Clackamas Woodland Farmer of the Year 2020

There is something fishy about the Clackamas Woodland Farmer of the Year 2020.  Literally, the return of coho salmon to spawn in Suter Creek is a major highlight of their story. Trees of all sizes do feature prominently in David and Mary Ann Bugni’s work to care for their woodland. But a tour of their land soon reveals the Bugni’s passion for improving habitat for fish. For their dedication to land stewardship, community service, and education, David and Mary Ann Bugni and their Bugni Family Forest & Tree Farm were awarded the Clackamas Woodland Farmer of the Year 2020. Their story was told in a virtual recognition event online featuring an outstanding video and photo tour at the CCFFA annual meeting on November 12, 2020. You can view the recording of this online. 

The annual Clackamas Woodland Farmer recognition started in 1955 and is the oldest recognition event of its kind in Oregon. Judges visit each farm being recognized - looking for sound forestry practices, sustainable management, and community service or education to share their stewardship stories and methods. The nominating and judging committee included: Gary Bush, Clackamas Co. Farm Forestry Assoc.; Mike Haasken, Oregon Department of Forestry (retired); and Glenn Ahrens, OSU Extension Forestry. For the woodland tour we were joined by Amanda Brenner, OSU Extension Clackamas County who took photos and video. 

David and Mary Ann’s adventure in land stewardship began in 1991 when they decided to relocate to a rural setting from their previous home in Milwaukie, Oregon. They saw an ad for 16.8 acres of woods outside of Estacada and decided to make it their home. Over the years they expanded their ownership to 83 acres with purchases of three additional parcels. Their initial goal was to make their home and raise their children in a beautiful, secluded forest environment. Given David’s profession as a structural engineer, he got busy designing and implementing projects of all sorts on the land, including their home, a hydroelectric power generator on Suter creek, and various trails and bridges for accessing their land, along with all the basic tasks of woodland management. Over the years, the entire family has been quite involved in the work of land stewardship, while enjoying the recreational benefits of living in the woods.  

The Bugni’s forest management plan is thorough and well organized (as you might expect from an engineer). This along with the obvious results of decades of diligent effort in forest stewardship made a clear path to certification under the American Tree Farm System in 2019. Their goals, outlined for the various forest stands in their management plan include: 

  • Maintain forest health and mature forest character. 
  • A secluded place to live and recreate. 
  • Environmental benefits of trees including carbon sequestration.  
  • Generate income from timber harvesting. 
  • Improve riparian areas. 
  • Enhance fish and wildlife habitat. 
  • Control invasive plant species. 
  • Protect against wildfire. 
  • Pass property on to heirs. 

Their home overlooks the steep canyon of Suter Creek, the vital aquatic thread running through all of their land (and their hearts as well it would seem). Across about 16 acres around the home and down the canyon, they manage a maturing forest of Douglas-fir, hemlock, cedar, alder, and maple to maintain aesthetic value and overall health of the forest and creek. On 6 acres upstream of the home parcel, they have been managing a young forest since it was replanted after logging in 1998. On another 40 acres further upstream, the Bugni’s have been managing young trees planted in 1987. Throughout all of these younger stands, they have stayed busy weeding out excessive deciduous species to favor Douglas-fir, thinning over-dense areas including alders where there were not fir, and pruning trees up to 18’.  Outside of the riparian area, they are managing these younger stands for timber production over the long term. 

Their most recent addition was 20 acres of medium sized timber, mixed Douglas-fir, cedar, hemlock, and deciduous trees. Here they are managing to generate income while maintaining forest health and recreation opportunities. After a commercial thinning operation in 2013 that employed skyline yarding across Suter Creek, they took advantage of the opportunity to access the creek to add large woody debris for fish habitat. 

