forestry tech

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ALL IN A DAY’S WORK AT GEERTSON CREEK

As much as many of us want to curl up by a fireplace, eat and ultimately hibernate during winter, the work still must go on; and if you can’t beat winter, we recommend you join it… figuratively that is. Check out these amazing winter photos captured by Salmon Field Office Staff Lacey Whitehouse near Geertson Creek.

Geertson Lake sits nestled beneath Center Mountain, which rises over 10,000 feet along the Continental Divide. The BLM Salmon Field Office manages a cabin at the headwaters of Geertson Creek, located within a ¼ mile of this high mountain lake. While the road to access the cabin is impassible during winter months, Salmon Forestry Tech Whitehouse, and forest service counterpart, braved the elements, skiing just over five miles on their weekend to check on the shelter and complete some winter maintenance.

Permission is needed to cross private property to get to the cabin so if you do decide to brave the weather, call the Salmon Field Office at 208-756-5400, before heading out. 

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FOREST MAN - Documentary Short Film

Since the 1970’s Majuli islander Jadav Payeng has been planting trees in order to save his island in India. To date he has single handedly planted a forest larger than Central Park NYC. His forest has transformed what was once a barren wasteland, into a lush oasis. Humble yet passionate and philosophical about his work. Payeng takes us on a journey into his incredible forest

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The forest at Great Smoky Mountains National Park is sick, infected by invasive bugs and plants. Matt Moore, Kaleb Lique Naitove and Emily Baird of the National Park Service are some of the field medics trying to keep it alive.

“We’re out here trying to save trees,” says Moore, a seasonal forestry tech, as he steps over downed logs and through thick patches of rhododendron on the Tennessee side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Moore and his colleagues work on the park’s vegetation management crew, veg crew for short. They carry plastic buckets filled with their “medical supplies” — a bicycle pump, a tangle of tubing and Kool-Aid-blue and candy apple-red pesticides.

The forest they walk through is mesmerizing. The trees glow green in the Tennessee sun. There are a lot of tree species in this forest, but the one they’re looking to treat is an Eastern hemlock, an evergreen conifer that ranges from Canada to northern Mississippi. Hemlocks make up a significant portion of a lot of forests in the eastern U.S., but particularly so in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

“One out of every five trees in the Smokies is a hemlock currently,” says Jesse Webster, head of the veg crew.

Hemlocks are hugely important to those forests and ecosystems. It is “a foundational species,” Webster says. They’re like lions, wolves or sea otters – keystone species that have an outsized impact on the ecosystem around them. Hemlocks provide a lot of shade, which means “they moderate the highs and lows of air and water temperature,” he says. By moderating those temperatures, they provide good habitat for other plant species and for birds, insects and trout.

To Tame A ‘Wave’ Of Invasive Bugs, Park Service Introduces Predator Beetles

Photos: Mike Belleme for NPR and Nathan Rott/NPR

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Linn Ranch Stewardship Project 

Bill and Bob were the original “horse power” behind Peter Linn’s stewardship operation.  Now he uses his “mini me,” a small excavator, to harvest and haul diseased and overgrown timber to his mill. In the mill, Linn converts the raw forest material to lumber and other building materials, which he uses to construct cabins, tack sheds and other necessities for his dude ranch located in Victor, Idaho. 

Stewardship projects by definition allow the BLM to work with individuals to accomplish different goals; the BLM will benefit from a service and the individual conducting the project receives a direct benefit, in this case, timber.  In essence these contracts allow private companies, community members and others who choose to pursue these contracts to retain the forest and/or rangeland products in exchange for the service to the BLM such as thinning.

“The purpose of this [stewardship project] is to decrease hazardous fuel loading in the area, improve overall stand health, improve wildlife habitat, produce forest products, and stimulate the aspen component of the stand,” said Channing Swan, forester for the BLM Pocatello Field Office (FO).

The removal of trees assists in fire prevention and also mimics historical fire patterns. Historical data show that these forests were dominated by large douglas-fir that had thick, fire-resistant bark and stands of aspen. Aspen is an important source of food and habitat for wildlife. It also regenerates quickly after fire and tend to act as a natural fuel break. Without historical fire regimes, douglas-fir slowly shades out the aspen. By removing the douglas-fir, we mimic the role fire naturally played in the ecosystem, encouraging aspen regeneration.  The resulting forest is a more fire resilient, park-like setting of larger diameter firs, interspersed with patches of aspen

The removal of timber not only assists in fire prevention but it also improves the health and vigor of aspen and conifer alike. An influx in conifer trees increases the potential of infection from beetles and mistletoe, which are two of the most common diseases impacting this area. “The beetle bores into the tree leaving behind a tunnel in the xylem and/or phloem (interior) that essentially ruins the trees ability to gather nutrients or water,” said Eric Ott, Pocatello FO forestry technician. “By thinning the area, we are able to reduce some of the beetles’ ability to travel and destroy other trees.”

Linn has been involved with the project and BLM since the timber sales stewardship contract was signed September 30, 2008. The stewardship contract has been ongoing for five years allowing Linn to work throughout the winter while maintaining his busy ranch during the summer.  

Linn is contracted for 31 acres of service work (the small diameter thinning). Typically the BLM would pay a contractor a certain amount per acre depending on the project to remove the timber. In this case, Linn actually ends up paying the BLM a small amount of money for the entire contract.  “A stewardship project is a great tool in our toolbox,” said Swan. “It allows us to use a variety of resources to accomplish our goals.”

-Sarah Wheeler