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Analysis of Hyla Woods Bird Research

Posted by on Nov 8, 2016 in Blog | Comments Off on Analysis of Hyla Woods Bird Research

Effects of Management Practices on Avian Abundance in Oregon Coast Range Forests

Molly Hayes

Biology-Environmental Studies

Whitman College


Advisor: Delbert Hutchison


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.



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 maximizing production and profit has led to a decrease in structurally complex and biologically diverse ecosystems. With most of Oregon’s working forestland managed in this unsustainable way, old growth forest is one of the few ecologically healthy forest types remaining. With old growth in Oregon diminishing from 14.2 million acres in 1935 to only 4.9 million acres in 1992 (Bolsinger 2011), finding new ways to mindfully manage Oregon’s forestlands to maintain and create ecological complexity and vitality is essential.

Some Oregon landowners have begun to shift their focus from maximum wood production and economic gain to a model aimed to enhance ecosystem health while still supporting an economically viable business (Thomas et al. 2006). While these changes have primarily taken place on private lands with owners who feel a responsibility to manage their properties sustainably, in response to public pressure these innovative silvacultural techniques are beginning to be implemented on public lands that have been managed in a more traditional, industrial way in the past (Franklin and Johnson 2013). However, these changes in management on public land are recent and small-scale. For example, recent legislation has mandated that the O&C lands, approximately 2.4 million acres of forestland in western Oregon that was reclaimed from the Oregon & California Railroad by the Federal Government in 1916 and has been heavily logged ever since, will be managed using a variable retention method (Association of O&C Counties 2008, Franklin and Johnson 2013). Variable retention harvesting, a method modeled on natural patterns of disturbance, may help to maintain and rebuild healthy ecosystem functioning (Franklin and Johnson 2013). This recent shift in focus has led to management practices focused on diversifying forests in terms of age and species in order to support ecosystem health and biodiversity (Davis et al. 2007, Davis et al. 2009, Muir et al. 2002). These new management practices often include stand thinning, limited herbicide use, and encouragement of variation in forest species and age composition, all of which are beneficial in that they support ecosystem health and biodiversity (Betts et al. 2013, Cahall et al. 2013, Hagar et al. 2004, Linden et al. 2012, Yegorova et al. 2013).

Birds, and specifically songbirds, function as indicators of ecosystem health due to their close associations with vegetation (Yegorova et al. 2013). These relationships between bird species and density and vegetation may function and be apparent in a variety of different ways. For example, certain species have been identified as especially good indicators due to their reliance on certain understory types for breeding habitat, the destruction of which is associated with declining bird populations (Canterbury et al. 2000, Stephens et al. 2011). Studies in forests of the Oregon Coast Range support the hypothesis that industrial practices including clear cutting, heavy herbicide use, and single age monoculture rotation, negatively affect avian abundance as compared to more varied and ecologically minded management techniques. For example, thinned, as opposed to unthinned, regeneration after clearcut promotes avian diversity (Cahall et al. 2013, Hagar et al. 2004, Hagar et al. 2009): changes in vegetation caused by thinning may mediate post-thinning bird response by affecting food sources such as invertebrate insects as well as nesting habitat for local birds (Hagar et al. 2012, Yegorova et al. 2013). Some have argued that recently clearcut areas may play an important role in initiating forest succession, an ecological process that provides diverse habitat to bird populations (Bosakowski 1997). However large clearcuts are highly destructive and may harm cavity nesting species as well as other birds that depend on trees and thick underbrush (Mahon et al. 2008). Clearcuts also vary in their value as avian habitat based on the amount of woody debris and snags retained (Bosakowski 1997). Herbicides applied in amounts typical of industrial forestry practices also negatively impact avian abundance as compared to sites with light or no herbicide application (Betts et al. 2013); while thinning promotes understory vegetation favorable to many bird species, herbicide use reduces understory vegetation (Betts et al. 2013, Hansen et al. 1995). Additionally, stand complexity in terms of tree age and species promotes avian diversity, while single-age monocultures significantly reduce avian diversity (Felton et al. 2011).

