On Friday 11/7/08, students from ENVS 320 (Environmental Solutions) visited Douglas County in southern Oregon to learn about two issues they studied in class: (a) woody biomass utilization and (b) the efforts of the Cow Creek tribe to protect the Alder-Jordan watershed while pursuing commercial development.
Our field trip started at the Douglas County Courthouse, with County Commissioner Joe Laurance showing them an old tree just outside.
Commissioner Laurance then took us to his office, first to show a map produced by the Oregon Forest Resource Institute highlighting Douglas County's huge woody biomass potential…
…and then to point out a photo on his wall, which turns out to be…
…from 2004, when Commissioner Laurance won a major motorcycle event on the Bonneville Salt Flats, clocked at something over 160 mph!
Students then joined Commissioner Laurance in his conference room to discuss opportunities for utilization of woody biomass (wood fiber that cannot be used for commercial timber production but with important energy -- and fire -- potential), and possible ecological and economic benefits to the county.
Joining Commissioner Laurance were Gary Groth and Ken Hendrick, Director and former Director of the Douglas County Land Department. Gary (left) and Ken discussed a woody biomass salvage logging operation on a forest in the east part of the county ravaged by insects and highly prone to major fire.
Here Angela has a look at some pictures Gary and Ken passed around, showing the huge extent of dead trees in the area of the salvage harvest. Overall, the message students heard was that fire suppression has wreaked ecological havoc on Douglas County forests, and woody biomass utilization can be a way to restore ecological health while providing economic benefit as well.
In the next part of our field trip, we visited the Alder-Jordan watershed in southern Douglas County, on which the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians holds land and has been pursuing both commercial development and anadromous fish restoration. Here the tribal chairwoman Sue Shaffer, a major political figure in Oregon, provides students a background on the tribe and its struggles to attain sovereignty.
Then tribal members Michael Rondeau and Tonya Theiss-Skrip led us on a tour of their commercial development in the watershed, including an RV park and water/wastewater treatment facilities.
Here's a shot of Jordan Creek next to their RV park. Jordan Creek was extensively cleaned up by the Cow Creeks, who now report that coho salmon have been spotted entering it for the first time in decades.
Here's their water reservoir. The Cow Creeks are doing their own water and wastewater treatment in order to handle their extensive commercial (and upcoming residential) development.
Below the tribal casino and next to the South Umpqua river is a fish acclimation pond the tribe built so that hatchery steelhead could be more successfully introduced to the river.
We also got a good look at their ever-growing casino, here effectively doubling the number of hotel rooms.
Okay, now time to stretch our legs after all that sitting down! Here Ken Carloni, biology professor of Umpqua Community College, leads students on a tour of the Alder Creek Children's Forest site to have a look at woody biomass firsthand.
Ken started with an overview of the historic situation of fire in southern Oregon, a topic that united our two themes of woody biomass (largely the result of fire suppression) and native Americans (who routinely set fire to the land as a management tool).
Here's a view of the Alder-Jordan watershed looking up toward the summit.
Now in the forest, Ken helps students understand the ecological situation facing these stands given such dense growth.
In another part of the forest students find white oaks, not conifers. Why? Ken points to possible edaphic or management factors that may have resulted in this stand.
Before leaving, students gathered with Ken near a recently harvested area of the forest to sum up their thoughts about woody biomass and native Ameircan fire management: can we ever return to the forests that Europeans first encountered in the Pacific Northwest?