November December, 2004
 

 

 

 

TAKING A STAND

Pro-active Logging Earns Lone Rock SW Oregon 2003 Operator of the Year Award

by Bob Bruce

Lone Rock Timber received 2003 Operator of the Year Award for the their work managing the Cooper Creek watershed and educating the community about importance of aggressively managing sensitive areas sustainability.

All together, Lone Rock Timber owns and manages 115,000 acres of timber in Southern Oregon. One particular parcel, the Wahl Tract Tree Farm consisting of 1336 acres of second-growth forest outside of Sutherlin, Ore., was recently scheduled for harvest operations. The only hitch was that 785 of those acres are within the 2905-acre Cooper Creek watershed, which feeds Cooper Creek Reservoir, and although the reservoir was built in 1971 primarily for flood control, it is also used for recreation and as a secondary water source for the city of Sutherlin. While the watershed impact issue alone pressed a lot of buttons for many local citizens, what really got the doomsayers cranked up was that perhaps 100 acres of the proposed logging area sat right in the sightshed of residents and recreationalists. Suddenly Lone Rock was impacting not only the environment, but also the quality of life and perhaps (according to a group of protestors) even the physical safety of the citizens of Sutherlin. It was the kind of situation that could easily have turned ugly and litigious. That it did not is a tribute to the operating philosophy and vision of the Sohn family, and to their staff of dedicated loggers and foresters led by Logging Administrator and Project Coordinator Bud Long.

Careful Steps
Lone Rock Timber had acquired the Wahl Tract in two separate transactions, with an 800-acre purchase in 1980 followed by a 536-acre purchase in 1994. There had been no activity on the land since it had been last logged over shortly after WWII. "It was all merchantable timber and when it came up on our logging plan the question was, How are we going to log this? It is a major valuable piece of property which we had made huge investments in, carrying it for over 20 years, and it's in a very sensitive area," said Long. Being able to remove the resource from the land was clearly a right belonging to Lone Rock Timber, but because of its location and due to changing restrictions within the logging industry, it had to be done properly or Lone Rock might lose its license to harvest. That would not have been acceptable.

Specific Answers
With the full support of the Sohn family, and company president Rick Sohn in particular, Long drafted a very conservative plan that called for harvesting the 1300+ acres over a 40-year period, in five approximately equal-acreage harvests spaced eight years apart. To minimize environmental impact and mitigate neighbor discomfort, each 8-year harvest of approximately 125 acres would be broken down into smaller 25-acre (on average) sites scattered over the entire tract. And that was just the beginning. To further address concerns by immediate neighbors and area residents, Long mapped out a comprehensive (and costly) set of procedures covering not just the logging process, but pre- and post-logging activities as well. For example, rather than plow access roads as needed, they went into the area a year before logging operations were to begin to cut roadways.

They used existing roads when possible, routed along ridge tops where possible, minimized side slopes, seeded and mulched the cutbank, installed extra culverts, and left vegetation buffers along smaller streams. In almost every instance, Lone Rock went considerably beyond the requirements of the Forest Practices Act. The work was completed a full year before logging was planned. They let the roadbeds settle for a year, and then returned for surfacing. "In wet areas we put down filter cloth, and then we surfaced it all with 12 inches of high quality rock that we had tested ahead of time so we didn't get any slurries or dust problems," said Long.

A year before harvest roads were cut away and existing roads used where possible. Road were allowed to settle a year before surfacing.

Preparing the People
In addition to the physical preparation of the job site, Long and his team also invested heavily in what you might call psychological preparation of the public, business leaders, and elected officials of Sutherlin, Roseburg, and Douglas County. Among other activities, they made detailed presentations to the Sutherlin Water Control District Board, the Sutherlin City Council, Douglas County Parks Department, both the Sutherlin and Roseburg Rotary clubs, and at an Open Town Hall Meeting for the public. Lone Rock also held on-the-ground tours for interested City Council and Water Board members. They had a neighborhood open house for citizens living within the viewshed of the cut, as well as a series of knock on the door, face-to-face meetings with homeowners adjacent to the tree farm.

