Wednesday, August 26, 2015

MC Ranch

Date of Visit: June 22-26, 2015 
Type of event: Field trip
Organization: MC Ranch
Location: Eastern, Oregon
Hosts: Rex Christensen/ MC Ranch Forest Farm Manager
International Fellows: Sarita Lama (Nepal), Miguel Sanchez (Bolivia), Robert Mijol (Malaysia), Stuty Maskey (Nepal), Qingxin Liu (China)
WFI Staff: Shadia Duery / International Fellowship Manager, Rick Zenn / Senior Fellow, Dona Ye / Intern from China

Every year the fellows go on a 5 day learning adventure to MC Ranch in Eastern Oregon. The main goal of the trip is to learn how to manage natural resources in a dry ecosystem. Fellows learn by observing the practices done by an actual ranch manager (Mr. Rex Christensen).

Day 1
We began our adventure by driving from the western to the eastern side of the Oregon Cascade Mountains all the way to the Blue Mountains. MC Ranch is located on the outskirts of La Grand Oregon. A beautiful wood barn right next to a river lodged us during our stay.

Driving through The Gorge we got a taste of the bountiful cherry and peach production of this year.

Day 2
The second day we went for an all day hike. Before starting the hike we practiced our map reading skills by tracing the hike path on a topo map. On the hike we learned about the flora and fauna that inhabit this landscape. The dominant tree species are Ponderosa Pine, Douglas Fir, Red Fir, White Fir, and Western Larch. Ponderosa Pine can be infected with Western Dwarf Mistletoe (a parasitic plant). Stressed Ponderosa Pine is more prone to bark beetle attacks. Elk herds pasture this land.

Day 3
This day Jamie Night from the Oregon Department of Forestry came to MC Ranch to talk about the forest thinning practice as a forest fire prevention strategy. Then, Francisca Belart, a PhD Candidate from OSU, shared with us her thesis project on "reducing biomass moisture content in the field". Her work came as an need to find alternative uses to the piles of biomass left in the field after thinning. Francisca thesis is part of the NARA project, from forest biomass to jet fuel. At the end of the day everybody had a chance to cut a tree with a high tech machine (Takeuchi).

Day 4
This day we visited the Blue Mountains Western Larch Seed Orchard. We learned that seed orchard trees are made of a strong root stock and a high quality scion (growth of the last year) graft from a desired tree.

Later on we experienced the culture of Western Oregon, we rode horses and went fishing, followed by a delicious elk meat barbecue.
Day 5
Our last day, we had freshly caught fish for breakfast and then hit the road. A week with so much learning had the fellows reflecting for weeks.

Thanks to Harry Merlo for hosting us, and to Rex, Kathy, and Kyle for being our hosts, and teachers during this great week.

International Fellow's Reflections:

Sarita Lama from Nepal - Project / Understanding Forest Management Practices in the Pacific NW
Rex Christensen, Resources Manager at MC Ranch, says, ‘forest management is the overall management of resources’. According to him, it is not just the act of producing timber, but also includes biomass production, pastureland management, watershed or riparian management for clean water and fish habitat, wildlife conservation and for the recreational use.

MC Ranch represents a successful resource management example of a large private landowner in Eastern Oregon. I learned that to manage a piece of land you have to give your best, be courageous, and respectful of Mother Nature. Those are lessons I can apply to my personal and professional life.

Stuty Maskey from Nepal - Project / Use of Collaborative Governance to Manage Natural Resources
This trip was phenomenal in so many ways. But perhaps the most striking was meeting personalities who were so passionate about what they did and so willing to share their knowledge.

I came back more convinced than ever about the importance of making ‘economic-sense’ of initiatives. After all, even conservation needs to pay for itself if it’s a long-run activity. No wonder, incentives for conservation such as ‘payment for ecosystem services’ are being widely discussed and studied.

This trip illuminated the need to view resource management in a big-picture rather than for specific purpose such as tree-farming or hunting reserve. This encompasses a wide array of resources that needs to be managed including watershed, wildlife, forest, fire, pests, and people among many other

I felt a subtle emphasis by both private land-manager and state forester on the need for ‘trust building’ among actors to meet long-term resource management goals. The key is to find a common goal and ways for a win-win situation for partners. Some tools are transparency, information sharing, dialogue, understanding concerns of all actors, willingness to invest time in building meaningful relations. The outcome may not always be the best technical prescription but it is the one that is acceptable and is owned by partners. This was evident in the 25 acres of MC Ranch adjacent to federal forest, managed with support from ODF under the cost-share program.
What a week - being able to physically cut a tree in 10 seconds with a tree-cutting monster machine, or learning how seeds are extracted from the cones or understanding latest scientific studies on moisture-content of biomass; these and many other knowledge and experience has transformed my outlook on resource management. The most important lesson is however, right at the start – be passionate about what you do!

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