When I write about forestry, I’m most often sharing what goes on in a working forest. A working forest is one that produces commodities, like timber, fiber and bark, as well as provides for environmental benefits such as recreation, clean water and wildlife habitat. I have spent my career on working forests.
Think of a working forest like a farm. Farms grow crops of food and other agricultural products. We need farms for our food. Working forests produce forest products and we need them for our shelter. An important difference between the two is that forestlands take years to produce a crop. Working forests spend years growing undisturbed in between intervals of harvesting. They function as an important source of clean water and as a home for wildlife every year.
One benefit of producing forest products from a working forest is that it creates income for the landowner. When the landowner has an economic return from managing trees the land will continue to be managed as a forest. There are real costs to owning forestland and if the owner can’t profit managing their forest, they may be forced to develope it into housing subdivisions or some other non-forest use. Then the wildlife habitat may be lost. In a sense the income from producing forest products protects these forests by making growing trees economically sustainable .
All of our forests are important as wildlife habitat. The conventional wisdom is that mature forest provide the best habitat. That is true for species of wildlife that prefer mature forests. However, many species have different habitat needs that include forest at every age.
Forests containing a greater diversity in habitats ranging from mature forest to freshly created openings will support a larger variety of species. Openings are created during harvesting. These openings are planted and then the seedlings begin to grow. Over time the forests develope a great diversity of trees in different age groups. This patchwork of different habitat is available to support many species of wildlife.
Working forests aren’t parks, but can still be available for recreation. Hikers, campers and hunters visit these forests year after year. I’m not saying that the working forests are better than the parks, but they each have unique purposes.
Forests are managed by different government agencies, private entities and individuals with a variety of goals. Forestland management is a topic I will explore more in the future. It warrants a full post.
The King Fire devastated almost 98,000 acres in the Sierra Nevada, east of Sacramento. Our company lost 18,000 acres of forest. Lately, I’ve had opportunity to spend time in the burn area. There is a lot of work being done by our foresters, biologists, botanists, and others to protect the resources so the timber can be quickly salvaged in an environmentally sensible manner. Most people never get to see what is done to protect the soil, water, cultural resources, and wildlife. In the gallery are images of just some of the work being done.
There is a lot of preparation that has to be done prior to logging. It has taken a large team of resource professionals to get the job done on a project this size.
Just for children a picture book about wildfire and the forest rehabilitation that takes place after a fire. Check out, Firestorm In the Forest.
Ralph was a state forester. He’s retired now, but he’s been a friend throughout my career. He gave me my first ride along.
When I met Ralph, I was a firefighter in the summer and attending community college. I declared my Forestry Major and was preparing to transfer to Humboldt State University. I had not taken any forestry classes yet. That would start the next year. I didn’t have much forestry work experience. I knew Ralph from my job at the fire station. I asked if I could ride along with him for a day. He gladly took me up on it. I learned a lot from Ralph.
The other day I took a young woman, named Jaime, for a ride along. She’s contemplating her next career move. She is a cousin of a close friend.
The night before, Mary and I visited with our friends, Jaime, and her father. We had a wonderful conversation. Jaime recently completed her Bachelor degree at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. Now she was considering going for an environmental law degree. Mary and I were both thinking, She needs to go for a ride along. When offered, she leaped at the chance.
The next day we started out with an introduction to our company’s head research scientist, CJ. These two women hit it off famously. After an insightful conversation about environmental science, careers and education, we headed out to the mill.
We toured the mill complex where Jaime started out watching the pole plant processing logs. Next, we went through the sawmill. She asked a ton of questions about the process and took a few pictures to send to her friends back in North Carolina. After the mill tour it was back to the truck.
We headed out to look at the timberlands. Our conversation centered on forestry practices, land management and environmental issues. We started near Shingletown, looking at forestry practices, and ended the day at the Ponderosa Burn, talking about fire restoration.
Now, if I sound like the wise professional bestowing my vast knowledge from on high, let me correct that right now. This education process is a two way street. Our conversations weren’t all about forestry. I learned about all manner of issues important to her generation. We both had a fun and instructive day.
Making time for young people to go for a ride along or job shadow for a day is time well spent. A day job shadowing does something for them that a semester of school doesn’t do. It gives them a big picture of the profession. As professionals we benefit from this time too. We’re never too old to learn and they too have a lot to share.