Long admitted that all that personal contact took a tremendous amount of time and effort, but it is something that Lone Rock is used to. "We have 115,000 acres, but our average parcel size is 200 acres, so we have a lot of neighbors, and a lot of experience working with neighbors." It was also important to Long that things were done properly in the Wahl Tract, especially because the neighbors in question were his neighbors, quite literally. "I live right up there. I drink the water. I'm in the view shed. I'm part of that community.

And since I was the head of the project and the one who took it to the community, it was important for me to be able to get up at those meetings and say we were going to do these things and then after they gave us the go-ahead, to know that we would be able to do it right." They even constructed and installed an interpretive sign in the Cooper Creek Reservoir picnic area to explain to visitors what was going on, what they were looking at, how the harvest would take place, and what the overall timeline was for the Wahl Tract harvest. Interestingly, the interpretive sign was one thing that really angered one of the environmental protest groups rather than viewing it as a public service, they felt that it advocated clearcutting and petitioned to have it removed. They lost.

Crews cut stems to fall away from the draws and a slackline yarder was used to provide suspension across the draws to reduce soil disturbance.

Using Negative Reactions to Educate
"We tried to be real upfront and honest with the community and way out ahead of what we were doing," said Long. "It was such a conservative plan, and such a costly plan, that I really thought the local environmental community would come out and support it. But they decided not to." Instead, the local press hammered them, questioning the proposed harvest. Activists called the city offices to complain, or to see if the process could be halted.

"For almost a year and a half we had several front page articles, but what was neat was that if they hadn't come after us and tried to make it a big deal, we wouldn't have had the opportunity to show what we were doing. All the attention is what made it newsworthy." That might not sound like your typical logger the one who would rather stay away from controversy and angry environmentalists. But according to Long, "It became a real opportunity to show how you could practice forestry in sensitive areas. You don't have to walk away from resources." Long went to every meeting and calmly presented Lone Rock's plan. He answered objections. He used facts instead of opinions. And he didn't back down. "If we would have compromised, it would have sent the message to the community that we weren't very confident in our original plan."

Success in Every Way The harvest went forward as planned. Lone Rock began with the most visible, most sensitive, most contentious section 26 acres right next to the shoreline of the reservoir, directly across from the boat landing. There had been some concern that because of all the controversy someone might try to sabotage the machinery or chain themselves to a tree, so Lone Rock hired a full-time watchman to patrol the property. Cutting began in October without incident and continued smoothly until all logging in the first six units, totaling 150 acres, was completed the following April. During the cutting, Lone Rock crews cut the stems so they directionally fell away from the draws.

A number of larger trees were left standing both for habitat and to provide visual softness. The edges of the cut were feathered also to soften the look. A slackline yarder with a skycar system was used to provide full suspension across the draws to reduce soil disturbance. Trees were cut no closer than 250 feet from the water's edge, with the average distance being 498 feet. At Lone Rock's request, the Sutherlin Public Utilities Department selected five reservoir sampling sites below the logging areas to perform a baseline water turbidity test. The department then followed with weekly testing from October through April 2003, monitoring turbidity in both dry weather and in periods of heavy rain.

When it was over, the department superintendent wrote a letter to Lone Rock stating the measurements, saying that "At no time did crews observe any indication of runoff or erosion problems which could be attributed to the logging operation." Almost a month to the day after the last log truck pulled down from the mountain, the local paper ran another front page article. This time the headline was "Harvest of Success." Lone Rock Logging had done what it said it would do, and it worked. "We see a benefit for the entire industry on this project," said Long. "I think it's going to show people how you can aggressively manage in sensitive areas sustainably. You don't have to walk away from resources. Now that we're past this first harvest, I anticipate no problem at all when we log again in 2010. We've introduced harvest to the public. They've seen what we're able to do."

TW

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This page was last updated on Tuesday, December 28, 2004