Type of Event: Study Tour
Topic: Forest Practices in Eastern Oregon
Organizations: Merlo Corporation, Oregon Department of Forestry, Oregon State University, Boise Cascade
Location: La Grande, Oregon
Hosts: Rex Christiansen / MC Ranch Manager, Jana Peterson / ODF Stewardship Forester, Francisca Belart / OSU Extension Harvesting Specialist, Tony McKague / Boise Cascade Log Buyer, Kaden Titus / Boise Cascade Log Buyer
International Fellows: Jeen Bunnik (Netherlands), Meei-ru Jeng (Taiwan), Xuejiao Li (China), Thammarat Mettanurak (Thailand), Tuan Manh Phan (Vietnam)
WFI Staff: Rick Zenn / Senior Fellow, Vivian Bui / Professional Programs Coordinator
|(Left to right) Front: Xuejiao Li, Cathy Christiansen, Vivian Bui, Meei-ru Jeng, Rex Christiansen|
Back: Kyle Porter, Thammarat Mettanurak, Heather Hoeft, Jeen Bunnik, Tuan Phan
The World Forest Institute International (WFI) Fellows have recently returned from an action-packed, five-day adventure at the Merlo Corporation (MC) Ranch located just southwest of La Grande in northeast Oregon. Each year, WFI Fellows are invited to MC Ranch to learn about forestry issues and practices on the "dry side" of the state (i.e. east of the Cascade Range). Rex Christiansen (MC ranch manager) and his family, staff, and associates welcomed us with open arms and made us feel at home during our stay. Read below for a summary of our grand ol' time in La Grande:
Rex Christiansen grew up on a ranch in Pilot Rock, south of Pendleton. Out of eight siblings, he is the only one working in the timber industry. He has been a ranch manager for over 30 years and during his first year working at MC Ranch, Harry A. Merlo (the ranch's late owner) turned over timber management to him. Rex is a firm believer in the "school of hard knocks" or "learning by doing." As he says, "I don't manage land, I manage resources. Managing for resources helps to avoid issues down the road."
|At the log deck|
Improvements in forestry practice are continuously made at MC Ranch. For example, seedling survival was low (~30%) one year. It was a WFI Fellow who discovered that the seedlings had been poorly planted, with seedling roots having been cut too short or planted too shallowly. This discovery was taken into account the following year, resulting in a 90% seedling survival rate. Another highly successful improvement on the ranch has been the purchase of a mulcher to process brush piles and to grind up post-harvest stumps. The resulting mulch reduces soil erosion and the spreading of weeds and increases soil moisture retention and nutrient content, thereby reducing the need for herbicides and eliminating the need for fertilizer. MC Ranch was the first ranch in Oregon to own this type of equipment.
|Enjoying Anthony Lakes|
Over the week, we also had the opportunity to speak to professionals from Boise Cascade, Oregon Department of Forestry, and Oregon State University Extension. Each of them shared some of their expertise with us:
|Things are getting a little toasty!|
Stewardship foresters from the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) provide general technical assistance to landowners to ensure that they are following the Oregon Forest Practices Act. The department provides cost-share programs to assist landowners in reducing the fuel load on their properties, an increasingly important endeavor as housing development continues upslope towards the Elkhorn mountains. In this region, ODF is engaged with the U.S. Forest Service and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in a cooperative effort known as the East Face of Elkhorns Project, whereby the three agencies work together to enact a Cohesive Wildfire Strategy that will make communities fire-resistant across private and public lands. Over two and a half years, the project has successfully applied the Cohesive Wildfire Strategy across 5,600 acres, with 900 acres remaining.
The overall purpose of the Oregon State University (OSU) Extension Service is to educate the public, mainly small woodland owners, on forest practices through outreach efforts, including various workshops and courses. The goal is to make forest practice policies easy for landowners to understand. Through OSU Extension, private landowners can receive expert advise on topics such as harvesting, road management, and watershed management.
|Final evening in the cabin|
On the last day of our stay, Rex left us with some parting lessons that he's learned over the years. "Live life. Respect the land. Respect people. The world is smaller than we think."