ST. HELENS, Ore. – It takes hard work to keep Oregon green and small woodland owner Bruce Cave works at it almost every day. When the the millwright for Boise Cascade retired, he invested in a 27.75-acre parcel of trees that Weyerhaeuser was selling for subdivision. Armed with a shovel, a four-wheeler and a membership in Oregon Small Woodland Association (OSWA), Cave now spends most of his time managing it.
Born in Schneider, Texas, Cave grew up in Yankton, Oregon, about three miles from where he now lives.
“I was looking for something to invest some money in that would give me something meaningful to do,” Cave said. “Weyerhaeuser had already brought electricity to the parcel and put in a road on each side so it could be easily developed as a subdivision, but I wasn’t interested in that. I bought it to manage the timber.
“Once I had it, I turned to my longtime logger friend K.C. VanNatta for advice on what to do with it. He steered me to OSWA where I could learn from the people that had both the know-how and the equipment I was going to need. It has been a good match.”
Oregon has 30.4 million acres of forestland. The Federal government owns 60% of it; the state, counties and tribes own 5%; and private owners like cave own the remaining 10.6 million acres, 35%.
Bruce Cave spends his time thinning, cleaning up blow-downs, clearing Himalayan blackberries and planting Douglas fir seedlings.
“It’s almost a full-time job to harvest, thin to let the big ones to grow bigger, salvage the blow-downs from wind storms and keep ahead of the blackberries,” Cave said. “I leave the seed trees and fill in the rest one tree at a time. I have problems with deer browsing the seedlings but it isn’t cost effective for me to buy the sleeves to protect them like the bigger operations. I also don’t buy spray for the blackberries. That’s where the shovel and my little Kubota tractor comes in.”
Jim James, executive director of OSWA shared the following statistics from the 2011-2013 Forest Service survey:
75% of the small woodland owners and 20% of the family forest acres belong to landowners with between 10 and 49 acres
11% of the small woodland owners and 12% of the family forest acres belong to landowners with between 50 and 99 acres.
12% of the small woodland owners and 27% of the family forest acres belong to landowners with between 100 and 499 acres.
2% of the small woodland owners and 41% of the family forest acres belong to landowners with 500+ acres.
“Family forest owners like Cave, are doing a great job of keeping our forests healthy,” James said. “A common trait found in family forest owners is the desire to manage their forests in a way that keeps them disease free and fire resistant and Oregon’s economy, health and welfare are reaping the benefits.”
In the meantime, seldom a day passes that Cave doesn’t get in his pickup and drive the short distance to his stand of timber and do something that protects it and his investment.
Photo caption: Bruce Cave; photo by Jan Jackson