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home : current news : current news October 21, 2017

10/10/2017 1:16:00 PM
City, schools working through tree thinning
By Sue Stafford

The Urban Forestry Board reluctantly reached a consensus at their October 9 meeting, following a tour of the Sisters School District property directly behind Reed Stadium, where the district wants to remove more trees.

Following a thinning project at the middle school which City staff and the UFB thought exceeded a verbal agreement, the City issued a stop work order to the district until all parties involved had a chance to meet and review proposed further thinning.

At the beginning of the UFB meeting, Dan Galecki, City Forester, reported that he thought too many trees had been removed.

"I think the trees were thinned out more aggressively than my scope and what we talked about," he said.

Following Monday's meeting there is a quantitative measure that will help determine the appropriate number of trees to be removed. A reloscope is a tool that makes it possible to survey a stand of timber to determine a certain basal area of trees, which represents the surface area of trees in an area or square feet per acre. Industry standard indicates that a basal area of 200 would generally be thinned down to 80.

On the other hand, prescriptive thinning usually means removing a particular percentage of trees in a stand, such as 25 or 30 percent, but can be more subjective than using the reloscope.

Trees in the stand currently at issue fall into two categories: eight inches or less in diameter and over eight inches. Dave Vitelle of Bear Mountain Fire had already marked the over-eight inch trees he planned to remove with lime-green plastic tape. During the most recent tour, Galecki and the UFB surveyed the designated trees over eight inches, with Galecki concurring with most of the trees slated for removal, although there were some he did not agree should be removed.

Regarding the smaller trees, it is up to the school district to determine how many to remove, although Galecki urged a conservative approach to guarantee a mixed-age forest.

Some of the UFB members were hesitant to approve lifting the stop work order without direct supervision of the logging process, while others didn't think they had the jurisdiction to do that. They decided that Community Development Director Patrick Davenport and Public Works Director Paul Bertagna would count the number of larger trees scheduled for removal before lifting the stop work order. During the tree removal process, Davenport and other staff will be checking on the removals on a daily basis. UFB chairman Dave Moyer will also be making regular spot checks. Vitelle told the UFB that he will video the tree removals.

The role of the UFB concerning trees on property not belonging to the City is not clearly defined. Developers are required to submit tree plans for new subdivisions and the City can urge them to not remove too many trees, and developers generally abide by those recommendations. However, the UFB doesn't really have jurisdiction over the school district property. The City's clear jurisdiction lies with trees on all City property and rights-of-way.

Ryan Stock, operations director for the school district, told the UFB they plan to plant fescue, brush, and some young ponderosa with ample open space in the areas being thinned.

Stock said there might be plans for the school science club to be involved with an environmental project in the thinned tree stands at the middle school. He would like to see an arboretum of natural species at one of the schools.

The logs are currently decked on high school property behind Sisters Park & Recreation District. Plans are in the works, according to Stock, to donate some of the wood to organizations like Family Access Network to provide firewood for low-income families, although that plan is not yet in place.

Plans for the juniper timber include letting it dry out, milling it, and having it available for the high school woodshop students.

Vitelle can chip up some of the timber for use on school trails. Various school clubs and classes will have access to the timber for possible fundraising activities.

Stock expressed concern that Vitelle is not receiving recognition for the contribution he is making to create safer school environments at no cost. Stock estimates that $120,000 worth of work has been donated to the school district. Vitelle has provided $6,500 worth of tree trimming to the City, according to Stock.

Thinning work will resume once the stop work order is lifted by the City.

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