Foresters and community members explored different ideas for forest management in the woods near Black Butte Ranch. photo by Jim Anderson
Foresters and community members explored different ideas for forest management in the woods near Black Butte Ranch. photo by Jim Anderson
Not only is it OK to cut trees; it's necessary to maintain and grow more old growth trees. That was the theme of a recent workshop hosted by the Sisters Ranger District in the Glaze Meadow forest adjacent to Black Butte Ranch.

Tim Lillebo of Oregon Wild, Cal Mukumoto of Warm Springs Biomass Project and Maret Pajutee, Sisters District Ecologist, put a lot of work into getting the Forest Service and representatives from the forest products industry, the Oregon Legislature and the Sierra Club together for a full day with Darin Stringer, Consulting Forester at Integrated Resource Management, learning a new approach to restoring forests gone sour from years of fire suppression and logging.

The diversified group of forest users and protection-oriented interests spent the day learning new models for forest restoration and talking to each other about methods the Forest Service would like to use to restore the ecosystem of the forests around Sisters.

Pajutee, Project Leader of the Glaze Meadow Restoration Project picked the site for the tree-marking workshop because of its unique location.

"The project area contains not only old and new growth ponderosa pine but threatened aspen forests as well," Pajutee said. "Evergreens are encroaching on the aspen, which is leading to serious problems for the ecosystem that maintains old growth, raptors, woodpeckers and other wildlife."

Stringer's firm established a management plan for the Deschutes Basin Land Trust's Metolius Preserve with an emphasis on making the forest as fire resistant as possible. Bill Anthony, Ranger for the Sisters District, found Stringer's work would be helpful to attain Forest Service goals and contracted his firm to help restore Glaze Meadow forest.

The workshop began with a detailed history of Glaze Meadow by Brian Tandy, forester for the Sisters District. His description of events that have placed the Glaze Meadow in the risky spot it is in today provided the opportunity for those at the workshop to see more clearly what has to be done to bring the forest back to more natural conditions.

Most of the attendees at the workshop agreed that Stringer's approach, with the 400-year management emphasis and carefully planned fire treatment, will attain sustainability.

One outstanding element in old growth pine forests was recognized early in the day when Tandy pointed out the importance of "cohorts," clumps of trees that represent a time of natural reforestation - or, put another way, trees of an even age competing for nutrients, water and sunlight. Cohorts, according to Tandy, are a relatively new discovery of scientists who study old-growth ponderosa pine forests.

Stringer pointed out how cohorts can be managed into mosaic patterns to accommodate wildlife and fire prevention and at the same time take into consideration harvesting trees for lumber and encouraging old growth.

Participants of the workshop were given the opportunity to mark trees to be saved with this rationale in mind, thereby creating a healthy, more naturally structured, not a "tree farm."

Stringer and Lillebo pointed out that to reach their goal it is necessary to remove (that means cut) trees to create spaces between cohorts for fire prevention and reduction of crowding that will prevent bark beetles from building up to epidemic proportions. Such open spaces said Monty Gregg, biologist for the Sisters Ranger District, will create more diversity in the forest and support species that depend on ponderosa pine forests, such as goshawks and white-headed woodpeckers. These species require both open spaces as well as dense clumps for nesting and foraging.

Lillebo and Marilyn Miller, plus other participants of the Glaze Meadow workshop agreed that it is necessary to not only harvest trees to achieve the goals of forest health it is also important to use all other methods of fire prevention, such as controlled burns, mowing and thinning.

Representative Chuck Burley, in his role as a consultant for the American Forest Resource Council, asked the all-important question: How are we going to pay for all the complicated forest management and tree marking. He pointed out that though the work is necessary, there has to be a way to pay for it.

Marilyn Miller, Sierra Club representative, thought grants could pay for it until saw log receipts were such that the forest could pay for the work. Scott Melcher, of Melcher Logging, suggested that his crew could save money by learning to manage cohorts as they went through the logging process, thereby eliminating the costs of marking trees. Cal Mukumoto suggested that selling trees for biomass would be another avenue of income.

Pajutee summed up the day by saying: "This project is about more than just growing trees. It's also about growing trust and creating a new model on how diverse viewpoints can cooperate. To have a sustainable ecosystem you also need a sustainable community. We're listening to what people value. We have more in common than not when we stop fighting and start talking."