Saturday, July 21, 2007

Life Is A Bowl Of Cherries

I spent two days this week at an experimental forest on the Deschutes River in central Oregon. The buildings at the compound were built by the WPA in the mid 1930s. It's in a park-like setting of old growth Pondersosa Pine. Life is a bowl of cherries.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Smell of an Eastern Summer

It's rained for the last two days in Western Oregon--very unusual for this time of year. I walked outside tonight and the smell of an eastern summer in Pennsylvania or Ohio overcame me. I spent a few summers working on my Aunt Ellen's and Uncle Mike's dairy farm and the smell tonite took me back to summer evenings walking through hay fields hunting for groundhogs, although Mike was never too serious about hunting anything--he was relaxing after a day of pre-industrial farming.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The World from Mary's Peak

Nancy and I took a ride up the Mary's Peak road looking for good spots to take people on a field tour to discuss climate change and land use change and the impacts on forests, water and fish. Mary's Peak is a great place to look out over the Coast Range and the Willamette Valley. It's the highest point in the Coast Range and on a clear day you can see the Pacific Ocean and 9 volcanoes. You can also see the landscape pattern of forestry past and present and people moving to the margins of the forests. These days the "startling forestry" is done by private landowners and industry, not on federally-managed lands. There are few, if any, "regeneration harvests"--clearcuts--on Forest Service or BLM managed lands. The wildland-urban interface--Wooie, as in WUI, we call it in the biz--is changing the nature of the west. People live close to the woods and, around here, there are infrequent, but very large fires, the sort that go out when it snows. It sure should make people who live there think about fire and what it might be like in a future climate.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Alaska from Above

Here a a few views of Alaska from a different perspective. On a recent trip I had a chance to look at the forest around Juneau from a helicopter. I'm not fond of them--a pilot once told me "There are only two kinds of helicopters: those that have crashed and those that are going to." Ours didn't or, should I say, hasn't yet. We flew over an area under consideration for a new experimental forest. It's quite beautiful and spans glacier to sea in a very short distance. I have to say, it's a great way to see Southeast. The last shot is Juneau set up against the mountains.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Fire is Fire

I recently visited a site in central Oregon where prescribed fire had been used last fall to reduce the amount of fuel and to reintroduce fire into a stand after 100 years or so of exclusion. There was a lot of fuel in the stand and the fire folks did a great, but it did get pretty hot.

It's interesting to me to walk around a burned stand, particularly with all the controversy in the western US about what to do after a fire. The forest that used to be there is changed. It's beautiful in its own way--snags standing and creaking as the wind blows them. Charred logs, scorched trunks and crowns, just shadows of burned logs on the ground--like the shadows of people at Hiroshima that I've seen in pictures. Fire is fire.

New things are growing. Seedlings, mosses, lichens, all sorts of bugs. The land isn't barren. Life isn't gone. It wasn't a catastrophe. No one died. Who knows what will be here 10 or 35 or 100 or 1000 years from now. Another fire? Insect infestation? Invading plant species? Off road recreation? Housing development? There are new roads not taken every day for this forest.

That's where I come down on it.