County Commission tours forestry stewardship

Proposed legislation by Rep. Greg Walden prompts review in HR County


County officials will address the issue of illegal forest activities, such as construction of these bike ramps, at next Monday’s meeting. Last week Assistant Forester Brent Gleason, right, showed Dave Meriwether, county administrator, and Commissioner Carol York some of the damage done to trees by unknown recreationalists.

The threat of wildfire looms large in every forest during hot and dry weather — but Hood River County has taken steps to lessen the potential damage to its timber.

Last week, while fire raged at Cascade Locks, the County Commission went on its third and final field trip to woodland properties under the management of Forester Ken Galloway. During the past month, the officials have visited the 31,000 acres within the county and about 18,000 purchased last year in Eastern Oregon.

These tours were sparked by the growing debate over the Healthy Forest Initiative that is being championed by U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, who makes his home in Hood River, and President George W. Bush. Arguments are currently waging over the potential dangers versus ecosystem benefits of leaving dense underbrush and downed trees in the National Forest system. After hearing both sides, the local elected officials decided to learn more about the issue. They wanted to see how the long-term management of county forests, which includes an active thinning and salvage program, was working.

Galloway, who has been with the county for almost 29 years, is charged with keeping the timbered properties healthy and productive so they continue to generate an annual revenue of about $4 million. The top forestry official was pleased to show off 10 years of new management practices that he believes has provided better protection for the trees. He has instigated the following three key methods for keeping forest zones healthy and productive:

Thinning dense stands of timber and removing bug-infested or unhealthy trees to prevent the buildup of a fuel load and maximize the use of soil nutrients.

Development of a pond system in cooperation with Longview Fibre Company to provide firefighters with easier access to water sources.

Utilizing county gravel pits to begin rocking the 214 miles of primary forest roads for passage by emergency vehicles — while eliminating secondary roads to discourage motorized public access into wooded areas.

“About 10 years ago, we suspected that we were vulnerable to fire because we had too many trees per acre. Our hope now is that if a fire started, it would stay on the ground and be easier to control,” Galloway said.

He said select snags and downed timber are left on the forest floor to provide necessary wildlife habitat. But trees that are earmarked for future harvests are carefully tended to maximize their potential. According to Galloway, between one and two thinnings are done in the forest before a major cut takes place, between 85-95 years in the eastern sector of the state and 65-75 within the county.

He said the size of marketable trees ranges by area but the maximum girth that can be run through most saw mills is 28 inches. On one of their visits, the Commissioners were provided the opportunity to watch loggers in action, witnessing the difficulty of handfalling a tree that had intertwined its branches with a neighboring species. In addition, they viewed Galloway’s experimental plantings of Sequoia Redwoods and heard his plans for possibly recycling scrap wood from a logging operation into wood pellets or another commercial use.

Commissioner Carol York, who also sits on the county forest advisory committee, said the officials were thoroughly impressed with the knowledge they gained on their excursions into the forest.

“Our main concern was the health of our forests, and it appears that our county forestry department is well managing a renewable resource,” York said.

In spite of his many responsibilities, Galloway maintains a good sense of humor that is evidenced by the names he and his six staffers have assigned to timber sales. In the southern sector of the county, acreage set to be logged is referred to as an animal species, with titles of properties around Fir Mountain listed as a male name. On the west side of Hood River the marketable timber is called some type of plant and on Middle Mountain it is specified as a piece of logging equipment. Galloway said the underlying reason for the creative names — which have included Vermilion, Skunk and Rhubarb — is that even if people are having difficulty pinpointing the exact geographic area of a sale they are immediately oriented toward the general vicinity.

“We have a lot of fun with this, everyone throws in suggestions,” he said.

Because recreational use of the forest is growing, Galloway is currently working on the final draft of an ordinance to protect natural resources. His proposal will be reviewed by the county board on Sept. 15 at 6 p.m. in the second floor conference room of the county courthouse.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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