Retiring forester remembers 'territorial bees'

The Hood River County Forestry Department honored Keith Zacha on Tuesday for 30 years of service.

Zacha, 52, retired this week for relocation to Sedalia, Mo., where his wife Amy’s family will help him settle in as a farmer and rancher. But first the Zachas, including daughter Nadia, 5, plan to enjoy a leisurely driving trip across the states to take advantage of the freedom from the company clock.

“We’re going to raise a garden, raise horses and just a little bit of everything,” said Zacha, who began his career with the county in 1972 as a forestry technician.

At that time he was working with two fellow employees, a number that has risen to seven during his tenure to meet the growing work schedule and regulatory conditions imposed by the Forest Practices Act.

“I think the way Ken Galloway has set the direction for management of the county forests has been really good because he is maximizing both growth and revenue,” said Zacha, who has acted as a timber cruiser to survey forest parcels and set the value and costs for logging operations. He has also served on fire crews and helped inventory the county’s woodland holdings.

Over the three-decade span of his career, Zacha said timber harvest has changed dramatically, from a downsizing of equipment to more selective logging and greater protection of riparian areas. The methodology for his job has also become more efficient. Hand-held computers have replaced the paper, pencil and slide rules that were once used to determine timber volumes. Now a central computer generates an assortment of reports and maps to pinpoint acreage.

Although working with natural resources has always appealed to the Hood River native, he admits that being in the great outdoors has been physically challenging at times.

“I remember the time a swarm of territorial bees was chasing me through the woods,” said Zacha. “There have been a lot of interesting challenges with this job and I was lucky to work with such a great bunch of guys.”

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