Opinion & Editorial, Outdoors

Caring for woodlands had steep learning curve

In 2019, my wife and I took retirement money to purchase 39 acres of F2 woodland in Vida.  Kate was relishing a return to the PNW; I was both eagerly and anxiously anticipating our  departure from my native California. To say we were unprepared to care for a woodland  property would be an understatement. Our decades of camping, hiking, and backpacking may  have both reflected and deepened our love of wilderness, but they did not naturally contribute  to an understanding of forests and forest stewardship. 

Fortunately, Oregon has no shortage of resources for woodland owners. OSU Extension, OFRI,  Oregon Small Woodland Association and Oregon Tree Farm System, ODF, Oregon Women In  Timber, Women Owning Woodlands Network, consulting foresters, kind individuals: all these  and more made possible the climb up our steep learning curve to begin to become responsible  woodland owners using science-based information to employ best practices to care for our  healthy woodland.  

Learning about our woodland, about the Forest Practices Act, about juggling multiple  objectives for one small woodland, about best practices for achieving desired outcomes — all of these with the goal of a healthy forest — brought us face-to-face with our assumptions, some of which we didn’t even know we held.  

And while we didn’t know much, wow, did we have assumptions! 

We were surprised to learn that harvested forestland must be replanted within two years of  harvest, with free-to-grow trees within six years. Our surprise revealed our assumption that  timber companies operated on a cut-and-run basis. And conflicted with what we’d been told at  a book event that “private woodland owners have virtually no rules to follow.” 

We were surprised to learn that forests of every age class have benefits to wildlife and plant  species and that young forests may have the highest biodiversity of the different age classes.  Our surprise revealed our assumption that old growth, as the “best” forest type, should be the  goal for all forest stands. 

We were surprised to learn that many woodland owners plan for timber production to pay the  costs for ongoing forest care. Our surprise revealed our assumption that either you loved your  woods and left them alone or you were in it just for the money. 

We were surprised to learn that many people in forestry and the timber industry — entities which  we, as backpacking environmentalists, were prepared to see as enemies of wild lands — knew the woods and other wild places far more intimately, with a greater understanding of what was going on in them, than we did, even with our backpacking bona fides. Our surprise revealed our assumption that environmentalists love the land while people with working lands just use and exploit the land. 

We were surprised to learn the ramifications of harvesting trees on the forest — and also the cascading ecological and economic effects of not harvesting. Our surprise revealed our assumption that understanding forestry and forest management was simple and  straightforward. 

In retrospect, I’m more than a little embarrassed by some of these assumptions. And we’ve  been lucky: Knowing how little we knew about caring for a woodland made it a bit easier to  confront those assumptions. Yes, it was deeply uncomfortable, even destabilizing at first. But  discovering the above resources and getting to know other people who care for Oregon’s  woodlands has given us a warm, welcoming, and instructive community as we try to become 

forest-literate Oregonians. This community of people whose knowledge and experience we can  never match will help us continue to confront assumptions as we struggle with post-fire  reforestation in a changing climate. We are extremely fortunate to have such a wealth of  knowledge and experience to learn from as we work to heal our now-burned land. 

Theresa Hausser, with her wife, Kate, owns and manages 39 acres of burned woodland in  the footprint of the 2020 Holiday Farm Fire.



View this profile on Instagram


The Chronicle (@thechronicle1909) • Instagram photos and videos