9 Apr 2010, 4:39pm
Restoring cultural landscapes Saving Forests
by admin

Jim’s Creek Restoration Photos

The Jim’s Creek Savanna Restoration Project [here] on the Middle Fork District of the Willamette National Forest is a demonstration project and model for forest restoration in Oregon. An ancient oak/pine savanna, maintained by Molalla and Kalapuya Indians, formerly extended deep into the mountains along the Middle Fork of the Willamette River above Oakridge. Today remnant old oaks, open-grown old-growth ponderosa pines, and tarweed (Madia spp) fields can still be seen, although a thicket of Douglas-fir has invaded in the last 100 years.

The USFS identified, mapped, planned, and is engaged in restoring a 450 acres near Jim’s Creek. We have received permission to share some recent photographs of the Jim’s Creek Project and nearby unrestored areas taken by Bob Zybach, Program Manager, Oregon Websites and Watersheds Project, Inc. [here]. An ORWW directory [here] containes more of Bob’s photos. Note: any use of these photos MUST include attribution to Bob Zybach and ORWW as stated above.

A culturally modified tree (CMT). The scar on this old-growth ponderosa pine was made by Molalla Indians who peeled the bark and collected the pine sap. Click for larger image.

Pictured is USFS forester/silviculturalist Tim Bailey who master-minded and manages the Jim’s Creek Savanna Restoration Project. Other key USFS personnel involved were the late Carol Winkler, USFS archaeologist, Chip Weber, former District Ranger and now Forest Supervisor on the Kootenai NF, and Dallas Emch, now retired former Willamette NF Forest Supervisor.

Elk favor the new openings created by removing the invasive, young-growth Douglas-fir. Click for larger image.

Volunteers from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation have been involved in this project from its inception and built the initial exclosures about 10 years ago to measure forage response to burning and grazing by elk and deer. Bill Richardson, RMEF Oregon and Washington Lands Program Manager led the contingent, who also planted oak seedlings on the Project site last month.

The elk trotting through the restored savanna. Old-growth ponderosa pine in the background. Click for larger image.

A thicket of invading pine and fire were cut and removed with the slash piled and burned. That treatment removed a severe fire hazard threatening the old-growth, as well as promoted native grasses, forage for the grazing elk.

Deer like the openings, too. The south ends of north-bound elk in the background. Click for larger image.

Deer and elk don’t normally intermingle, but on this day they were both enjoying the restored savanna. Fir stumps and a burned fir top are visible. The ponderosa pine were left standing.

An old-growth pine snag. Click for larger image.

Note the invading Douglas-fir thicket. The formerly open, park-like pine/oak savanna had very few Douglas-firs. In the absence of frequent, seasonal anthropogenic (human-set) tending fires, invading trees have filled in and obscured the old savanna and competed with the old-growth pines for soil moisture. That competition has stressed the pines and caused many of them to die. The ancient white oak trees have been nearly extirpated from the area.

An old-growth pine still holding on. Click for larger image.

The old-growth ponderosa pine in this picture is 250 to 300 years-old. The Douglas-firs are less than 100 years-old. For centuries scattered pine dominated the site. The Douglas-firs were excluded by anthropogenic fire. Obviously they grow just fine on the site, an indication that soils and climate were not the factors that excluded Douglas-firs.

More restoration work is planned for Jim’s Creek. Treatments include more removal of invading young-growth trees using helicopter and cable yarding methods to protect soils and residual vegetation, prescribed underburning to maintain the open character of the savanna, and reintroduction by planting of white oak trees.

The Willamette NF is also planning to expand their restoration efforts in the Middle Fork mixed conifer habitat type. They hope to get funding through the Forest Landscape Restoration Act of 2009, now known as the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration (CFLR) Program [here].

9 Apr 2010, 5:08pm
by bear bait

If the USFS started at the upper end of Hill Cr. Reservoir, and restored a mile on each side of the Middle Fork, clean to the Deschutes NF or the Winema, which ever comes first, they would have a fire break from east to west, sort of, for a considerable distance, and people could see what the forests looked like when the wild was tended by Indians.

A restoration project like that would be a good start.