Located in the Oregon Coast Range, the owners of the family-owned and managed forestry business Hyla Woods have managed their forestlands to promote ecosystem health and biological diversity since 1986 (Hayes and Hayes 2013). Hyla Woods owns 825 acres divided between three locations in the Northern Oregon Coast Range: Manning (100 acres), Timber (173 acres), and Mt. Richmond (552 acres) (Fig. 1 – 4). Their management practices include varied thinning and patch cutting with a maximum clearcut size of two acres, limited, point specific herbicide use, and encouragement of multi-age, multi-species tree communities. Since 1986, the managers of Hyla Woods have worked to better understand the ecosystem functioning of their forestland through a variety of monitoring regimes. Through data collection and analysis they hope to answer three central questions: “what is the status of the health of these forests?; how is it changing over time?; and what can we understand about the causes of these changes, particularly the impacts of our actions on these changes?” (Hayes and Hayes 2012). Available data sets include water temperature, aquatic invertebrates, juvenile fish, spawning salmon, birds, owls, terrestrial amphibians, aquatic amphibians, large mammals, trees, and oak habitat. All data collection followed set protocols, but with no specific analysis in mind.

Because birds function as indicators for overall ecosystem health, and given the robust and long time-term nature of the Hyla Woods data set on birds, I used the bird data set to examine the relationship between forest treatment (unthinned, lightly thinned, thinned, or patch cut), understory, and forest health (Yegorova et al. 2013) as defined by the number and diversity of species supported by a given area. Due to the challenging nature of detecting trends in data collected with no clear study design, as was done in this project, one lesson from this analysis is the importance of clearly outlining study objectives and specific statistical analyses before beginning data collection.


Materials and Methods

Data were collected from three non-contiguous pieces of forestland (Timber, Manning, and Mt. Richmond sites), all within the western hemlock zone and between 400’ and 1200’ in elevation (Fig. 1). The three study areas consisted of predominantly Douglas fir ranging in age from recently planted to around 200 years old, and also contained a variety of other tree species including big leaf maple, western red cedar, grand fir, red alder, and Oregon white oak. The owners manage all three areas to promote biodiversity through a variety of harvest techniques

(thinning and patch-cutting), very limited herbicide use (spot treatments only), and encouragement of multi-age as well as multi-species tree communities.

At each forest, trails were created with multiple “stops” where data were collected. Bird and vegetation data were collected from 14 stops at Timber, 10 stops at Manning, and 24 stops at Mt. Richmond (Fig. 2-4). Three factors influenced stop determination. First, the combination of the stops at each separate forest is representative of the variation in that forest in terms of age, species, and understory; the owners tried to create enough stops to sample as many combinations of these variables as possible. Second, the route between stops must be accessible by foot on roads, trails, and skid trails. Lastly, stops were as evenly spaces as possible, while taking into account the first two considerations. Because of the size, shape, and accessibility of Mt Richmond, data collection occurred on two routes with 12 stops each (Fig. 4).

At each forest, observers trained in bird identification by sight and sound collected bird data at all stops for three consecutive years: at Manning from 2007 through 2009, at Timber from 2010 through 2012, and at Mt. Richmond in 2013 only. Data collection at Mt. Richmond will continue in 2014 and 2015. Yearly, observers recorded data at each stop on three days, each approximately a week apart during late May and early June. Observers did not collect data on days with rain or strong wind. Observers began walking the loop at 5:00 am (around first light). Once reaching a stop, they stood silently for approximately one minute before beginning a three minute period in which they recorded the species and abundance of all birds detected by sight or sound. Observers followed this point-count protocol at all stops and finished the route between 7:00 and 7:30 am (Huff et al. 2000).

Habitat data were collected once in 2013 at all stops at Timber, Manning, and Mt. Richmond. At each stop four subplots were sampled, each with a radius of ten meters, and located a randomly determined distance between ten and 50 meters directly north, east, south, and west of the stop center. An ocular estimate of percent vegetation cover within the categories woody shrubs, ferns, and herbaceous species at two height classes (<1.5 m and >1.5 m) for each subplot was also made.

Due to the varied species, understory, and treatment history between stops, each stop was generalized into categories of “forest type”, “understory” and “treatment”. Forest type was determined by summing the numbers of individual trees in distinct species across the four subplots. Based on total number of trees of each species, each stop was classified as predominantly Douglas fir, mixed, predominantly a species other than Douglas fir, or no trees. A stop was considered predominantly a single species if half again more of one species was present than other species. To determine the majority understory present at each stop, ocular estimates for three categories (woody shrub, fern, and herbaceous) were summed across the four subplots. Each stop was then classified within one of these three understory categories based on the most common understory type. Finally, stops were characterized by treatment groups as control (unthinned), lightly thinned, thinned, or patch cut. A number of stops contained variation between the four subplots and therefore received two treatment categories.

