Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Season For Trees

By Brian Kelly Restoration Coordinator

Brian and a bristlecone pine, one of the world's oldest trees.
Photo by April Curtis

The month of April brings thoughts of spring, the passing of winter, and the warm summer months to come. Earth Day, Arbor Day, and Oregon's Arbor Week all arrive in April, and it's a great time to reflect about trees and how essential they are to this planet that we all share.

I'm not going to write about the many gifts that trees provide to the earth. Let me just suggest that life as we know it on this planet would not exist without trees. Since April seems to be the month that our thoughts are most likely to drift toward a sense of appreciation for trees, let me propose that you take a moment to reflect with gratitude for our arboreal benefactors.

It's easy. Just follow these three simple steps:
  1. Close your eyes.
  2. Take a deep breath and then exhale slowly.
  3. Picture a tree in your mind (any tree will do) and think of the word "thanks".
There. That was easy, wasn't it? And maybe it even brought a smile to your face. It's just another one of those wonderful gifts that trees provide.

One of the world's youngest trees: a willow planted by HCPC volunteers sprouts to life as part of the restoration of Ladd Creek. Photo by Brian Kelly

Monday, April 18, 2011

Let's Protect ALL Remaining Old Growth for International Year of Forests

The United Nations has declared 2011 as the International Year of Forests. There is a very good video called “Forests” on the official website at http://www.un.org/en/events/iyof2011/videos.shtml.

The truth is forests worldwide need our help. The greatest remaining wilderness in North America, the boreal forest with all of its incredible wildlife diversity, is being logged to make junk mail and sales catalogues. The tropical forests such as the Amazon continue to be logged for agricultural expansion, often for cows to produce more meat for Americans. It’s never been more important for all of us to think about how our lifestyle impacts forests as they are showing multiple signs of stress, globally. Many of these negative impacts start with the consumption patterns in our everyday lives.

Old growth Ponderosa Pine (marked for cut) next to an ancient Douglas fir in the Sugar timber sale. A tree core revealed the age of this Ponderosa Pine to be approximately 170 years, and HCPC saved it from logging.

Due to logging and clearing, the temperate forests are the most fragmented, degraded, and reduced from their original extent of Earth’s major forest types. At the local level I do think that management has improved in the past couple of decades. However there are too many projects on our National Forests that continue to propose logging of old growth forests. Take the Snow Basin project that is now open for public comment where the preferred approach would log tens of thousands of old growth trees in the southern Wallowas. That this massive loss of old growth trees would have serious ecological consequences is unassailable.

Old Growth trees saved from chainsaws by HCPC more than a decade ago. Now the Forest Service has proposed to log the same trees again in the Snow Basin timber sale to "help the small seedlings." How many times do we have to save the same trees? Why doesn't the Forest Service respect the public's wishes by leaving old growth protected?

Old growth forests are rare, they are “lifeboats” for many old growth dependent species, they are an irreplaceable part of our cultural heritage, they store huge amounts of carbon, and they provide numerous valuable services to our society. Proposing logging in these areas is like asking an artist to paint over a Van Gogh; or tearing down the historic district of your quaint downtown for “redevelopment.” Some of these old growth forests are remnant stands within heavily logged areas. Yet they enrich the forest landscape by providing a unique forest structure, higher quality wildlife habitat, and often harbor more sensitive plant species. Let’s commemorate the International Year of Forests by protecting the essential, protecting our old growth forests.

By David Mildrexler, Ecosystem Conservation Coordinator for the Hells Canyon Preservation Council

Sunday, April 10, 2011


I live on the breaks of the Grande Ronde and Minam-Wallowa rivers, and also in the town of La Grande. This dual citizenship offers me a chance to observe the pageant of spring from the high breaks to the valley floor and all the distance in between.

I watch ospreys return to the nest along Willow Creek and Woodell Lane, listen to the liquid gold of meadowlarks and the sighing of huge Pondersoa pine, and see the first yellow avalanche lilies budding out at Pleasant Grove Grange (even as I still search for the first buttercups up on Cricket Flats). "Feral" (I can't in all honesty call them wild) turkeys are strutting around Larson's cow pasture with fanned tails. Quail scoot under the tangle of wild roses, and I hope to encourage a covey to take up residence in our town orchard. Already we have chickadees, juncos, finches, flickers, towhees, and more. At our orchard edge we build brush piles for the ground nesters and are rewarded by seeing them take up residence there.

It seems that wildlife don't need much encouragement; ospreys nest above a road on a pole platform , mallards and teal paddle around in roadside ditches, and the small antelope herd in the open mint and grass seed fields by Imbler has grown to over 20 individuals. It seems all we have to do is be willing to share.

This spring I'm looking forward to planting more native shrubs out at the Ladd Marsh restoration project. We can start to rebuild what has been lost; curving creek channels and riparian zones, threatened plants and nesting habitat. It is so much easier to destroy, through ignorance, through a lack of care, and so so so much harder to rebuild - especially when we are just now starting to understand what it is we have lost. Aldo Leopold wrote that the first rule of tinkering is to save all the pieces. We have not done that, and now must try to recover and reinstate as much as we can.

Last night I listened to a lecture televised on OPB discussing recent research on the absolute need to bring into our daily lives as much 'nature' as we can - from protecting the wildest places to restoring the wild places to recreating the pocket-sized wildish places in urban and suburban areas. This author spoke of nature-deficit as a dis-ease, and the problems it brings to children, families, society. He eloquently pleaded for us to consider ourselves as inextricably linked with, and not separate from, "nature".

We are so fortunate here in living in among so many wild places that I worry we take too much for granted. So much can disappear so quickly - especially when we are not taking care, as Leopold urged, to save all the pieces.

Please join with HCPC in protecting and restoring our wild places and wildlife.

- Danae