10 Apr 2010, 8:13am
by Larry H.

Within the project, is there any “recruitment” of old growth for when those decadent pines finally die? In the pictures, I’m not seeing much in the way of pine re-gen. Obviously, the new conditions are good for some pines to thrive. Such projects need scientific scrutiny adequate to convince people of the value of restoration forestry. Resilience has been obviously enhanced and I would be very interested to see the Eugene preservationist spin on this project.

10 Apr 2010, 5:30pm
by Mike

Regarding recruitment: in the photo with the deer, all those pines are younger cohort — germinated after the frequent anthropogenic fire era. Also, some white oak seedlings have been planted.

But remember, much of the landscape was grassy prairie/savanna. The objective is not to create new dense stands but to recreate historical conditions.

Also, if you consider that the open, park-like forest had only 5 to 10 trees per acre, and that those trees lived to be 250 to 400 years-old (or more), then it only takes the establishment of one new tree per acre every 25 to 80 years to maintain that density. There is no need to rush in and plant hundreds of seedlings per acre. In fact, that would compromise the restoration goals.

11 Apr 2010, 5:22am
by Bob Zybach

Within the “pine openings” the tree density seems to have been as high as 14 or 15 per acre, with the bulk of the trees approximately the same age — with a birth date sometime around 1700 to 1800.

Many of the pine snags and dead oak were, of course, much older, but tree densities for earlier times appear to be no more than the five or ten trees per acre that Mike gives.

In either (and both) instances, Mike is also right — tree recruitment is a fairly casual process and can be done at a leisurely pace over many decades time.

What the environmentalists think of this is a mystery, as with many of their other thoughts. No litigation so far, so they must be ignoring the project, or don’t know what to think.

Of more importance is the USFS plan to maintain this project. Tillage, pruning, and harvesting (including dead wood) were part of the historical maintenance process of meadows, prairies, and svannah. Of greater signficiance was regular burning. These areas should be broadcast burned every few years (at least) in order to reduce conifer invasions, get rid of atypical dead wood accumulations, rejuvenate native grasses, and favor annual forbs and brackenfern populations.

It will be interesting to see what comes of this excellent beginning to an important forest restoration project.

11 Apr 2010, 9:31am
by Mike

Many times I have heard that giant sequoia “need fire to regenerate”. But giant sequoia live for 1,600 years (or more) and the big ones take up a quarter acre (or more) each. So 1 new tree per acre every 400 years is all the reprod they need.

A lack of regeneration is not a problem in restoration forestry — too much is the problem.

Lay people who do not understand forests very well, and that includes Eugene enviros, are slowly grasping that restored, open and park-like forests are very beautiful and have abundant wildlife, as well as being resilient to fire (fire-safe).

11 Apr 2010, 11:23am
by Larry H.

My concern was replacement trees for those big pines, which look like they will die off sooner than later. It looks like there is a lack of 100 year old pines. Also, those small diameter pines in the picture with the deer in it look like “old growth” due to the wide, orange bark plates.

Of course, under the remaining canopy, pines will have a tough time getting into open sun. However, the regular burning should favor pines over the rest of the conifers, and over time, those pines will be quite resistant to wildfires.

If I worked for the FS there, I would take every opportunity to bring in whoever wants to see how visionary this project is. We need the contraian press to document the value of active scientific restoration.

11 Apr 2010, 11:49am
by Mike

Jim’s Creek is westside Cascades. Trees can get 3 to 4 feet in diameter in 50 years, if they are open grown. Conifers seed in like crazy. The push is to keep it open and to restore the oak, which were a key component of the heritage condition.

The Eugene press is confused and disoriented. They see through dark political lens. The concepts of restoration forestry are currently beyond their ability to understand.

Right now SOS Forests is the ONLY voice in Oregon with the vision and the message. We don’t own either, however, and welcome and encourage advancement in the Media. We are doing what we can to drag them up the learning curve, but it’s a long climb for them.

The FS is just beginning to get it. The Jim’s Creek Project was the work of one guy, Tim Bailey, with some assistance from 2 or 3 others, and has been more than 10 years in the making. But there have been some good signs and good words coming from others in the WNF and R-6 over the last year or so. People are jumping on the restoration bandwagon. That is very good news, and hopefully bodes a sea change in the Agency. The internal philosophical/administrative struggle has not been won yet, however, by any means.

