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A Mystery, Dilemma, and a……… Bathroom

Posted by on Aug 9, 2017 in Blog |

The Mystery – (and it is a sad one) – As shared in earlier posts, the Hyla Woods forests are experiencing a much accelerated rate of trees dying.  Dead trees are an important part of a healthy forest, and we sometimes help things along by girdling trees to create snags.  But in the past two years things have changed; once healthy and vibrant trees are dying – old ones, middle aged ones, and young ones.  We’re not alone, and it seems that our mixed aged, mixed species forests are having less problems than the more monocultural forests nearby.  When we ask the knowledgeable “..ologists” for their thoughts on the causes, we are given a one word answer – drought.  Our Hyla Woods team thinks that the situation may be more complex than that; are we certain that the cause is drought?  If it is drought, is there a chance that drought is the trigger, but that the causes might be more complex – soils, seed, disease, insects….? While we can rise above the discovery that more 30 year old fir have died in some area of the forest, we experienced serious sadness when we discovered that a number of large, old, beautiful cedars in the wildest corner of Mt. Richmond Forest had no remaining green.  The Red cedar on our “avenue of the giants” are taking on a new kind of red. The Dilemma – How should we respond to these dead cedars?  They have beautiful wood in them which we could put to good use.  On the other hand, our forests are short on large, dead, downed wood that supports more life than the living tree ever did.  Do the right thing?  But what is  the “right thing”? A Decision – Team Hyla convened around the table and wrestled with the options.  Our decision is that the best approach for us is to avoid the simplistic, “either-or” constraints and to instead try a compromise.  Some of the dead cedar has been left on the forest floor where it is adding to the forest’s health.  The rest of the wood from these recent casualties has been felled, bucked, and...

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From Bolivia With Love……..

Posted by on Jun 12, 2017 in Blog |

“What’s the big deal about an Olive Sided Flycatcher?” That’s a reasonable question. It was answered in the course of this morning’s third and final annual bird count in our Mt. Richmond Forest. Here are a few of the reasons why we are excited to hear and see them: Inspiring Globe Crossers – Their long annual migrations – from as far south as Bolivia and on up to the arctic – are yet another reminder of how remarkable birds, and all of nature, are. They’re in Trouble – Of the birds that depend on Oregon’s Coast Range forests, they’re one of the four species that are in steepest decline.  Much of this decline is driven by habitat loss.  They’re Here – We’re pleased that the Hyla Woods forests provide reliable safe haven for these remarkable and stressed birds. They’re Increasing – In Our Forests – Reviewing data from our more than 15 years of careful, annual counts, we can see that that we’re successfully bucking the trend; while they decline in our region, they are on the increase in our forests.  Who knows why?  Our habitat is improving?  Habitat in surrounding forest in other forests in the regions deteriorating?  Perhaps both?  We all benefit when steps to arrest their decline are successful.  Their presence and increase validate that we may be working in the right direction. We Need and Value Then – Flycatchers, as their name reflects, depend on eating insects – lots of them!  Insects help keep forests healthy, but, when out of balance, they can become a threat to forest health.  These winged insect eaters help maintain necessary balance.  We work for them – they work for us. As we hang up the binos, clipboards, and stop watch at the end of yet another yearly round of bird counts, we enthusiastically raise a glass to thank and toast these remarkable birds. Thanks also go to our remarkable, reliable, and long suffering expert birders  – Char Corkran and Lori...

