmother into the woods behind the Rez and she set the hillside on fire. Needed to burn the hazel brush so she had new basket-making material the next year. Had to think ahead, those basket makers. That was her life: a BIA check and her basket money, and some seasonal Easter lily work. That had to have been in the late 1920’s or early ’30’s. Phenola was staying with her for the summer.

Mike: the public is an ass. The government cannot know and be all things to all people, and in trying to do so, don’t do anything worth spit. I want the old days of the strong Ranger, a rural land ethic, Government trappers, and hard working people making a living, educating their kids. Little towns were important places with almost everything you needed to survive and if they did not have it, you could order it through a catalog. I guess I am a bit of a Luddite… or tired… — bear bait

13 Mar 2008, 1:57pm
by Timbo


BB: Right on; I agree with just about all you say here, especially about the roles current day Rangers play (or not) in the local community. You’re right on the money in terms of them staying for a few years and moving on, not getting involved in the community (hell, most don’t even live in them any more). But I just want you to know that there are a few of us foresters left (not Rangers, to be sure) who have stayed on one piece of land for a couple of decades, have learned to love it and the embedded communities as their own. But soon the only jobs left in those communities will be renting boats and or mountain bikes to yahoos who get spooked if they hear from a distance someone plinking in the local quarry. Thanks for your thoughts.

13 Mar 2008, 6:53pm
by Mike


Timbo, there are a few of you.

It is unpleasant and unfair to be tarred with the broad brush. Please remember that we all know you are the best in the Outfit and a credit to the profession.

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