11 Apr 2010, 12:14pm
by bear bait

We cannot, for the most part, deal with our own lifespans in a coherent manner. So dealing with a forest condition that has a lifespan of millennia is hard for short-lived humans to grasp.

Think about the old-growth conifers that we have at present. As they grew in years, many pruned their life-giving limbs on their way up, until they now are barely able to make enough energy and life from whatever water they can get to the very elevated needles, understanding that their roots have mined the soil around them for nutrients for hundreds and perhaps more than a thousand years. To survive, they need all the help they can get, and severe fire is the greatest threat, followed by insect, wind, and soil movement. So restoration of the savannas, the brakes, the fens, the prairies, is about man doing what man has done for millennia. Man has been the manipulator of the landscape through active tending and use, with intensive measures when deemed (enviros should like the word “deemed”) necessary.

I look at the whole of bureaucratic land management as a two steps backward, one step forward kind of deal, and back-to-back steps forward are in the land of dreamers. I don’t think the arguers against proactive management are strangers in the age old use of the forest game. A thousand years ago there might have been conflict between people who wanted to not burn, only because they had not seen famine before. Too young, they were, and using up the rewards of prior management burns from before they were born.

Fits and starts. Ups and downs. Unwanted conflagration visits the homeland. The political variants have been there since man. I could wonder if the age and number of P-pines in this project reflect a lack of continuity of human influences through time. I could see the upper Middle Fork Willamette as a nice summer camp, far from biting bugs, and the opportunity to harvest spring salmon was there clear to almost the Cascade summit. That that drainage offers a continuum of south slope aspect for a long ways, which would grow the oaks that named Oakridge, was an added bonus. And there was grass for basketry, and probably some Paulina obsidian not that far away, as was trade with the upper Klamath basin tribes. Keep the brush down, let the sun in, and that end of the world was probably a nice gig in late summer. Whortle berries up high and hazel along the streams. Nice place. So they kept it nice. Swept the floor with fire, picked the forest floor clean of downed limbs for campfires. Hell, if they had ice cream makings, Diamond Peak is just a day’s hike to snow line in August.

If you base the whole of your argument on hatred of mankind, and there is that element in the equation, then it is all an exercise in futility. I read this morning’s paper, and there were letters lamenting the awful polluting Americans for the twice the size of Texas field of floating debris in the Central Pacific, at the eye of the North Pacific gyre….News bulletin: There are more than 40 nations of the world that have larger merchant marines than the US, and due to concerns about sea birds, dolphins, you name it, the US has a very small commercial fishing footprint in the North Pacific. Add to that fact that probably 100% of US offshore fishing boats are equipped with garbage compactors, and they bring their garbage back to port with them after extended high seas trips, that that they do not unload to fishing tenders on the high seas or at foreign ports or American island outposts, like the Pelosi owned StarKist canneries in the Marshall Islands (where special legislation out of Congress relieves local employers of minimum wage requirements). Whoever claims the problem is the US is just plain wrong. It is garbage dumped from the huge fishing fleets of Asia and the other Americas, the 99% of the worlds merchant fleet that is NOT US owned, flagged, controlled, and it is the rivers of the other Americas and Asia that are dumping the endless conveyor of garbage into the sea. Our sea shore, our fishing and merchant fleets, our EPA and our regulatory system is not the problem. The problem is the rest of the world, and to allow American kids to believe we are the problem is a sad commentary on how we got and get to where we are today, this Nation of Self Flagellation Apologists running around the world bent over at the waist. WE AIN’T THE PACIFIC GYRE POLLUTION MAKERS… So the project that we should see is an examination of a random sample of the stuff, and a forensics examination of its origin.

But doing nothing is NOT a true reflection of forests, of man on the landscape, of forests and forest types being what they were at Contact. Doing nothing is absolutely a-historical. Has not a thing to do with a landscape whose plants and animals that were NOT wanted were long ago extirpated by humans on that landscape on purpose, and what was found at Contact was what worked on that landscape, had worked over time. That 90% of the prior maintenance crew was gone, lost to introduced disease before the disease carriers physically got there, should not be lost. It was not what was there in 1850 that is relevant. It is what was there in 1491 or 1200 or 712 that is relevant. People have been on this land for longer than the average person on the street knows, casually thinks about, or realizes. I guess people who do know have an obligation to continue to state the obvious, and state it again. Or all will be lost. Not some, or most, but all. And not to logging, but to liberal arrogance, conservative ignorance, and the old American “who gives a damn?”

