Director’s Message: Summer 2015

In mid-June, on a visit to the Olympic Natural Resources Center out in Forks, Wash., I had the opportunity to tour the Hoh River Trust lands on the Olympic Peninsula. The Trust purchased and set aside these lands, which cover about 7,000 acres, during the last 20 years. The goal was to preserve the beauty of the 56-mile Hoh River that runs through the heart of the property, and create a zone of ecological integrity along the watershed.

Much of the area had been heavily managed in the previous 80 years, passing from small landowners to timber companies and ultimately to the Trust, and the forest is still managed today. In general, timber is being harvested at a sustainable rate and in a manner that supports continuous cover and habitat between harvest entries—and with an eye toward long-term habitat restoration and improvement. You have to marvel at the sheer size of some of the older stumps, and while I know it will take many, many years to restore the forest to the grandeur of those historical stands, I also know that much of that potential hinges on how we manage the forest today.

2015_07_Summer_HohSo the forest isn’t ‘idle,’ and neither is the land. It is an intense and ever-changing ecosystem driven by the hydraulic power of the Hoh River and the forces of fire and wind. One of the original European homesteads on the land has been lost to bank erosion from the river shifting across the floodplain at an average rate of about 20 feet per year, drawing rocks, trees, house and soil into the river, and leaving behind fresh-cut bank with exposed roots and burrow holes—all to be washed away in the next large runoff event. Amazingly, a day before our tour, two fires had broken out in this wet part of Washington in June, and one was still burning more than 20 days later. The lesson: Landscapes are incredibly dynamic, whether they experience constant human intervention or none at all. Such dynamism is found everywhere in nature, and our ability to address and work with these forces requires us to explore and understand ecological systems in their entirety.

Rural communities, with their interdependency on nearby forests and links to regional cities and international markets, also display complex dynamism. In those environments, creating a more integrated ecological and community system adds an additional layer of complexity—and also risk. Matching timber maturity and harvest scheduling with ecological objectives, for instance, can lead to cash flow challenges that cripple an organization or a company.

But that’s what makes this human ecosystem along the Hoh such an ideal test ground, and why I’m excited for the opportunity to partner with the Hoh River Trust, as well as the neighboring Olympic Experimental State Forest and Olympic National Forest, to conduct research involving faculty and students from our School. Natural laboratories like these lands, which share elements of the wild and of human management, are essential to sustainable forestry and the forest products industry. They give us a chance to integrate research across multiple disciplines, combining the expertise of our foresters, social scientists, ecologists, microbiologists, engineers, hydrologists and economists, among others.

Using these lands as an open research laboratory would allow us to conduct long-term studies experimenting with new approaches to silviculture, timber harvest and wood utilization that emphasize habitat objectives and continuous cover—all while achieving a sustainable flow of timber and revenue that supports regional demand and community well-being. I can envision us developing alternative strategies for restoration and conservation along the Hoh that will help increase the resilience of our ecosystems, economies and social networks throughout the Pacific Northwest.

There’s so much potential in this dynamic environment, and I heartily welcome the opportunity for us to help study, understand, manage, restore and sustain these rural landscapes.

Tom DeLuca
School of Environmental and Forest Sciences

Olympic Peninsula Memoirs

Bob Dick and Darrell WhiteWhile researching material for a book he’s writing about the history of CFR/SEFS, Professor Emeritus Bob Edmonds came across a book that one of our alumni, Bob Dick (’74), recently coauthored with his childhood and long-time friend Darrel White, a high school biology and science teacher. Edmonds just finished reading the book, Skunk Cabbage and Chittum Bark: Sons of the Wynooche, and he was kind enough to offer a brief review!

Here’s what he had to say:

Skunk Cabbage and Chittum Bark is an interesting history on the background of many of our undergraduate students in the 1960s and early 1970s who came from rural backgrounds, and it illustrates how things have changed. The two authors grew up in Montesano and the Wynooche Valley (also spelled Wynoochee), which is between Olympia and Aberdeen/Hoquiam, and the book title refers to plant species the authors describe as “among the quintessential inhabitants of the Wynooche Valley.” Skunk cabbage is common in swampy areas, and chittum bark is Native American for cascara bark, which has medicinal properties. Peeling cascara bark was an income source for Bob and Darrell as young boys.

The book is divided into six parts: Wynooche Genesis, Kid Stuff, Family, Work, Reminiscence and The Valley, as well as an Epilogue. In each section Bob and Darrell document their separate and collective life stories, mostly from the 1950s to 1970s. In all there are nearly 60 short stories or vignettes, such as “Coming to the Valley,” “School Years,” “Fun with Amphibs,” “Timber!,” “Summer Camps,” “Mom and Dad,” “The Birth of a Career,” “The Logger,” “Hikes,” “The Lake,” “The Columbus Day Storm,” “Geology with Calvin and Hobbes,” “Eco-adolescents” and “The River.”

No doubt, Bob’s decision to enter a career in forestry was influenced by his father’s profession as a forester for Weyerhaeuser Company, and the hours he spent in the woods exploring, fishing and hunting. Bob served in the U.S. Coast Guard in Washington and Alaska, then graduated with a BS in Forest Management from CFR and became a professional forester, including stints as Alaska’s state forester and the Washington Forest Protection Association. He is a fellow of the Society of American Foresters, and he retired in 2010 after a 36-year career.”

If you’d like to read more about Bob Dick’s story, his book is available in paperback on Amazon for $18, and also in a Kindle Edition for $9.99 (Skunk Cabbage and Chittum Bark: Sons of the Wynooche, by Bob Dick and Darrel A. White, 2012. Bookstand Publishing, Morgan Hill, CA 95037. 248 pp.). You can also reach Dick via email at mrdickjr@gmail.com if you wish to request a copy.

SEFS Seminar Series: Week 6 Preview!

What is it that makes Pacific silver fir and western hemlock shade-tolerant trees? And how is it that they can both out-compete Douglas-fir in the ‘twilight’ of the Olympic Peninsula? In Week 6 of the SEFS Seminar Series this Wednesday, Professor David Ford will describe the particular properties of photosynthesis of these species and discuss some general implications for how we measure and model photosynthesis.

So whether you’re on Team Edward or Team Jacob, one thing will be perfectly clear: There’s more competition on the Olympic Peninsula than just between werewolves and vampires!

What: “The dynamics of photosynthesis and its significance for modeling plant growth.”
When: Wednesday, May 8, 3:30-4:20 p.m.
Where: Anderson Hall, Room 223
Who’s Invited: It’s open to the public, and all faculty, staff and students are encouraged to attend!

Come out and support your colleagues, and then head over to the Forest Club Room afterward for a casual reception from 4:30-5:30 p.m.

Also, mark your calendars for the remaining talks this spring!

Vampire clipart courtesy of David Ford.