Data on bird species and total numbers collected across years on the three observation days within each year for each stop were summed and then standardized assuming nine total stops in order to make all stops comparable. Bird species were then divided into foraging guilds and the total number of birds was calculated in each of seven foraging guilds, taking into consideration the standardized totals. Bird species were divided as classified by Bryce’s guild system (Bryce 2006), and those not included in this guild system were assigned based on their foraging habits (Poole 2005, Sibley 2003, Wilson 1999). Foraging guilds included ground gleaner (GG), foliage gleaner (FG), bark gleaner (BG), hawker (HA), hover feeder (HOV), aerial feeder (AER), and aerial patrol (AP). In addition to grouping species into guilds, four songbird species, Macgillivray’s warbler (MGWA), orange-crowned warbler (OCWA), Swainson’s thrush (SWTH), and Wilson’s warbler (WIWA), known as especially good indicators for forest biodiversity and health (Stephens et al. 2011) were used to analyze songbird association across forest type, understory, and treatment.

Although the three areas were studied at different times, their similarities in region, management, and community composition across the three forests meant they could be combined into one data set for analysis. Thus, when combined across forests the bird and habitat data sets included 48 stops. Because the data were collected without any specific analytical techniques in mind, there are gaps in sampling which limit statistical analyses. However, it was possible to “mine” the data for suitable combinations of variables that did lend themselves to one- and two-way ANOVAs (Rstudio, Minitab).

The unbalanced design of this study limited the number and type of possible statistical analyses. With the data available the effect of forest type, understory, and treatment on total number of birds, numbers of specific indicator species, and prevalence of guild types was analyzed. Data for all combinations of factors (forest type, understory, and treatment) were not available, and therefore results are specific to certain groupings of stand characteristics. Because twenty-two statistical tests were performed, alpha values were corrected using the Bonferroni correction (Rice 1989) to account for the fact that at an alpha level of 0.05, and given twenty-two tests, statistically one test would be expected to yield falsely positive results.


All results were deemed significant by the Bonferroni correction unless otherwise indicated by the appropriate p-value.

Forest Type

Using a one-way ANOVA, total number of birds was compared across three forest types (predominantly mixed, predominantly Douglas fir, and predominantly a species other than Douglas fir) at stops with herbaceous understory. At an alpha level of 0.10, the mean number of birds found in stands with a predominantly Douglas fir forest type with herbaceous understory was significantly higher than the mean number of birds found in mixed species stands with herbaceous understory (F = 49.85, d.f. = 1, p = 0.09, r2 = 6.32, Fig. 5). Total number of birds was also compared across the three forest types (predominantly mixed, predominantly Douglas fir, and predominantly a species other than Douglas fir) at stops with herbaceous understory and a control treatment. Although the results were not significant, a graphical representation shows a trend in which bird number was highest in stands with a predominantly Douglas fir forest type, followed by mixed stands, and lowest in stands with no trees (Fig. 6).

Using a two-way ANOVA, total birds were compared across forest types by treatment at stops with herbaceous understory. Two-way ANOVA was used to compare total number of birds designated as a combination of the foraging groups ground gleaner and foliage gleaner across the three forest types (predominantly Douglas fir, mixed, and predominantly a species other than Douglas fir) at stops with herbaceous understory, but no significant results were found. Finally, total birds were compared across forest types at stops with herbaceous understory with the foraging guilds ground gleaners and foliage gleaners evaluated separately. No significant results were found for any of these tests. Given available data, no other statistical tests were possible using the variable forest type.


Using one-way ANOVA, total number of birds was compared between stops with woody shrub and herbaceous understory in stands with a predominantly Douglas fir forest type. No significant results were found. A series of one-way ANOVAs were used to analyze the distribution of four indicator species (MacGillivray’s warbler, orange-crowned warbler, Swainson’s thrush, and Wilson’s warbler) across understory types. None of these indicator species were significantly more prevalent in one understory type over another.


Sufficient data were available to perform a one-way ANOVA of total birds summed across the four indicator species across all four treatments (control, lightly thinned, thinned, and patch cut). The total number of birds was significantly higher in lightly thinned stands (an intermediate between control and patch cut) than in control, thinned, or patch cut stands (F = 5.96, d.f. = 3, p = 0.001, r2 = 59.97, Fig. 7). Using one-way ANOVA, total number of birds was compared between the treatments thinned and patch cut in stands with a predominantly Douglas fir forest type. No significant results were found. Total number of birds was also compared between control and thinned stands at stops with herbaceous understory and a predominantly Douglas fir or mixed forest type, as well as across treatments at stops with a predominantly Douglas fir forest type and herbaceous understory. Neither test delivered significant results. Two-way ANOVA was used to compare total birds between thinned and patch cut treatments by understory (only including woody shrub and herbaceous) in stands with a predominantly Douglas fir forest type. While no significant results were found, the graphical representation of total birds across treatment and understory in stands with a predominantly Douglas fir forest type revealed a striking interaction effect in which herbaceous understory was most common in patch cut stands and least common in thinned stands (Fig. 9).

