Starker Forests is in the business of growing trees. But it is the harvest of the trees that allows us to sustain our business as time goes on.
As part of our forest management at Starker Forests, each harvest unit is traversed with a GPS upon conclusion of the logging. GPS can provide an accurate acreage of the harvest area so that the forester responsible for planting can order the right number of seedlings. It is also useful for calculating the amount of herbicide needed to remove the competing vegetation for a few years so the seedlings can establish themselves.
There are many things to observe during a â€œtraverse,â€ or walk in the woods. You might think that the woods are quiet when you are out alone. Not so. Usually, one of the first observations is the sound of the many birds in the forest. Letting out an owl hoot, even if you are not very good at it, can often result in hearing a return call from a nearby barred owl. Sometimes the rhythmic call of a dove can be heard.
Many birds will nest in adjacent mature stands and use clearcuts for various other activities, especially foraging. Common birds found in the forests in our area include the common flicker, woodpecker, chickadee, Stellarâ€™s jay, purple finch, red-tailed hawk, warbler and the rufous hummingbird. A report by the USFS noted up to 53 bird species observed on the clearcuts studied.
When you jump off the landing and head down into â€œthe brush,â€ you quickly realize that logging is not a job for wimps. The loggers traverse these slopes on foot day after day to cut and yard the trees.
Yarding refers to attaching a cable to the logs and pulling them up to the landing where they are sorted and loaded onto log trucks. The yarding corridors can be noticed across the hillside, and there could be anywhere from five to fifteen corridors in a thirty acre clearcut. The one to four logs per turn are lifted in the air, but the ends of the logs can and sometimes do drag across the ground. This creates a line, or corridor, in the hillside. The majority of the ground itself will not have any compaction. This is advantageous by minimizing compaction and allowing the new seedlings to grow well in our Western Oregon soils. It also preserves water quality by minimizing any sediment that may enter a stream.
If there is a fish-bearing stream adjacent to the harvest unit, the Oregon Forests Practices Act (OFPA) requires that we leave a buffer along the stream to protect the streamâ€™s water quality and to minimize any increase in stream temperature that could occur from the sunlight shining directly on the stream. Most foresters know, though, that the abundant salmonberry and devilâ€™s club shrubs often do a pretty good job of shading the streams by themselves. Wearing gloves is an important component of hiking through the woods since many plants are thorny.
Stream buffers of â€œleave treesâ€ can be 50-100 feet wide and generally are a â€œno touchâ€ area. The OFPA allows for harvest in the riparian area, but logistics for logging and safety of the loggers can make for a tricky scenario. It usually is easier to just flag the area off as the border of the harvest unit. There is high monetary value in the timber we leave behind in the riparian buffers, for the benefit of wildlife, water quality and society.
The particular harvest unit that goes with this series of pictures had a fair amount of Western Red Cedar growing in it. There are cedar snags that may have been the result of trees that died over one hundred years ago. The snags are burned out in the center, possibly from a fire that burned in the area during the 1850â€™s. When safe, we leave the snags to provide wildlife habitat. Some of the cedar snags have fallen over in recent decades and are very interesting because they consist of seedlings growing up from the top and a hollow cavity on the inside that seems to create unique and beneficial wildlife habitat.
Except for the removal of the trees and corridors from yarder logging, these harvest units show little signs of human activity. However, if you look closely as you walk through the area, you can find the caulk boot marks from the loggers on logs that have been left for wildlife habitat. Maple trees that were only cut two months ago are already sprouting with new growth. New fern fronds pop up through the logging slash. Nature is resilient.
When you have traversed most of the harvest unit and reach the final boundary line, there is only one way to go: up. This final boundary is the property line between Starker Forests and the BLM. Property lines are an important feature to know about as a forester. Harvesting your neighborâ€™s tree by mistake or by accident is considered a timber trespass and can result in fines and legal fees.
Fortunately, property lines have been marked at this location. If they do need to be reestablished we can ask our professional land surveyor to mark the line for us. The property lines are marked by surveyors by using white fiberglass posts, flagging, and the removal of the bark on a portion of the side of the tree that is painted over with tree-marking paint.
The last bit of noticeable wildlife was four blacktail deer that walked across the edge of the harvest unit and in to an adjacent young plantation. It seemed that they donâ€™t see humans often as they just stood still and watched me for quite a while.
This often makes me wonder how often the wildlife sees us and we donâ€™t see them. It is a good day in the woods when you happen to catch a glimpse of a black bear, cougar, fox, coyote, porcupine, deer or elk, in addition to being able to check off â€œexerciseâ€ from your to-do list.
On the business end of things, this 30-acre harvest unit represents 0.00037 percent of our entire ownership. The growth of our forests exceeds our harvest level, and this style of forest management makes growing trees a sustainable business.
Starker Forests provides about two monthâ€™s of logging work by contracting with one of our six family-owned logging contractors to complete this harvest. The beginning of the new plantation will occur by employing a crew of tree planters that can plant thousands of trees per day. Sending the logs to the mills provides additional jobs for the manufacturing facilities. The proceeds from the sale of the logs help family-owned businesses stay in business and be involved in local communities. Active forest management is a win-win for all involved.