By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington, & Yamhill Counties

This must be the end of the road...
This must be the end of the road…

One of the first orders of business on the Matteson Demonstration Forest is getting to know the lay of the land.  180 acres is a lot to get to know!  As is the case with any new woodland owner, we need a map to help orient ourselves while on the property, and to keep track of where different roads and trails lead.

Eventually, the OSU College Forests staff will create a GIS map of the Matteson Forest with various spatial layers – property boundaries, roads, forest types, culverts, and so forth.  In the meantime, I’ve been using Google Earth to create my own map, adding information as I continue to explore the tract.  While in the woods, I’ve been using a GPS app on my smartphone to keep track of where I am and to record points and paths. In this article I’ll describe how I’ve been using these two applications, which I think would be useful to most woodland owners who don’t have GIS at their fingertips. Continue reading

Lately I’ve been immersed in the subject of forest management planning. From developing a website that helps landowners navigate the process of creating a forest management plan; to collaborating on a revised set of management planning guidelines for Oregon; to teaching Mentored Management Planning workshops; this has been a major theme of my work over the past year.

So I was interested to come across a recent article about management planning in the Oregonian. The article described the management plan that is in place for the city of Forest Grove’s 4,200 acre forested watershed, and the positive impacts that having the plan has had on the land. Though this forest is much bigger than those that most small woodland owners manage, the article demonstrated many of the same principles of forest management planning that I use in my courses.

Management planning starts with identifying goals for the site. The number one goal in the case of Forest Grove’s watershed is, not surprisingly, protecting drinking water quality. Biodiversity and sustainable timber management are secondary goals. These goals drive all of the actions called for in the plan – such as road rehabilitation, erosion control, and carefully planned timber harvests.

Forest management planning has evolved over time. In the 1970’s and ’80’s, most forest management plans were concise timber management plans – laying out succinct timelines for planting, weed control, thinning and clearcut harvest to optimize wood production.  Nowadays we take a much more holistic approach. Today’s plans consider all the different resources on a given piece of land – timber, of course; but also recreational resources, streams, fish and wildlife, roads, aesthetics, soils, and much more. We recognize that most landowners value many other aspects of their property as least as much as the timber resource. Well-constructed plans reflect the suite of values of the landowner and place emphasis on them appropriately.

The other important management planning principle that I took note of in the article was the fact that the plan is being updated, ten years after it was originally written. It is a good idea to revisit one’s plan after a time, both to check that the goals are still relevant and to recognize the progress that has been made towards achieving them.

The annual OSU Extension/Columbia County Small Woodlands Association summer tour is coming up. This year’s tour happens on Saturday, July 28th at Rod Nastrom’s place in Warren and the program for the day is “Woodland Roads: Best Management Practices”. Two of my Forestry Extension colleagues, Paul Adams and Steve Bowers, will be joining us as instructors for the program. Paul Adams is our Extension Watershed Management Specialist and he has had a long history of working on issues related to forest roads and streams. Steve Bowers, better known to many as the “Treeman”, is our Extension Agent in Douglas County and he brings to this topic his own practical experience as a logger and woodland owner. The two of them will no doubt have plenty of valuable insight to share.

(And, here’s a link to a newly revised Extension publication on the subject of road design for small woodland properties.)

On the tour, we will look at a variety of road designs, surface types, stream crossings, and slopes, and talk about the pros and cons of each. Following the tour will be a picnic lunch graciously provided by CCSWA, and then a firewood processor demonstration in the afternoon. I hope to see many of you there. Click here for a flyer with all the details.

From the Oregon Department of Forestry:

An updated 24-page guide to help private forestland owners to improve fish habitat in their streams is now available in electronic form on the ODF web site.

The 2012 edition of the “Private Forest Landowners and the Oregon Plan” guide lists several voluntary measures that forest landowners can take, beyond the basic requirements in the Oregon Forest Practices Act, to accelerate improvements in stream health and promote conditions that can help potentially threatened and endangered fish species thrive.

Four categories of recommendations are offered: improvements within a stream, improvements on stream banks, upland improvements to ensure healthy watersheds, and improving forest road or stream crossings.

During the first decade of the Oregon Plan, Oregon’s private forest landowners have made $ 84 million in voluntary improvements to build better habitats for threatened and endangered fish species. Additional information about the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds is available here.

It’s nothing new for this time of year, but we sure have seen our share of precipitation lately. While we’ve likely seen the last of the snow (finally), more wet weather is in store. Good for planting trees, but maybe causing problems on your roads. Out in the field over the last several weeks, I’ve seen plenty of issues with roads. Here are some examples.

Example #1: A landowner has a steep, winding access road that leads from her house down to her pasture. Adjacent to the road, a culvert underneath a county road feeds into a small field. But heavy rain washed sediment and gravel off the county road and it collected in front of the culvert, diverting water from the field onto the landowners’ access road. Because the road had not been designed with water diversion features, severe erosion ensued. Lesson: Get the water off your road as soon as possible. Use ditches, waterbars, and cross drains to do so.

Example #2: The sidecast fill failed on an industrial haul road high up along a steep slope, sending a landslide that reached almost down to the fish-bearing stream that the landowner had been working hard to restore. In this case, the road was an old one that would have been designed differently under today’s standards, and if it were not for the need to access a harvestable unit in the near future, the landowner would have closed this road a while back.  Lesson: Old roads are often the worst. If you have an old road that is no longer needed, consider closing and restoring it.

Example #3: Busy beavers have created a pond directly upstream of a culvert on a landowner’s property. A timber company has a road easement to access their land in back of this property, and they dynamited the beaver dam in the past to protect the culvert and the road. But the beavers came back, and the pond is even bigger than before. Now the landowners are concerned that a big rain could cause the culvert to plug and the road to fail. Lesson: No easy solution here. Nature’s engineers are crafty. Re-engineering the stream crossing may be the long-term (but expensive) solution.

If any of these situations sound familiar, or if you have other road issues, check with the friendly folks at the NRCS and Soil and Water Conservation District office. They might have some technical and financial assistance to help you out and protect our watershed health at the same time.