Two-way ANOVA was used to compare total birds across treatments by the four indicator bird species. There was an interaction effect in which the summed number of birds across all indicator species (but especially orange-crowned warblers and Swainson’s thrushes) was higher in lightly thinned stands than in control, thinned, or patch cut stands (F = 2.06, d.f. = 9, p = 0.035, r2 = 59.97, Fig. 11). A series of one-way ANOVAs were used to determine the distribution of the four indicator bird species across treatments. Orange-crowned warblers were present in significantly higher numbers in lightly thinned stands than in control, thinned, or patch cut stands (F = 9.09, d.f. = 3, p < 0.0001, r2 = 38.26, Fig. 8), while the other three indicator species did not vary significantly across treatments.

Bird Characteristics

Total number of birds was compared between the foraging guilds ground gleaners and foliage gleaners at stops with herbaceous understory, as well as across the four indicator species, using a series of one-way ANOVAs. There were significantly more birds in the foliage gleaner group than in the ground gleaner group across all stops (F = 195.23, d.f. = 1, p < 0.0001, r2 = 67.50, Fig. 10). The number of birds also varied significantly between indicator species with significantly more MacGillivray’s warblers than orange-crowned warblers, and significantly more orange-crowned warblers than Swainson’s thrushes and Wilson’s warblers (F = 48.13, d.f. = 3, p < 0.0001, r2 = 59.57, Fig. 11).


Forest Type

Overall bird numbers were higher in stands with a predominantly Douglas fir forest type and herbaceous understory than in mixed stands with an herbaceous understory (not significant under the Bonferroni correction). This result was counter to expectations that more birds would be found in mixed stands due to the wider variety of habitat and availability of associated niches (Molles 2008). This pattern of more birds in Douglas fir stands than mixed stands may have differed in stands with a fern or woody shrub understory type. When comparing total number of birds across forest type at stops with an herbaceous understory and control treatment the results were not significant, however the overall trend suggests that bird density is highest in predominantly Douglas fir stands, followed by mixed, with lowest bird density in stands with no trees. This trend agrees with the results found when comparing total bird number between predominantly Douglas fir and mixed stands with an herbaceous understory.


No significant results were found when using understory as the independent variable. Due to data limitations, a comparison between understory types within all forest types and treatments was not possible. Performing more tests using understory may have produced more significant results.


When the total number of birds was summed across the four indicator species and compared across treatments, more birds were present in lightly thinned stands than in control, thinned, or patch cut stands. Additionally more orange-crowned warblers were found in lightly thinned stands than in control, thinned, or patch cut stands. These differences in bird density between treatments may result from available nesting habitat, prevalence of certain types of understory, or the amount of bare ground or open space (Parrish and Hepinstall-Cymerman 2012). Because birds appear to prefer lightly thinned stands to other treatments, the majority of birds likely forage in vegetation associated with lightly thinned stands and do not require the open space provided by patch cut stands.

A non-significant trend suggests that herbaceous understory is most common in patch cut stands and least common in thinned stands. While data were not available to determine the most common understory type in lightly thinned stands, it may be extrapolated that lightly thinned stands either have more fern or woody shrub understory types or more bare ground. The association between bird number and treatment is clearly visible in the higher density of birds in lightly thinned stands than stands with other treatments, and is likely explainable by the association between understory and treatment. Sufficient data were not available to accurately analyze this connection. These results on bird distribution across treatments do not include an analysis of species distribution beyond looking into foraging guilds and four specific indicator species. Analyzing species distribution would be valuable in determining whether the trends apparent in this study result from many individuals belonging to a small number of species or fewer individuals belonging to many species. While light thinning may be the best harvest method for the greatest number of birds, light thinning may not promote species diversity because certain species may rely on habitat not available in lightly thinned stands.

Bird Characteristics

Comparing total number of birds across the two foraging guilds, ground gleaner and foliage gleaner, significantly more foliage gleaners were present across all stops. This abundance of foliage gleaners is likely explained by overall species composition in the area. However, an analysis of species composition within the stops monitored would determine whether this result is due to many distinct foliage gleaning species or many individuals belonging to a small number of foliage gleaning species. Because foliage gleaners are present at higher densities than ground gleaners across all stops, and the total number of birds summed across the four indicator species is highest in lightly thinned stands, there may be more foliage present in lightly thinned stands than in other treatments. To accurately determine this association, data on total bird density across all species would have to be analyzed. Due to the presence of foliage at all stops analyzed, this abundance of foliage gleaners is expected. An analysis of industrially managed, clearcut land may result in more ground gleaning species.