This week, Forestry Friday is a forestry quiz question. The question is about tree growth. This question appeared on the California Professional Foresters Exam about thirty years ago. Any junior forester or forestry student who missed this question probably failed the test and was definitely teased for it. In California, foresters are required to pass this test in order to become a Registered Professional Forester (RPF). It is illegal to practice forestry in the State without a license. Now to test your forestry knowledge.
You nail a red tag on a Lodgepole pine tree at DBH. DBH stands for Diameter at Breast Height, which is 4 1/2 feet about the ground as measured on the high side of the base or the tree. The tree is growing in height at 2 1/2 feet per year. In 10 years how high will the tag be above the ground?
I look forward to reading your answers Junior Foresters. I will reveal the correct answer next week on the Forestry Friday post.
It’s time, once again for the Sierra Cascade Logging Conference here in Anderson, California. It is an opportunity loggers, foresters, equipment sales folks, school kids, teachers and the public to all come together. It’s like going to the county fair where you can bump into friends that you haven’t seen since last year.
Today was the first day of the conference and also Education Day. Over 700 4th and 5th graders tour the exhibits and learn about forestry and the timber industry. Each year Mary teaches a science lesson related to one of our picture books and the kids love it.
Do you have a favorite spot in the woods that you like to get away to and reconnect with nature? Somewhere that you’ve camped with your family or just a quiet place to escape the everyday bustle. The familiarity of that kind of place has a timeless quality about it. That is part of what makes it happy and comforting. We want it to always be there and never change.
As a forester, I work with a changing forest every day. Some changes come quickly like a timber harvest. Some come violently as with a wildfire. Mostly, change comes slowly. The different seasons transform the forest each year. This brings about my favorite yearly change, the Spring burst of growth. The fruits of my labor are on full display, as tree buds elongate and spring forth new needles. Each year the trees that we planted are a little bigger than before.
This photo was taken of my old buddy, Hunter, in 2002. In the background was a newly planted forest. The trees were harvested from the area directly behind him in 2000 and the seedlings were planted in 2001. If you look closely, you can see the small pine trees growing. Lassen Peak is just visible on the horizon in front of Hunter.
Jump ahead to 2014 and Blitz sits on the same stump. The trees we planted have now grown for twelve seasons. Many of them are over twenty feet tall. The view of Lassen Peak is gone. Blitz was barely able to sit on Hunter’s stump because decay caused it to crumble under her. The yearly change may seem small, but when viewed over a decade, it’s dramatic. Expecting the forest not to change is like expecting your child not to grow up. Forests are dynamic and never static. Our memories and old photographs may not change, but our forests always will.
I’ve known Bob for a long time. Bob is a Logging Supervisor or Woods Boss. His operations are a going concern. Bob is all business and his guys make logs in a hurry. When I go out and talk to his crew about log quality Bob gets nervous because I’m slowing down his operation. He isn’t the kind of man that one would think of as going around showing off a piece of art, but that is what he has done for nearly twenty years.
Twenty years ago Bob decided he needed a dog. When he got his new dog he told me, “All of you foresters have dogs in the back of your trucks, so I decided to get one for my truck.” If you have ever seen the back of a logging boss’s truck you would know that his dog would need chemical resistant feet and armor plating. Their trucks are full of hydraulic fluid, oil, truck parts, tractor parts, chokers, cable, tools, and all manner of oily, heavy metal things bouncing around loose in the bed. So Bob’s dog was special….unique even
Bob’s dog is named “Would”, not Wood even though he is wood. If you ask him why “Would”, he will say, “He would bark if he could and he would s–t if he could, therefore he is Would.” Bob recently got a new work truck and when he didn’t put Would in the truck he caught so much hell that he had to load him up again. Would has been Bob’s constant woods companion for the last twenty years. He never whines, growls or barks. He doesn’t need food or water and doesn’t mind all the stuff in the back of Bob’s truck. I think Would has mellowed over the years, even developed a fine patina. He may be the perfect logger’s dog.
I had Blitz join Would for a group shot. The two of the got on famously. Blitz is, after all, the consummate stick dog. Fortunately, she didn’t chew on his ear. I tried to get Bob in the picture, but tough old loggers don’t always like having their pictures taken.