11 Apr 2010, 12:58pm
by Mike


My understanding is that salmon could not leap the 40-foot Willamette Falls near the confluence with the Columbia, and so historically there were no salmon in the Willamette Basin. Possibly a few spring Chinook could get over when the river was in full flood during spring thaws.

Compared to the massive Columbia salmon runs (five or more per year, millions of fish each), the Willamette was a pathetic salmon fishery at best. Some steelhead, plenty of trout, runs of eels (whose sucker mouths allowed them to climb the Falls), but no salmon.

But all the rest you wrote has substantial veracity.

12 Apr 2010, 9:44am
by Tim Bailey


In repsonse to your questions about old pine replacement: The Jim’s Creek Project Area had about 4 ancient ponderosa pine trees per acre 100 years ago (the rest were DF, Oregon white oak, sugar pine, and incense cedar, in order of occurrence). Since then about 2 old (>150 yo) pines per acre have died from the competition Mike spoke of.

The 100-year-old cohort has about 6 PP per acre as well as many DF. All of those PP were retained in the restoration harvest, but many are not very vigorous — small crowns and spindly stems — so we will lose some of those to snow breakage or windthrow. But we kept them all because we need some replacements, as you observe. It’s just that they are where they are, and they usually are not close to an older pine, live or dead.

As important as removing most of the 100 year trees is the reintroduction of frequent underburning. This should create good conditions for natural pine regeneration, as well as keeping the density of the forest very low. Young pine are more resistant to fire than just about any other conifer species, and as Mike points out, we only need one replacement tree for each big guy once per acre every 100 or 200 years, so I am hoping that a few young pine survive their younger years of frequent fires and start that replacement cycle again.

There are some areas we are considering for additional treatment where 1) some or all of the older pine were removed decades ago, apparently as part of a “sanitation salvage”, and/or 2) where there is little to no pine in the 100 year cohort. These will be tougher areas to restore (or at least will take longer) and ponderosa pine regeneration will be the primary goal, though still at low densities.

Also, the picture with the elk and deer is from a place called Mutton Meadow, which still looks sort of like a meadow because folks have been removing DF and underburning every now and then for over 20 years. In this place it’s the pine and even oak that have been encroaching into the meadow (due to the still rather infrequent applied fire), and many of the younger ones were removed prior to an experimental underburn not long before the picture was taken. I’d concur with Mike that most if not all those trees are less than 150 year old.

12 Apr 2010, 11:18am
by Larry H.

Thanks for the explanation, Tim. Trying to see results in a process that will take decades, if not centuries, is difficult, at best. Some will argue this “goes against Nature” but, “Nature” hasn’t been seen in its purest form since the Indians arrived and followed the receding glaciers.

In looking at those “yellow-bellies”, chances are, they were suppressed at one time and were finally released when the previous trees died, fell over and burned. Like Bob, I am fascinated by trying to figure out how a stand got to be where it is today. Core samples would probably clear up the issue.

Seeing how the new Planning Rule process is going (or not going), it is still apparent that “restoration” will be a tough-sell. So many people have their own vision of what a “restored forest” SHOULD be, and that vision is one of mossed-covered, closed-canopy giant tree forests. Many commenters and stakeholders are seeing that the science isn’t supporting their preservationist views, and are actively seeking a de-emphasizing of science in favor of faith-based Gaia-ism (aka “social and spiritual issues”).

On a side note, here in Region 5, they have finally started dealing with oaks as highly-desirable, and are spacing off of them, now. In the past, we were directed to ignore them and only use conifers as leave trees. Now, the trend is to clear out the conifers growing within their driplines.

12 Apr 2010, 11:56am
by Mike

Note that restoration is the statutory mandate. Two nationwide restoration acts have been passed into law, the Healthy Forests Restoration Act (2003) and the Forest Landscape Restoration Act (2009).

No matter what the “preservationist” vision is, the law is the law and must be obeyed by the Agency, the new Planning Rule not withstanding.



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