Significantly more MacGillivray’s warblers than orange-crowned warblers, and significantly more orange-crowned warblers than Swainson’s thrush or Wilson’s warblers were present across all stops. Similar to the distribution of birds across foraging guilds, these differences may simply indicate general abundance in the area. It is also possible that Hyla Woods creates habitat that better provides for the requirements of certain indicator species than for those of other indicator species. These results are not directly associated with foraging guild type because all indicator species used in this study belong to the foliage gleaning guild.

The most significant trends from this data are that birds prefer stands with a predominantly Douglas fir forest type, and birds prefer lightly thinned stands to other treatments. Because the data on forest type only includes stops with an herbaceous understory and is not significant using the Bonferroni correction, additional research should be done before drawing any major conclusions regarding forest type. Because similar results emerged from a variety of tests on treatment, the conclusion that birds prefer lightly thinned stands seems fairly robust. In creating avian habitat, landowners should implement the harvest method of light thinning. However, because different species require a variety of habitat (Parrish and Hepinstall-Cymerman 2012), and total number of birds does not necessarily correlate with total number of species, maintaining a variety of habitat through varied treatment methods remains important.

More significant differences between stops may not have been found due to limitations in data. It is also possible, however, that the amount birds use these different stops does not vary significantly. Because the properties owned by Hyla Woods are relatively small, birds may travel throughout each property, using a variety of habitat types. Because the Hyla Woods properties are primarily adjoined to land managed in an industrial method relying on large clearcuts, heavy herbicide application, and single-age monoculture rotation, birds may pack into Hyla woods properties from these surrounding areas (Hejl 1992). Birds may also gravitate toward the edge habitat between forest and clearcut (Bosakowski 1997).

Future research should be performed to more completely answer the question of how the different forest characteristics present on Hyla Woods property impact avian populations. A study design similar to the one used in this paper should be implemented with specific research questions and analysis methods in mind. The set up should include stops with all combinations of the factors investigated as well as replicates of those combinations. Stops should be located in the center of stands demonstrating the desired characteristics to avoid stops with intermediate characteristics. Stops should also be located away from roads and major trails to avoid the impact of these open spaces on bird behavior as well as habitat characteristics. In addition to analyzing differences between certain characteristics within Hyla Wood’s property, stops should be added on neighboring properties. These additional stops would provide data to test the packing hypothesis, that birds may disproportionately utilize the habitat created by Hyla Woods. Two of the three main factors that differ between Hyla Woods management and that of industrially managed forests were investigated in this study, that of forest type and harvest method. The third factor, herbicide use, could also be investigated with the addition of stops on neighboring property.

While avian abundance may be used as a proxy for forest health, it may also be important to analyze avian diversity. As many factors as possible should be used in determining whether a forest ecosystem is “healthy”. Forest health may be difficult to quantify in a landscape so heavily influenced by human presence. Hyla Woods has the appropriate data on birds as well as many other species to perform a study comparing species abundance and diversity on their properties to that of industrially managed forests. These additional studies may shed more light on the beneficial impacts of alternative silvicultural practices on forest ecosystems. More complete research may in turn influence policy associated with managing state forestland.



Thank you to Pam and Peter Hayes, owners and managers of Hyla Woods, who supplied data and oversaw the research portion of this project. I would also like to acknowledge the birders who helped with bird identification and data collection, Steve Engel, Nate Richardson, and Lars Norgren with a special thanks to Char Corkran and Lori Hennings who donated their time and expertise as lead birders. Thank you to Linda Craig, Ken Chamberlain, Kahler Martinson, and Charlie Graham for helping with count timing, recording of bird counts, and bird identification. Thank you to Joan Hagar who supplied her habitat monitoring protocol for this project. Finally, thank you to Delbert Hutchison, Associate Professor of Biology at Whitman College, for his support and guidance as the advisor to this project.

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The Value of Heat

Posted by on Aug 30, 2016 in Blog | Comments Off on The Value of Heat

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 here.

The 230 Year Challenge – Who’s In?

Posted by on Aug 6, 2016 in Blog | Comments Off on The 230 Year Challenge – Who’s In?


