Though we are not enthusiastic about heading down to Reno or Las Vegas to test our luck, recent experiences remind us that there is plenty of gambling to be done without ever leaving the comfort of ones own forest. Here’s a good, recent example.
Over the past five years, we’ve worked in partnership with Pacific University’s Restoration Ecology Program and the Tualatin Watershed Council to restore ecological function and native plant communities to the “Bear Pear” degraded wetland area in the Mt. Richmond Forest. The name comes from the nearby pear tree that our resident bears are partial to climbing for a fall snack.
To make a long story short, the restoration efforts have been broken into many chapters – some of which have led to good results (like getting rid of the overwhelming blackberries) while others have been less successful (like turning the tide on invasive reed canary grass).
The gambling analogy came to mind this past month as we finished off the work of planting 30 ash and 20 valley ponderosa pines and installed protective matts and mulch around their bases with the aim of helping them survive their competition with the aggressive grass. Not only was this action driven by faith that the investment would lead to rewards of the trees growing to adulthood – when they would shade out and kill the dreaded grass, but this planting was informed by the knowledge that we had done the same work a year earlier and lost all that we had gambled in the game. A year earlier, after laboring to find, buy, plant, and protect the batch of ash trees, we watched closely for the first signs of them leafing out and achieving their restoration mission. But no leaves appeared; the trees showed no signs of life. Communications with the nursery that provided them, turned up the cause – death by freezing prior to leaving the nursery.
In spite of our losses last year at the gambling table of restoration, we once again placed our bet of time, labor, and dollars on the same strategy and gave the same gamble a second try. It will soon be time for the ash to leaf out, and then we will know whether lady luck has changed last year’s frown to a smile. If they do, we’ll move on to the next puzzle of trying to find a way to keep the elk from eating them.
For now, the bet has been placed (again!) and the roulette wheel is still spinning, and we will relax with hopeful images of someday enjoying a cold beer in the welcome shade of a thriving ash grove. Stay tuned!