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Tree Farming
Image of a "cattle-ranch-to-be" in northern California, taken in 1905. Image of a "ranch" in northern California, taken in 1977.
These photos provide a graphic example of two different styles of "tree farming" or land management styles.  The first photo taken in 1905 is of a "cattle-ranch-to-be" in northern California. The land was cleared "from ridge to ridge" of redwoods and repeatedly burned in an attempt to create pasture land (note the circled shed). The second photo is of the same "ranch" 72 years later (note the circled shed).  Under the management of Georgia-Pacific Corp., fast-growing redwoods have reclaimed the land.  At the time this photo was taken, November 1977, timber was being selectively removed.  Although this was the third timber harvest since 1905, the area is no longer barren and desolate. Photos: Courtesy of Forest History Society, Durham, North Carolina.

Here is a story of what it is like for a family to add "tree farming" to their cattle ranch in Oregon. It tells how the family feels about growing trees and their concept of "stewardship" of the land.

"A Tree Farming Family's Sense of Balance"
Wayne and Colleen Krieger's passionate sense for balance on their land has driven them to create a harmonious kaleidoscope of forest values.

A kaleidoscope has many pieces of colored glass that, when held up to the light, form a multitude of patterns designed to please the eye. For the Kriegers, the pieces they fit together on their 310-acre Curry County homestead,. now called Skyview Ranch, include many values they wish to sustain for the future - soil, air, water, timber, fish and wildlife, beauty and recreation.

They call it stewardship.

The Kriegers decided not to intensely log the land for hefty profits when they purchased it in 1972, but a close inspection revealed many exciting possibilities and glaring problems that shifted their original plans.

"We were going to have a cattle ranch at first," recalled Colleen. "After some brushland clearing for pastures, we saw one 12-acre parcel that was so tightly packed with small trees that we could hardly walk through it."

The couple thinned the 30-year-old trees that were only 8-12 inches in diameter. The trees were suppressed and unable to grow much more in the crowded stand. They soon realized that a healthier condition would result in a greater economic return from their forest than just raising cattle - along with no small degree of personal satisfaction.

Wayne reflected on poor forest practices of earlier days when less was known about biodiversity. "In those days, there were no forestry practices rules. They just came in and took everything."

When he and Colleen burned piles of brush and old logs in 1979, he noted, "No one talked about the need to leave old logs on the forest floor for wildlife habitat. We just burned them along with the brush. Now these old logs serve many functions we didn't realize in earlier years."

"When you start, you only have the knowledge in your head," said Wayne.

Colleen added, "We talked to everyone who knew the forest - state forestry foresters, extension agents, landowners that were also logging companies - and read any publication that talked about forestry. It was like taking a whole college course in forestry."

"The forest became more than just a function of producing wood products," said Colleen. Learning how to manage trees differently meant they were simultaneously taking care of the fish in the streams, assuring adequate shade to control water temperature, and providing adequate woody debris to create habitat for spawning fish.

They also shifted their methods for watering their cattle. They realized that cows sometimes destroyed fish habitat when sloshing about in a creekbed. Wayne encouraged his downstream neighbors to help with building a fence that kept cattle away from the streams.

Trees remain the dominant feature of the Krieger's Skyview Ranch with an array of species that now compliment the former Douglas-fir monoculture.

"When Douglas-fir was precommercially thinned, white firs and Port Orford cedars came in under the remaining Douglas-firs," said Colleen. "We encouraged cedars which provided ornamental greens at Christmas time."

With help from their six children and 12 foster children over the years, the Kriegers have planted numerous species of trees.

The Kriegers plan includes numerous 'plantations', with each area stocked with trees of multiple species and ages. One plantation is stocked with 480 Port Orford cedars for ornamental greens and 100 Douglas-firs for Christmas trees. Plastic tubing and fencing protect the seedlings from deer and mountain beavers. Another 15-acre plantation, managed for an 80-year rotation to provide larger wood, was once a clearcut from the 1940s that had naturally regenerated with a mixture of alder, Douglas-fir, madrone, myrtlewood, tanoak, white fir and western hemlock. A shorter 30 - 40 year rotation is slated for a nearby 12.5 -acre unit. This Douglas-fir plantation was created in 1981 and stocked at a density of 400 trees per acre.