  • In the forests, every year and season brings some new adventure.
  • A low point of 2014 was that the largest oak in our Mt. Richmond Forest died.  We’re not sure of the cause – perhaps just old age?
  • The discovery of this winter was that once the old, dead monster tree was cut and came thundering to the forest floor, we counted the rings and discovered that the tree held 230 years of life.
  • This means that the acorn sprouted in roughly 1786, and was a 20 foot sapling at the time when Lewis and Clark came over the hill.
  • After much effort, the tree has been felled, bucked, yarded, loaded on the tree taxi and transported up to the hilltop mill – where we are thinking through how to mill the 44″ in diameter butt log into lumber.

The Challenge  – If the forest can spend 230 years growing such a magnificent tree, shouldn’t some one of us be able to use its wood to make an equally magnificent piece of furniture that will still be going strong in another 230 years (the year 2,246!)?  That is the challenge that the Hyla Woods team is issuing.  The sawdust covered glove has been thrown down; who will pick it up?  Who will give this tree a second life?

big stump 1IMG_3605

Update on Herbicide Trespass Incident

Posted by on Jul 28, 2016 in Blog | Comments Off on Update on Herbicide Trespass Incident

For those interested in this incident and issue, here is a quick update.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture completed their investigation and shared their report.  As we expected, they found no evidence of a violation of Oregon law.  OPB provided this coverage:

The Department of Forestry is completing their own investigation of the incident.

We have assembled this response to the ODA report:

Hyla Woods Response to Oregon Department of Agriculture’s Report on Herbicide Spray Incident – July 28, 2016:

We are appreciative that the ODA staff completed the investigation in a timely way and apparently in accordance with current state law and agency protocols. We are also grateful that all of the parties involved were cooperative and ready to assist the investigation, including Dept. of Forestry staff, Stimson Lumber Company staff, other neighboring landowners.

We feel that the report falls short of what is required in the following four ways:

  1. Right Not to be Exposed – Given that four of us, in separate locations, independently and simultaneously smelled and/or tasted the chemical at the same time as the helicopter was actively spraying, it seems clear that we were exposed. Given that ODA’s analysis did not find residue of the spray on vegetation, it appears that our situation involved two levels of exposure – primary exposure, the area within which the chemical may be detected on the vegetation; and secondary exposure, the area within which the chemical may be sensed by average people. We feel that we have a right, on our own land, not to be exposed at either level. We feel that the investigation should acknowledge both levels of exposure, acknowledge both our rights and the sprayer’s responsibilities, and work to better understand the potential consequences of secondary exposure.
  2. Right to Know – Responsibility to Know – The investigation was based on an incomplete knowledge of the chemicals that were sprayed. Following current protocols, staff only collected information on the active chemicals involved and did not learn what inert chemicals were sprayed. Given that inert chemicals, such as those used in the surfactant, may be toxic when used alone, and may have synergistic impacts when used in combination with other chemicals, an adequate investigation must identify and consider all of the chemicals involved. In this case, the distinction between active and inert chemicals seems immaterial. The agencies have a responsibility to know what was sprayed and we have a right to know what we were exposed to.
  3. Responsibility to Adequately Regulate – While there is much that the agencies do that is right in their work to regulate the use of chemicals, this incident highlights one important weakness of the system. With the common practice of spraying a mixture of chemicals, we have a case where the circumstances of use are different from the circumstances under which the chemicals were individually tested, approved, and labeled. Based on the body of science that documents the unintended, synergistic consequences of mixing chemicals, we feel that the agencies have a responsibility to acknowledge and address this problem and align the conditions of testing and labeling with the specific conditions of use. The report fails to acknowledge this problem.
  4. Cooperation Between Agencies – Because we know that both the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Forestry have jurisdiction over aerial spraying of herbicides, we were pleased to learn that staff from both departments would work together to investigate and report on this incident. We were surprised that ODA produced a report that appears to neither acknowledge or reflect work being done by ODF. If we are correct in understanding that both agencies are involved in investigating the incident, it seems that the public would be best served by integrating the work and findings of both agencies into a single report.

Walk in Our Shoes – We care about the need to modernize the state’s approaches to regulating the use of forest herbicides for several reasons.  One of the main reasons is reflected in the specific circumstances of this incident.  Roughly a week prior to the incident a group of forty second graders and their teachers spent the day doing scientific investigations in the area that was exposed.  A week following the incident 300 family members and friends gathered in the same place for a wedding celebration.  Mindful that the exposure could easily have happened while one of these groups was there – smelling and tasting the chemicals, we consider how we would have answered their questions: “What is that smell and taste?  Might breathing the chemicals be bad for us?  Should we stay or leave?” .

