Towering giants

Usually when I write these stories, the idea is to let my words give you a general idea of where I visited with the pictures telling the real story.

This week is a little different. After all, how can you take a photo that shows a 100-year-old tree that stands more than 200 feet tall? I tried, but I’ll be honest, the pictures don’t show much.

A few months ago, I wrote about how much I enjoy being in the forests. In my local area, the trees are probably no more than 40 feet tall, but the vast expanse of them has kept me entranced for hours.

Since the day I moved to Oregon, I kept hearing about the mythical old-growth trees. I assumed during my travels around the region, I had seen old-growth forests because, at least to me, many of the trees felt massive and forest looked overgrown and so thick with vegetation it would be hard to even walk through them.

Now I know how wrong I was. Earlier this week, I went to the Coquille area to do a story on work being done to repair the watershed at Woodward Creek. I met with Jeff Jackson, a fish biologist with the Bureau of Land Management, and several other people. Jeff took me back into the forest to show me the work being done at Woodward Creek.

While driving through the forest, we moved from private land to BLM land and back to private land. That’s when I realized what I had been missing. On the private land, the forest is being managed to be cut for timber. Most of the trees in the area were about 30 years old as the landowners are using the typical cycle of cutting every 40 to 45 years.

While talking to a representative of the landowner, I asked if he knew exactly where the property line was. He told me if you watched, you could actually see it. I didn’t really understand until I did see it.

While driving through was felt like a full, deep forest, all of a sudden the property line became clear. Driving through the 40-foot-tall trees, there was a small clearing, and I could see massive giants in a straight line as we hit the BLM land.

And what a difference it was. I have been in a lot of forest in my life, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen what we drove into when we hit the BLM land that, according to rules in place now, will never be cut for timber again.

And the scary part is the forest wasn’t technically old-growth. Jackson explained that the land had been cut for timber one time, likely 80 to 100 years ago. But the difference 50 or more years makes was stunning.

In the area, the BLM is working to make the forest as close to old growth as possible. And the best way to do that is to leave it alone. And leaving it alone has produced amazing results. It’s hard for me to out in words the majesty of seeing trees towering up to 200 feet tall as you are underneath them.

Under the trees, enough light filters through to have hundreds of smaller trees and bushes thriving. I didn’t see any on my trip, but Jeff said they have seen deer, bears and other animals while in the area. With Woodward Creek emptying into Evans Creek in the area, it is a location that is ripe for all kinds of natural life.

I have always been a supporter of the timber industry. I admire how the companies and landowners work to ensure there are trees to be cut down while still having a vibrant, growing forest around us.

But I think there’s room to support the timber industry while still saying there are spots that should never be cut. Maybe the land owned by the federal government and managed by the BLM is the place to do that.

While this trip was for another reason, the highlight for me was spending a little time in the massive trees that have been untouched for decades. Jeff did tell me about some places that have true old-growth trees that have never been cut, so I am planning to make my way there soon to experience the majesty of Mother Nature deep in the forest.

Usually, I would tell you here how to get to this spot. But in this case, the land is bordered by private property and the road leading in is fenced off due to damage done in the past by off-road vehicles. So, I’m making an exception and keeping it private.

But I will say this. If you have the opportunity to get into an old-growth forest, take it. Take some time to sit and look and listen. You will be glad you did.


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