Removing trees to promote forest health


Last updated 2/7/2023 at Noon


A project to remove junipers in a Sisters Country neighborhood will improve fire safety and ponderosa pine health — and provide instream habitat material.

The removal of 177 juniper trees from 18 lots in the High Meadow neighborhood off Indian Ford Road is creating what participants in the project consider a win-win situation for everyone involved.

The homeowners are improving the resiliency of their Firewise community and improving the environment for their ponderosa pines. The junipers are all being removed as intact trees, branches and all. They will be taken up to Deschutes Land Trust’s (DLT) Rimrock Ranch, where the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council (UDWC) is coordinating another Whychus Creek restoration project along 1.5 miles of the valley floor.

High Meadow resident Martha Lussenhop provided the impetus for the project after attending a DLT training last year with Mathias Perle, restoration program manager for UDWC, where he explained a variety of environmental restoration procedures. As he talked about the role of trees in creek restoration to raise the water level, slow the flow, and provide shade and hiding places for fish, Lussenhop thought of all the juniper trees in High Meadow and the potential fire risk they presented. As a designated Firewise community, each year the residents focus on projects that contribute to fire resiliency.

Lussenhop mentioned the trees to Perle, and a partnership developed. Lussenhop organized her neighbors and secured the contractor, Four Brothers Tree Service. Perle was able to provide the grant funds to cover the expenses of tree removal and hauling them 7.3 miles to Rimrock Ranch, where over 2,000 trees are needed for stream and valley-wide habitat restoration.

Junipers are particularly useful for this type of project because, even as they dry out, the branches remain more pliable and don’t break as they are placed in the water. Trees with root balls are favored because the extra weight keeps the trees from moving in the water.

According to Perle, “Work is being conducted collaboratively with the DLT and Bureau of Land Management as landowners and other state and federal agencies, including Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, US Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and Portland General Electric.”

Perle explained that trees are coming from a combination of private and public sources. Trees that are being thinned to provide fire resilience and overall stand health at the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) at Pole Creek Ranch are being hauled up to Rimrock Ranch, where they will have a “second life” as habitat trees instream and in the surrounding floodplain.

Trees are also coming from WUI public land managed by the USFS. In one instance, trees are coming from USFS land in collaboration with Central Electric Cooperative, who is clearing hazard ttrees around existing power lines between Black Butte and Sisters. Primary funder for this work at the WUI is The Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF). Other funders include the Pelton Fund and Oregon Water Enhancement Board (OWEB).

The ODF has provided a grant of over $6 million for the Central Oregon Shared Stewardship Landscape Resiliency Project. This large grant is being shared basin-wide via individual smaller grants to entities like the UDWC to improve landscape-wide fire resiliency and overall forest health in collaboration with state, county, and private landowners throughout Central Oregon.


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