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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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Tipping Point – From Concept to Scary Reality

Posted by on Dec 9, 2016 in Blog |

Do you remember encountering, at some point in your school, a lesson in tipping points?  Phenomena the may change at a slow, regular and predictable point but then cross a threshold, or tipping point, when they can change dramatically and rapidly?  I do.  Images of the concept stick with me; I think of it as I read news of melting ice in the polar regions or the prospect of the Gulf Stream radically shifting.   Those of us owned by forests think about these things in the early morning hours.   Over the past two year’s the concept has been brought home, literally, and made real as we watch the impacts of recent drought on portions of our forests.   In our areas of mid aged Douglas fir, we are accustomed to watching some trees vibrantly thrive while others sputter along with less vigor.  We know that these differences may be caused by many things – soils, available moisture, seed source……. But until recently, experience always taught us that change in the condition of the underdog trees would be gradual and predictable.  Now that has changed.   A tipping point threshold was crossed and in several parts of the forests we have significant areas where, in the period of one or two years, 20 to 60 year old trees have begun dying – not gradually, but in the course of one or two years.  As the theory has been brought home in the shape of brown and falling needles, curling, dry bark and falling trees we now must answer the question of “now what?”  While we assume that many factors may work together to create the problem, it seems probably that drought pushed these trees across the tipping point threshold.   Is the drought a consequence of human caused climate change?  Will we ever know for certain?   Regardless, these dead trees in their even aged, monoculture plantations reminded us of something we already knew – that a forest that is diverse in age and species is better suited to a changing world than one that is less diverse.   Applying this lesson in tipping points, on all scales seems important.  Right Donald?!   A...

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Analysis of Hyla Woods Bird Research

Posted by on Nov 8, 2016 in Blog |

Effects of Management Practices on Avian Abundance in Oregon Coast Range Forests Molly Hayes Biology-Environmental Studies Whitman College 2014 Advisor: Delbert Hutchison  Abstract Forestry in Oregon has traditionally used an industrial model aimed to maximize timber production and revenue, with little attention to the potentially negative affects on ecosystem health and biological diversity. However, some landowners have begun experimenting with more sustainable management practices. This study examines the affect of some of these innovative silvicultural techniques on avian abundance and diversity in the Oregon Coast Range. Data on bird number and species were collected across designated stops for three years with each stop characterized by forest type (predominantly Douglas fir, mixed, or predominantly a species other than Douglas fir), understory (woody shrub, fern, or herbaceous), and treatment (control, lightly thinned, thinned, or patch cut). Total number of birds, number of birds in certain foraging guilds, and four indicator songbird species were compared across stops. Because data were collected with no clear analysis in mind, not all combinations of stop characteristics could be considered. Data were analyzed using one and two-way ANOVA, and results were corrected using the Bonferroni correction. While no significant results were found related to forest type or understory, birds clearly preferred the lightly thinned treatment. Studies analyzing all combinations of forest characteristics and comparing sustainably managed forests to industry methods should be implemented to more thoroughly answer the question of what management practices maximize forest ecosystem health.   Introduction Commercial forestry has remained a predominant use of forestland in Oregon since the mid-1800s (Oregon Forest Resources Institute 2013). Forests cover about half of Oregon, and roughly 80% of that forestland supports growth of commercial-grade timber. The vast majority of management of working forests in Oregon uses an industrial model aimed to maximize timber production and revenue, with little attention to the potentially negative effects on ecosystem health and biological diversity (Jones et al. 2012, Oregon Forest Resources Institute 2013). Industrial forest management uses a rotational monoculture crop system, heavy application of herbicides, and large clear cuts to maximize production of Douglas fir, the main commercial forestry crop in the Northwest (Oregon wild 2012). A focus on...

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The Value of Heat

Posted by on Aug 30, 2016 in Blog |

Some like it hot – but the Hyla Woods team does not.  Though we are champion “heat wimps”, our work at our mill and kiln teaches us the value of heat.  This has been one of our best summers yet for using our solar kiln to dry green (wet!) lumber into high quality products.  Using less than a dollar a day of electricity to run the fans that circulate the hot air, the kiln captures the sun’s energy and puts it to work in drying the lumber.  As the photo shows, the kiln is running full bore.  On the far left is thick, live edged, oak lumber air drying for a local furniture company.  Beside it, having just completed the drying cycle, is 3,500 board feet of premium fir.  The doors are being slide shut on 3,500 board feet of oak headed toward becoming our next batch of end grained cutting boards in time for the holidays.  And on the far right fir planking is being air dried before being used for the rebuilding of a deck.  At the mill and kiln it has been a busy summer; as the days grow shorter we’ll work to squeeze as much wood drying power as we can from the life giving sun.  Such is life in this land of “will it ever rain?!” and “will it ever stop raining?!”.   More information on this kiln and other solar kilns may be found...

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