By Sarah Deumling
Note: Taken from Across the Landscape August 2008.
GREEN BUILDERS TOUR
On June 13, the 20-plus employees and friends of the Green Hammer Construction Co. in Portland, Oregon, drove 65 miles south to the 1500-acre Zena Forest, a Guild Model Forest that lies west of Salem in the Eola Hills. The forest is experiencing significant pressure from encroaching housing development as well as rising land prices due to the rapidly growing grape and wine industry in the area. As a result of collaboration over the last three years between the Trust for Public Land and the Bonneville Power Administration, the entire forest property is now under a perpetual conservation easement that mandates a combination of habitat conservation and commercial forestry under FSC guidelines. For more than 20 years, the Zena Forest has been managed with an FSC-compatible philosophy of management, the short version of which is “No Clearcuts, No Chemicals, and No Compaction” except on designated skid trails. This clearly differentiates it from standard industrial forest practices in the Northwest.
Green Hammer Construction, a leading and particularly conscientious “green building” firm in Portland is committed to purchasing local FSC lumber for their projects. The trip to Zena was envisioned as a way to showcase to those folks hammering up the beams and boards on new houses in Portland the difference that exists between an FSC (Guild-style) forest and the large tracts of industrial forestland that dominate our northwest landscape. As forest manager, I led the tour for the Green Hammer group and was joined by several additional Forest Guild members.
The first stop was along a skid trail with a multigenerational, mixed-species forest on one side and a typical young Douglas-fir plantation on the other. The contrast was stark at every level: soil, duff, groundcover, shrub layer, and canopy. The Zena management team emphasizes the value of all native, site-appropriate trees for both ecological and economic health, while the industrial-forest management philosophy calls for maximum Douglas-fir-fiber production on an ever shorter rotation down to 35 to 40 years in some cases.
The second stop demonstrated the progress made over the last 20 years in converting a (now) 45-year-old Douglas-fir plantation into a “forest” with a new generation of fir growing up in openings in the canopy along with healthy regeneration of all other site-appropriate trees. Further discussion centered around the role such a forest could play in meeting the rapidly growing demand in the Northwest for local and FSC-certified lumber. Infrastructure is still a barrier to adequate supply and inventory because larger mills will not cut FSC lumber. My family is currently developing a sawmill site in the forest to produce Zena wood for local markets – hopefully another small piece in the solution to a large problem.
Photos related to the tour are courtesy of Annie C. Portlock, Green Hammer Construction Company.
Forest Statistics and Documentation
- Acreage: 1500
- Forest Type: coastal redwood; douglas-fir
- Model Forest Manager: Sarah Deumling
- Primary Uses: watershed protection, education, timber, wildlife
- Certification: Forest Stewarship Council
Downloads of documents and maps