Practices to improve wildlife habitat and forest diversity - throughout their properties, the Bugni’s are creating snags, installing bird boxes, underplanting shade tolerant trees such as western redcedar, and removing invasive weeds. They give special attention to maintaining and enhancing the riparian forest near the creek across all their property. In recent years, the Bugnis’ have become very active in restoration and enhancement of riparian and aquatic habitat, on their own property and across the larger watershed. David has led an intensive effort funded by multiple grants (totaling over $1,000,000), organizing and coordinating with neighboring landowners, large and small. This dedicated and ongoing effort is producing amazing results. 

They have controlled invasive plants and installed riparian planting along 1,866 feet of stream as part of the Clackamas River Basin Council’s (CRBC) Shade Our Streams Program (2015-2018) funded by Portland General Electric (PGE). David used a 2015 PGE grant ($295,660 plus $83,403 of in-kind donations) to replace two, 6’-diameter fish-blocking culverts with a bride over Suter Creek to give salmon access to 5 miles of habitat. They have done multiple placements of large wood, boulders and gravels along Suter Creek. Most recently, they used a PGE grant ($207,570 plus $48,550 of in-kind 2019-2020) to place 95 logs, via helicopter in 19 large wood structures along about one mile of Suter creek. 

A good run of coho salmon is shaping up this fall and several were showing up to spawn in the newly-created habitat after the first good rains in November.

Community Service and Education - David currently serves on the Board of Directors of the CCFFA (since 2019) and CCFFA member since 2015. He is leading the 17-member steering committee to organize a “Clackamas Conference” for the Clackamas River Basin Council. This will be a year-long, virtual, natural history conference, which is scheduled to premiere in the spring of 2021. 

Over the last five years, David has taught CRBC classes on “Healthy Streams & Forests,” (2018-2019), a three-hour, hands-on, walking tour and class. David presented “Stream Crossing Fundamentals for the Woodland Owner” OSU Extension Tree School at Clackamas Community College (2017-2018). The Bugni’s also hosted a CCFFA Twilight Tour (June 23, 2016). He also co-presented “Fish Habitat Restoration Considerations for the Forestland Owner,” with Dave Stewart (ODFW) at the 2020 Oregon Society of American Foresters Annual Meeting. 

David’s concept for creating an “Eagle Creek Community Forest” became a reality with the Clackamas Soil & Water Conservation District’s purchase of 319 acres of formerly Weyerhaeuser forestland, bordered by Clackamas Co. Eagle Fern Park, BLM and PGE properties. To further enable this, David co-wrote the successful $550,000 US Forest Service Community Forest grant. 

The Bugni’s have an ambitious list for their Forest Future, with well-justified expectations for good outcomes from their continuing efforts, including: 

  • Pre-commercial and commercial thinning 
  • Establishing shade tolerant conifers in the understory 
  • Retention harvests and clear-cut harvests, 20-30 years out 
  • Leaving some large confers within 200’ of the creek 
  • Expand and protect riparian areas  
  • Harvesting patches of red alder when it is mature 
  • Maintaining a network of hiking trails 
  • Managing forest health and aesthetics 
  • Fish and Wildlife enhancements 
  • Consideration of Carbon Sequestration and Carbon Markets. 
  • Consideration of landscape, watershed context, and the balance of all values across the greater Eagle Creek Community forest. 

Awards and Recognition - In addition to this Woodland Farmer of the Year Recognition, the Bugni’s received the Fish & Wildlife Steward Award (Oregon Departments of Forestry and Fish & Wildlife 2020); achieved American Tree Farm System certification in December 2019, and; were given the Cole Gardiner Stewardship Award (by the CRBC 2016) for “outstanding efforts in stewardship of the Clackamas river watershed”. 

There is a common vision of both stewardship and succession to future generations among all Clackamas Woodland Farmers. Beyond the family, they serve the community and society by sharing their experience and their philosophy of forest stewardship with others, inspiring them to learn and practice good forest stewardship in turn. 

For all of their good work over 30 years, as land stewards and leaders in their community in forest management, conservation, and fish habitat restoration: Congratulations to David and Mary Ann Bugni and their Bugni Family Forest and Tree Farm, Woodland Farmer of the Year 2020! 

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