The expectation that they and we have a right not to be exposed and that government has a responsibility to protect that right has not yet been acknowledged by the agencies. Based on the report, if the spraying had been done during class visit or the wedding, we’d have to respond “We don’t fully know what was sprayed and the state won’t help us learn.  We don’t know what the level of risk is to us, you, and the land, and the state agencies don’t appear to care”.

These do not feel like acceptable answers. We can and should do better.

It’s Not OK

Posted by on May 26, 2016 in Blog | Comments Off on It’s Not OK

It’s Not OK –
On the morning of May 17th four of us who were working in our Timber forests were apparently exposed to drift from an herbicide spray operation. We were each working in different parts of the forest and independently sensed the chemical – either through smelling and/or tasting. We soon became aware that we could hear a helicopter and confirmed that is was spraying herbicide on a recent clear cut a little over half a mile to the north. The land is owned by Stimson Lumber Company and Wilbur-Ellis was the contractor doing the spraying. Given that a significant north wind was blowing from the helicopter to us, it appears that we were exposed to drift.
Though we expect to learn more in the coming weeks and months, here is what we know:
1. Stimson, Oregon Department of Forest and Department of Agriculture staff have been responsive and communicative; for that we are appreciative.
2. We’re fortunate to live in a country and state which have laws related to herbicide spraying and systems for responding when there are problems.
3. Though we know that we were exposed, we do not yet fully know what chemicals were used and what the consequences might be, to us and the forest.
4. Oregon Department of Agriculture staff have started an investigation, collected vegetation samples and submitted them for analysis. Results are expected in about a week.
5. We and ODA do not fully know all of the chemicals that were sprayed. They included Sulflometuron, Clopyralid, and In-Place. We have requested information on the ingredients in In-Place from Wilbur-Ellis but they have not yet responded.

6. We have requested complete information from Wilbur-Ellis but they have not yet responded.
7. The ODA’s investigation could take as little as a few months or as long as a year.
8. We have a right not to be exposed to chemical spray drifting into our forest.
9. We have a right to not have either guests we invite to the forest or the forest itself exposed to chemical drift. (note – a week prior to the incident we hosted 40 second grade scientists in the forest and this weekend we’ll welcome 250 guests for a family wedding, so risks to guests are on our mind).
10. Government has a responsibility to acknowledge and protect these rights.
11. It doesn’t make sense to draw any conclusions until we learn from the results of the investigation.

What happened is not OK with us. In the coming weeks and months we will learn whether it is OK with the State of Oregon, Stimson Lumber Co., and Wilbur-Ellis.

Postscript – Oregon Public Broadcasting has provided the following coverage:

I Caught Hell – And Deserved It

Posted by on Apr 5, 2016 in Blog | Comments Off on I Caught Hell – And Deserved It


I thought they’d be pleased to see me, but they weren’t. Hands on their hips, they gave me a steely, stern look as I puttered up on my four wheeler “iron pony”. As soon as I shut down the engine, they accusatively asked “you didn’t drive down the road did you?”.  The four of them were mid way through completing our annual round of amphibian surveys in Mt. Richmond Forest.  After an early morning rendezvous with a logger, I was doing my best to find and catch up with them.  The cause of the upset was that I had just driven through puddles in the road that, unknown to me, were home to remarkable copepods, and larval Long toed salamanders and Pacific tree frogs.

Being the human that I am, my first instinct was to be defensive, thinking to myself “since when did driving along a forest road become a crime?”. I kept my thoughts to myself – mostly.  Given some time to reflect, I now see that the difference in our perceptions highlights the type of cause and effect consequences that are at the heart of our forest restoration experiment.  Consider how these observations link from one to another:

“Our endless and proper work is to pay attention” – Mary Oliver

Working within the structure of our monitoring program, the close attention paid by my companions caused them to discover reproducing organisms that could so easily be overlooked.

“We make places wonderful by giving them attention” – David Haskkell

Their discovery, layered in with thousands of similar, unexpected discoveries, continue to make what could be considered an otherwise unremarkable 750 acre forest into a remarkably interwoven web of life.

“It all turns on affection” – Wendell Berry

Working outward from one copepod in the puddle in the road, attention led to wonder, led to affection which, in turn, serves as the motive force for choosing to know, value, and care for and restore land. Way leads on to way.

“To cherish the remains of the earth and to foster its renewal is our only legitimate hope of survival.”   – Wendell Berry

I may be making too much of it, but the gulf of misunderstanding that stood between my four friends and me that morning – with them the noticers and me the unaware killer – perhaps, in micro form, represents a larger gulf in our species, that we must learn to bridge.