Each year, the Kriegers clear brush, cultivate soil, plant seedlings, prune, limb, thin and cut somewhere on the property. As a result, they realize some annual income from one or more aspects of the property - timber, ornamentals, cattle, and possibly - in the future - wild mushrooms.

The wildlife also benefit from their efforts. The Kriegers purposely have left some salmonberry and elderberry bushes for birds and small animals. "The pigeons go crazy over elderberries," said Colleen.

The family could tell from impressions left behind that bears were using the trees to reach ultra thick blackberry bushes. When cutting those bushes, the family left some thickets to provide habitat for small animals, added Colleen.

Thinning the trees did more than provide top-quality saw logs, said Colleen. "Some people think old growth is the only suitable (wildlife) habitat, but deer browsed on brush which replace cut trees, elk graze in the fields, and bears like brush and thickets as well as old growth."

The multidimensional management approach the Kriegers have for developing their forest is echoed in how they use water from the ponds and streams. School children in a local Salmon-Trout Enhancement Program hatched eggs and released 25,000 fingerlings into a pond on the Kriegers property. When the fish were seven inches long, they were netted, dipped into holding tanks and gently released into nearby Euchre Creek.

Each year, the Kriegers also invite school and community groups, other forest families and government officials to tour their property and learn about the various values the family holds for their land. He notes how some of their perceptions changed as a result of the Kriegers forestry tours.

A recent 4H tour generated numerous questions from urban youngsters wanting to know about deer and elf habitat, and other aspects of the forest. Wayne explained how the different habitats provided for different animals during different stages of the forest's growth.

"We always talk about clean air, water and habitat," he said. "They never looked at the whole life of a forest before."

For years the Kriegers have been aware of an 'invisible barrier' between forest landowners and environmental groups, and the need for better communication. So, in 1993, the Kriegers invited Port Orford's Audubon Society chapter for a tour of the property.

"Other foresters thought Wayne was crazy for inviting them," said Colleen. "We needed to show them what we had done and what we expected to do. We had a great time."

Audubon members were asked to critique the tree farm. In addition to learning about the Kriegers' written forestry plan, the touring group learned about brush control, wild animal damage to trees, thinning and limbing, and concerns the Kriegers have for non-forest values.

"They were open-minded and had a lot of questions," said Wayne, who noted afterward that the Audubon Society members were "better able to discuss sensitive issues is a constructive manner."

The Kriegers' educational crusade intensified in 1993 when they were named National Tree Farmers of the Year. They then traveled throughout the United States to give speeches about forestry, and encouraged people to use proper stewardship and enhance wood production, water, wildlife and recreation on their properties.

Why do the Kriegers make such extraordinary efforts?

"Love of the land!' We enjoy what we are doing," exclaimed Colleen. "There are 10,000 different uses in the forest, and if we can provide some of this out of our little property, maybe we've done out bit for society."

"It's something we've done as a partnership, something to give the kids," she added.

This partnership often finds Wayne digging a hole and Colleen carefully putting in a seedling. She makes sure the roots aren't 'J-rooted,' a condition where the roots are accidentally curled against the bottom of the hole and which may cause the seedling to die. And she is careful to gently pack soil around the roots and the stem. The couple then sit back, brown smudges on their Blue Jeans, and reflect on the need to closely care for the new seedlings until they mature to a 'stand alone' age.

"There's great satisfaction with putting in a whole plantation," said Colleen, who became amused when an Arbor Day circular came in the mail urging them to "Plant a tree. Help the environment." "We had already planted 54,000 trees in less than ten years," she beamed.

"They've raised us with thoughts of stewardship, taking care of the land," recalls daughter Becky, who at 21 is preparing for marriage and knows that she will continue working to achieve the kaleidoscope of values her parents hold so dear. "They taught us what to harvest, what to leave, the needs of different animals."

"I want to be sure it will be there for my children and their children, generation after generation," said Becky. "We're not just thinking what will benefit our family, but ask whether it will benefit the community, people and wildlife." Heilpern, N. (1995, November-December). A tree farming family's sense of balance. Forest Log, 65, p. 16.

The challenge for improvement continues, not only for the Krieger family, but for families who operate 73,000 certified tree farms throughout the United States--all of whom strive to produce their own lovely forest kaleidoscopes.

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