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Oak Restoration Project (North of Corvallis)

When this 37-acre parcel was purchased in 2006, it had been partially logged in the early 1900s and again in the 1950s, and untouched ever since. In the early harvests, the Oregon white oak, madrone, and other hardwoods were left behind due to their low commercial value. Over the years, the Douglas-fir gradually returned and were slowly overtaking the oaks. Many of the larger oaks already had lost their spreading branches or had been killed outright from shading by the firs. Immediately after purchase, the property was evaluated for how to open up the canopy to help the remaining oaks and madrones. Consultants helped identify and mark which trees to remove, with the emphasis on removing smaller trees and releasing the oaks from competition. Trees were marked to create a mosaic of thinned and unthinned areas, with an eye towards protecting nest trees and travel corridors for the western gray squirrel, and to create some snags for wildlife. Control of non-native, invasive species was another concern. The worst offender, false brome, was sprayed with a grass-specific herbicide before logging to avoid spreading its seed.

The thinning was ‘cut-to-length,’ accomplished with a low-impact harvester/forwarder combination. The highly mechanized harvester is uniquely suited to ‘extracting’ firs growing amidst oak canopies, with minimal damage to the oak. The thinning left a significant amount of tree debris, some of which was ‘masticated’ using equipment that chews up the large limbs and debris into smaller pieces to allow them to break down more quickly. But this treatment was insufficient to restore the site to the desired ‘maintenance level’ for an oak woodland understory.

The landowners procured a small grant for oak habitat restoration, which targeted 15 acres for additional tree removal, spraying of invasive species, and planting of native grasses. Some initial piling and burning of slash was done in areas that would eventually be planted with natives, but there was still much work to be done. The project area still contained many smaller trees left behind from the initial harvest, mostly bigleaf maple and hawthorne. Also, the false brome was alive and well due to failure of the previous year’s spraying. The landowners sprayed this time with glyphosate, using caution to avoid non-target species, and achieving a much better 95% kill.

R-J Consulting was brought in to remove the smaller trees, remove the old overgrown fence, and pile all debris for eventual burning. Most of the remaining undesirable trees were sprouters, primarily bigleaf maple and hawthorne, and the mechanized herbicide treatment of the cut stumps during the shearing process was a huge labor-saver. Furthermore, all stumps were sheared at ground level, leaving a condition well suited to ongoing maintenance with seasonal mowing. Once again, a huge amount of tree debris was generated from the thinning, but R-J’s grappling attachments made short work of what can be a daunting cleanup challenge. R-J's equipment is well-sized for these kinds of tasks and has minimal impact on the soil. The landowners note that removal of the fence — embedded in ‘old-growth’ poison oak — was worth every penny.

Project Photos

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