If the current circumstances call on our species to do some rapid evolution if we hope to survive – and I believe they do – there are evolutionary lessons to be learned from this morning encounter. Attention >wonder > affection > restoration.  As I carefully puttered my way back across the forest, with tail between legs and avoiding all of the wet spots this time, it occurred to me that, when done right, perhaps the forest is restoring us as much, or more, than we are restoring it.



New Food for Thought

Posted by on Mar 10, 2016 in Blog | Comments Off on New Food for Thought


Our forests produce many things that we find of interest and value.  This includes thoughts and ideas.  Over time, some have proven useful while others have rightly wandered off into oblivion.

I, Peter, write and share the essays shared in our “Food for Thought” section, not because I feel that I have any wisdom or insight, but because I hope that they might stimulate constructive discussion and reflection.

For those inclined to explore, we want to let you know that three new essays have been added to the collection:

  1. Answering the Call
  2. The Tipping Point
  3. Not Buying It

If you read them and feel like offering critique and comment, please send it to, and know that it will be appreciated.

Hyla Woods on Social Media

Posted by on Mar 9, 2016 in Blog, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Hyla Woods on Social Media

Believe it or not, Hyla Woods has entered the 21st century! Follow us on our new Instagram page where we post all kinds of pictures that will make you wish you were a logger!

Full Use of Good Cedar – A Family Story

Posted by on Feb 13, 2016 in Blog | Comments Off on Full Use of Good Cedar – A Family Story

This past year, Peter, Caroline, and Lizzie put their heads together to consider what might be a good birthday gift for their father.  Recognizing the skill and enthusiasm he brings to wood working, they asked themselves “why not get him some special lumber from our buddies out at Hyla Woods?”.  The transaction was made, Paul was thrilled, and some months went by.  On Christmas morning Paul returned their generosity by presenting each of his children with their own special box – made from the cedar they gave to him.  Back atcha!


Here are comments from Paul:

“I was really excited on my birthday when my children gave me the three long 3” thick boards of beautiful clear cedar from Hyla Woods and immediately started to sketch different pieces I could make with this ancient and distinct wood.  I came to a long narrow table design using boards that are 2” thick and which include dovetail joints.  I had never done dovetail joints.  So after running the boards through the band saw and thickness planner I had 2 inch boards and ½ inch thick boards as remainder with which I figured to practice some dovetails.  First I read the articles and looked at videos and then completed a few test joints and different dovetail combinations between tails and pins.  Then I came upon the idea of making 4 boxes as a gifts to my family the cedar boards that were given to me.  I learned how to do dovetails, thirty two of them!  And I learned how to be patient and get creative to fill in gaps and nicks caused in the  dovetail making with a soft long grain wood like cedar.  The boxes make turned out pretty well, especially when fully sanded and oiled revealing the beauty of the cedar wood.”

By coincidence, wood from the same large cedar that died of old age was already in the family home – in the form of cedar paneling behind the bed in the master bedroom.


Comments from Jinx, the mother/wife in this adventure:

“A house remodel opens up the opportunity to bring personal meaning and creativity into a space.  As we made decisions, and kept to a budget, we realized we couldn’t afford to fill our entire house with beautiful wood and other materials as we may have desired, but we could find small places to highlight some of these materials.  We also wanted to draw on products being created and sold by people we knew from across the years.

 Enter Hyla Woods.  Our family has known the Hayes family for generations and are generally astounded at their ability to constantly inform the rest of us about how to stay connected to the earth, to move and live in it, and to foster responsible growth for future generations.  We hoped to find a place to put some of the Hyla Woods product in the house and Peter and Pam suggested maybe a door or a counter top. We visited the Hyla Woods forest to see what wood was available and fell in love with a particular batch of cedar. In working with our builder, we decided a whole wall in the bedroom we would lovely, filling the room with warmth. “

But there is more to this story.  How will that table that Paul is making from the remainder of the gifted wood come out?  Stay tuned!



Who Knows….

Posted by on Feb 12, 2016 in Blog | Comments Off on Who Knows….

Who knows where the wood goes?

In the busy business of caring for the forests, and milling, drying, and selling the wood that they provide, it is all too easy to lose track of where the wood ends up.

This week we had a welcome inquiry from our friend and customer, Charles Freeborn.  After discovering that the ash that he’s looking for won’t be milled and dried in time for his current project, I asked whether he might have any photos of what he made from the ash and maple that he got from us some time back.  Here’s what he sent.  Congratulations and thank you Charles!  It is an honor to work with you.

Learn more about Charles and his beautiful creations at: