CORVALLIS, Ore. – Tourists come every year to enjoy what people who live in Oregon enjoy every day — recreational opportunities and scenic beauty of our forests, rivers and lakes filled with wildlife. But, wait, there’s more. What about all of those people like Oregon State University Professor Emeritus Mike Newton, PhD who work tirelessly to make sure it all stays that way?
Newton, whose forest management experience spans most of his 80-plus years, has authored more than 350 publications on the subject. Retired but still researching and consulting, he lives on and manages forested property west of Corvallis. Nearly half of Oregon’s 67-plus million acres of landmass is forested and Newton believes it takes proper management to keep it viable. Part of that is cutting trees to make space for young forests and the essential habitat they provide.
“There’s no place like habitat and it is all habitat,” Newton said. “It takes a constantly moving patchwork of thinning, clear cutting of mature trees, and planting to keep each type of wildlife habitat in balance.
He supports a pro- forest policy that includes public forest that have 5 to 10 percent in 0 to 15 year-old clear-cuts, 40 percent in stands between 100 and 160 years old and the rest in stands between these extremes with such action as thinning and other management.
“Oregon’s forestland is all involved in conservation and having all the stages all the time guarantees that renewals and harvests and habitats are all in balance,” he explained.
Newton, who was born in Hartford Connecticut, was four when his parents moved him, two older brothers and an older sister deep into the woods of southern Vermont.
“My parents opened a small boarding school 18 miles of dirt road from the closest town of 700 people,” Newton said. “While Mom, who was a Vassar educated linguist who also loved the wild plants, taught me the names of all the flowers, trees and brush, my Princeton educated father taught me math, science and how to shoot, hunt, cut wood and build fires. He financed the school by harvesting timber.
“The first public school I attended was when I enrolled in the University of Vermont College of Agriculture at the age of 16. Growing up in the woods greatly influenced my career choices, and those experiences continue to inspire my work and love of life ever since.”
Oregon hasn’t always had check and balance systems in place to protect its forestlands. Looking back before 1900, when lumber barons began logging in a large-scale (but still all manual labor),came in and made a dent in the presumably endless forests. The memory still brings terror to the hearts of those who have not recently visited the magnificent woods that replaced what was cut. Through the efforts of many private and public owners, the misused land was repaired. The land was cleared of brush and millions of acres were hand-planted to restore the forest for use. It is through their stewardship that Oregon’s private and state owned forests today are a well-managed renewable resource. The Forest Practices Act and its rules to reforest quickly after harvest, protect wildlife habitat, riparian areas and other important issues such as native cultural values, has helped bring about a harvest pattern whereby only one tree is harvested in any year and four are replanted for every 300 trees growing today.
“Many people do not realize that animals are found in stands of all ages, moving from one type to another depending on their needs for foraging, breeding, rearing young, sleeping or escaping predators,” Newton said. “There was a time we had to rely solely on natural disasters to provide the needed variety, but that manner of creating open feeding grounds — especially fire — takes too great a toll on every living thing.
Wildlife — both large and small — thrives in burned areas, clear cuts, thinned stands and the deep mature forests. Having all stages somewhere not far away is important for habitat, Newton said.
“Harvesting or burning the mature forest is the only way we know for creating the open habitat that most herbivorous species, including deer, elk, rodents etc. forage in, meaning this is good for predators too.
“Habitat is always growing, ebbing and always changing. Nothing is permanent. We need to constantly renew, grow, mature and eventually harvest in order to have everything in a forest all the time. It is all habitat and you can’t conserve that habitat without management of which harvesting is a part.”
For more information on wildlife in Oregon forest habitat, visit Oregon Forest Resources Institute at www.oregonforests.org
To read M. Russell Pike’s story about a young deer coming of age in the forest and learning about the feeding fields, visit https://countrytraveleronline.com/2013/08/10/the-feeding-fields/