News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

The cost of a cedar Christmas wreath

In response to Bill Bartlett’s November 8 article about forest permits, I offer pertinent additional information and clarification not about bark stripping, but the stripping of nearly all the branches on multiple incense-cedar trees. This was not “cutting a few boughs here and there.” I was that first person to call the Sisters Ranger District Office.

While hiking the Greenridge Trail with a friend recently, we saw two men some distance below the trail, spread far apart, cutting branches off trunks with pole pruners at least 12 feet long. So we bushwhacked, down to assuage our curiosity, only to find the one man unable to understand or speak any English, but he smiled and picked up a branch from a huge pile of the cedar cuttings, showing us a wreath shape. He couldn’t grasp our queries about a possible permit, so I later called in a report with questions.

Unfortunately, the intake person misunderstood, thinking we meant bark stripping. After several phone calls I talked to Ian Reid, head of the local District, and he subsequently sent someone up to try to find the trees, without success. He said they had issued a couple permits, but they basically allow some cutting of lower branches from large, established trees.

After reading Bartlett’s article quoting the public affairs specialist for Deschutes National Forest that “Forest Service staff conduct regular patrols to ensure adherence to permit guidelines,” I dragged my husband back up Greenridge on Sunday, November 12, to seek the area first observed. While I tried to recall the exact locale, we suddenly found many discarded cedar branches and leftover cuttings right beside the trail. We soon counted nearly 15 trees with diameters from two inches to 10 or more, completely stripped of branches except for a few left at the very top, the crown.

We estimated the highest the pruners could reach was about 18 feet, leaving a bare trunk the height of many house roof peaks. It was distressing to see the waste strewn around, and seemingly wanton greed with no concern for the concentrated area of destruction or certainly the loss of forest beauty along the trail. I questioned whether the scene adhered to

permit protocols, and obviously, there had been no “regular patrol” even if it was legally permitted. So I called Mr. Reid again, November 13.

Having also called a tree specialist to see if the trees could survive, I learned that they could live with only the crown, but that they would be more vulnerable to wind and weather, and would certainly change the appearance and feeling of the forest without branches. I also thought of the diminished carbon absorption potential, without branches lush with foliage, not to mention the shelter for myriad birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and insects.

This time Mr. Reid noted (I’ll paraphrase) that we have too many cedars and can afford to lose some, that their prescribed burns and knocking down (mowing)small trees are necessary to keep the forests thinned, and that the lands are public and people have a right to use them for profit. He did agree to “review” the restrictions and regulations on the permits, but did not appear to be overly concerned with the matter. Mr. Reid and I spoke again after he tried to visit one of the areas of cutting, and he reiterated the rights of commercial endeavors on public lands. He concurred that some of what he saw was not in compliance with permit requirements, and said he would discuss the matter with the department handling permits. I do not know how many other trees, obscured in lower regions, had also been stripped of branches, but we had seen more. He did not have the details on how large an area permits allowed, nor whether they could cut right along trails.

All I hope is that when anyone pays a significant price for that beautiful cedar Christmas wreath, there will be a moment’s pause to realize that someone is making a considerable profit from careless, irregular assaults on “our” public lands.


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