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Forest Management Update

Ed Hecker and John Moak preparing to fell a large pine
Ed Hecker and John Moak preparing to fell a large pine

Ed Hecker and John Moak preparing to fell a large pine

April 2012, by Scott Worden, Soper-Wheeler Forster

In any given year, Soper-Wheeler will manage our forests using a wide variety of treatments to prevent disease and invasive species from taking hold, thereby helping our trees to grow at a healthier rate.

Active management insures that our future harvests will be as productive as the current harvests, and we do this using many of the same techniques that homeowners and gardeners use in their own yards.

2011 was a big snow year, so start times for some of our projects were delayed until later in the year.

The first issue we had to address were gophers. We had quite a problem with gopher damage – the gophers not only damage seedlings, but they also can kill or damage eight to ten-year-old trees. It’s a sinking feeling to show up at a stand of trees that you’ve been tending for years, only to find that gophers have suddenly decimated all the hard work you’ve put in.

Gophers attack the roots and the base of the tree, eating the cambium layer. Cambium is the part of the bark that transports water and nutrients throughout the tree. When the cambium layer is girdled, the tree is no longer able to feed itself, and it dies.  Part of our integrated pest management program is treating for gophers.

As you gardeners know, it’s difficult to eradicate gophers, but one can control an overpopulation problem. Since laying gopher traps over hundreds of acres is not feasible, we do this by using a rodentcide approved by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) that doesn’t create a hazard for other animals or end up in the watershed. Crews place the bait inside active gopher tunnels, and over time when the rodent population comes back into balance, we see less destructive activity.

Kevin Noel skidding the recently felled tree

Kevin Noel skidding the recently felled tree

Noxious weed control is a big issue for us as well. If allowed to take over, this type of vegetation strangles a young forest and causes severe fire danger. Worse yet, many of these weeds actually benefit from being cut back, and will grow back stronger than before if we attempt to physically cut them out.

This is where we need another type of tool to manage the tree farm; this time in the form of herbicides. Again, we use only approved herbicides strictly regulated by the DPR, and we target them to specific vegetation types. The herbicides we use are often exactly the same as any homeowner can buy at a garden store, and it is always our goal to use the minimum amount necessary.

Timing of the herbicide application is important; competing vegetation can be controlled either pre-harvest or post-harvest.  Pre-harvest treatments are preferred as there are no seedlings that can be accidentally damaged, and this way, weeds are controlled prior to planting.

On larger woody brush, we use the ‘hack and squirt’ method of application to target individual weeds and to decrease herbicide use. Crews use an axe or similar to chop into the bark, and then place a few drops of herbicide into the cut. The effective ingredient is immediately delivered into the plant’s vascular system, the surrounding vegetation isn’t affected, and the amount of herbicide is minimized. In 2011, with help of Redding Tree Growers, we treated units on Challenge Hill and Ruff Hill with the ‘hack and squirt’ method with good success.

New seedling plots require the most attention. Depending on location, rainfall, soil type, and competing vegetation types, they may receive one or two targeted applications within the first year after planting.

These applications will help to insure that the seedlings get a head start against the competing brush, forbs and grasses that will inevitably sprout in the area.

Bob Waddell working to clear the right of way for the Forest Service

Bob Waddell working to clear the right of way for the Forest Service

On the harvest side, our two two-man harvest crews consisted of  Bob Waddell and Kevin Noel, and John Moak and Ed Hecker. Both crews kept up a steady production in a variety of configurations throughout the year.

Derick McCutcheon came in when needed with the CAT522 harvester, and drivers Morris McCutcheon and Backhoe Bob (Robert Reiswig) kept the small-side landings clear of logs, transporting them to the mills.

Late in the season, Soper-Wheeler contracted to do some work for the Forest Service, and both two-man crews moved in to get the job done, cutting right-of-way trees to make the Old Scales road safe for fire access into Shuman Ridge and the Scales areas.

We’re looking forward to helping the Forest Service finish this project  this year and another safe and productive year in the woods in 2012.

See you out there!!


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