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Learning About Plantations

Posted by on Mar 6, 2017 in Blog |

Visitors to our forests often ask why we work on growing forests that are multiple ages and many species.  “Wouldn’t it be easier and more profitable to just grow single age, single species plantations like nearly all of your neighbors do?”.   While we have many reasons for using the approaches we do – some of them scientifically based and other driven more by gut instinct – the question raised is a good one.  Because of this, it is something that we always work on learning more about.  As people who feel that we have a responsibility to maintain and rebuild the public values of our forests and believe that the long term profitability and health of our forests is more important than the short term, we think that avoiding the risks of the plantation approach makes good, pragmatic business sense.  At the same time, we work to be disciplined in always questioning the assumptions that our approaches are based on   – “what if we’re wrong?”. Which brings us to the value of learning.  We’re prompted to share these thoughts just now because of two research publications that we’ve run into in recent months.  Both appear to shine light on the risks and down sides of the plantation approach that dominates our landscape in western Oregon.  Though we are told that plantation silvaculture is what the prudent investor does, we question whether that conclusion is a valid one. The first piece of research, done by scientists at Oregon State University, explores the negative impact of plantation forestry on summer stream flows.  We encourage you to check it out and are happy to provide copies of the paper.   Unfortunately it does not appear to be available online. The second paper suggests that, in some circumstance trees, grow better in mixed species stands rather than in single species stands.  This link provides a newspaper style report: http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/news/4227347-why-forests-more-tree-types-grow-better-faster. Here is a link to the paper:  http://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-016-0063. Because we find both of these studies to be helpful and interesting, even if not definitive, we think you may as well. The learning continues – and that is one of the rewards of...

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A Most Welcome Surprise

Posted by on Mar 3, 2017 in Blog |

I discovered something that was really uplifting and surprising yesterday. At day’s end I traveled back through the Mt. Richmond Forest with a sense of satisfaction – and fatigue – from having planted the last of the 2,200 seedlings that we’ve planted this winter. Pausing by the “Beaver Pond” wetland I reflected on how different it feels to visit the spot since all of the resident beaver mysteriously disappeared from the pond and forest about five years ago.  Though we have hypothesis, the puzzle of the cause remains unsolved.   Reflecting on this sadness I somehow decided to dismount from my “iron pony” and hobble over to where the stream flows out of the pond.  Drawing closer, something caught my eye – “isn’t that a low dam blocking the outlet – with freshly cut, green reeds woven into the sticks?   Could it be…..?” A closer look persuaded me that nothing could have made this – other than a beaver.  Looking further around the wetland my conclusion was verified by finding this…. After five years of lamenting the loss and considering options for reintroduction, the problem has solved itself.  What is remarkable is that this beaver (could there be 2?!) had to cross some seriously inhospitable terrain.  From the nearest beaver habitat in the Tualatin River, it had to navigate roughly a mile of open, unvegetated ditch through industrial farmland, climb up a steep stream through pastureland, and find its way through another half mile of forestland that we recently bought from the neighbors.  Go Beevs!         Perhaps I shouldn’t be, but I am surprised by how much my winter weary spirits have been lifted by discovering that the forest’s wetland habitat is once again home to a beaver – and that the “Beaver Pond” once again deserves its name....

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Taking the Long View

Posted by on Feb 11, 2017 in Blog |

Barak Obama’s forecast that the sun would rise on the day after the election verified, yet on November 9th as I looked east from the top of Mt. Richmond Forest over the folding ridges, valleys, wetlands, and hills of the Tualatin Valley toward the rising sun, I realized that while the familiar landscape looked unchanged – it felt very different. Just as I know and value this place’s ecological diversity, I also appreciate the healthy political diversity of my neighbors.  The success of our forest business and the experiments that we explore depends on many dimensions of this landscape.  Uncertainty goes with the territory – for both better and worse – but the rising sun of November 9th illuminated a place with many new uncertainties and fewer certainties. Culture – Like many businesses, our forests depend on the hard, careful work of recent immigrants; will their new fears be realized or will we find ways to help them feel welcomed, valued and appreciated? Ecology – In this landscape that has been transformed in so many ways to suit the needs of humans, and where we and others work together to rebuild the land’s health and wealth, will federal laws like the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act continue to advance this process? Climate, Atmospheric – Human driven climate change is already impacting our forests’ health; what impact will the newly elected have on our ability to change course on climate alteration before it is too late? Climate, Human – Our years in this valley have shown us how kind, respectful, honest, and good hearted so many of our neighbors are; how will this fair in a national environment shaped by a president and his followers who consistently demonstrate hate, intolerance, fear, and intellectual dishonesty? This election rocks the world that we and our businesses work within.  How should we respond?  It seems that we should respond in at least two ways: As prudent business owners and as citizens we should be ready and willing to stand up and fight for those things that are important to us, and We should apply the lessons taught by the forest...

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