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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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Catlin Gabel 7th Graders Share Their Results

Posted by on Jan 10, 2017 in Blog |

  (Editor’s Note – The Hyla Woods Team is thrilled to have an ongoing partnership with the 7th grade students and faculty from Catlin Gabel School in Portland.  Each year, with the excellent leadership of their teacher, Jesse Lowes, and other adults, the students do important and useful scientific investigations in the forests.  The report below is just one of the many summary reports that the students have produced.  The class cooperatively made the decision that Hannah’s report would be shared.  We thank all involved for their hard and careful work.) ————————————————————————————————— Into the Woods – A Report on a Scientific Investigation: By Hannah Renee Langer It was drizzling. The skies looked overcast and positively cranky, clouds bumbling about and bumping against each other grumpily. We all stood underneath the awning outside of the gym, bundled up in rain jackets. Though the benefits of tromping in the soggy forest for hours may not have been immediately discernible, we all knew that the environment – and us, to a certain extent – would greatly profit from our hard work and the extensive evaluation we did on the water quality of a little creek in the Coast Range. We, one of the four science classes that make up 65 students total, were about to board a school bus to leave for Hyla Woods, an experimental forest plopped down right in the middle of Oregon. Tall trees of all different sorts reached towards the sky, awe-inducing, like decorated church spires. The moment I stepped off the bus and took a deep lungful of the crisp autumn air, I knew this environment was nothing like the one I was living in. Hyla Woods had a certain quality about it that made everything about it seem even more enchanting: the assorted bird calls that echoed throughout the treetops mournfully, the feeling of a soft pad of moss underneath the sole of my rubber boots, and the simple quiet of the place. Almost immediately after arriving, we all stood in a circle, closed our eyes, and simply focused on the noises of the forest. Instead of hearing construction, cars whirring by, and the busy hubbub...

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A Nation Divided Cannot…..

Posted by on Dec 9, 2016 in Blog |

Talk of “divides” is all around us.  Red/Blue, Urban/Rural, Rich/Poor, White/Brown….. Of course it’s not new, but it seems to be more acute than at any other time in my brief sixty years.  There seems to be agreement that is a problem deserving of our attention, which leads to the good question of “how”? The Hyla Woods team thinks and cares about this issue and question.  One answer that we’ve focused on seems simple and manageable – reach across a divide and find some reason to work together.   It’s not rocket science – (or far more complex, ecosystem science) – but many drops of water do turn the mill.  Here are examples of what we’ve done and learned by doing this. We’ve identified products that grow in our forests that urban people need and we have provided them.   Many years ago, thanks to a “block party” organized by our friends at Ecotrust, we met and visited with Christine and Robert.   They’re both retired from interesting lives as members of religious orders, live in SE Portland and – most importantly – want a load of firewood each fall.  They don’t want just any wood; they want wood from what feel is a well cared for forest.   In addition to the “cord in the Ford” making the drop off each fall, we connect with them in other ways.   They enjoy honoring the salmon that return to the forest each year and are always asking for updates on the ups and downs of life in the forests.  With each passing year and interaction, we come to know one another – and the realities we live in – better.    Preparing to “pump some oak”! We know that our main logging contractor (logger!) holds strong political opinions that are very different from our own.  The day after the election I (peter) sent Brandon an invitation asking whether he would like to get together for a conversation over a greasy breakfast.  Our getting together started with him smiling and declaring “I like food” and ended with us each understanding one another better and agreeing that the things we share in common and agree...

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