OREGON CITY - For some people, weekend chores mean more than cleaning the garage.
Ground truth aerial photos; inventory forest resources; sample streams and riparian areas.
These are just a few of the tasks landowners in the Portland area are undertaking as they learn how to manage their forested lands.
For five months, a dedicated corps of small woodland owners have attended class at night and slogged through wet woods on Saturdays as they learned the fine points of resource management planning in a new program offered by the Oregon State University Extension Service.
Mike Bondi, OSU professor and Extension forester in Clackamas County, helped create the Resource Management Planning program as part of a growing curriculum he has developed for small woodland owners in the metro area. Bondi's forestry educational classes range from planting trees to passing on the family farm.
"Mike is a super educator," said Scott Russell, an engineer by training and a tree farmer who has taken several of Bondi's classes. "His forestry programs are models for the rest of the country. To us, he walks on water … and logs!"
Russell and his wife live outside Scappoose on a tree farm they have stitched together from cut over or neglected pieces of land.
"We could only afford to buy clearcuts," Scott said with a chuckle. After cobbling together a few hundred acres, the Russells knew they needed help managing their land and rehabilitating their forest.
"Our goal is to leave the land better than we found it. But managing a tree farm is really more than sticking a tree in the ground," said Scott. "It's beyond my education."
So, the Russells signed up for OSU Extension's Resource Management Planning program last winter, along with a dozen other landowners.
The goals of the participants are as diverse as their lands.
For example, Ron and Walt Dilley inherited 80 acres of forestland near Colton from their father, and now their goal is to manage the land for a steady, sustainable income from timber.
For woodland owners like the Dilleys who intend to harvest timber, having a resource management plan may allow a tree farm to be certified, which can put the forester in a better position to market his logs.
"Dad always had a plan in his head for the forest," Walt recalled. "He knew what he was doing, but no one else did."
"When Ron and I took over, we did the same thing, just kept it all in our heads and told ourselves we knew what we were doing."
The OSU Extension program taught the Dilleys how to survey and inventory their forest resources and to prepare a written plan.
"After that we saw things we didn't know we had, and we didn't find things we thought we had," Walt said. "And now we have a plan on paper."
Mike and Cheryl Schwartz's forestland may be a fraction the size of their classmates', but their love of the land is just as expansive. Having recently moved from Florida onto an eight-acre parcel of forestland just beyond Portland, they felt they had everything to learn.
"We didn't even know what kinds of trees we had," Cheryl said, laughing.
An aeronautical engineer and an aquatic biologist, the Schwartzes enrolled in the Extension program in order to learn what they had and how to take care of it.
"Lots of the others in the program were tree farmers who had been doing this for years. We were starting our management plan from ground zero," said Cheryl.
The Schwartzes dedicated their weekends to mapping every inch of their forest, clearing out invasive species, and enlisting neighborhood children to help count trees. They were first in the class to finish their management plan, with goals to enhance wildlife habitat and manage without chemicals.
"We've got our neighbors interested in taking care of the roads and streams, so the benefits really do flow downstream," said Cheryl.
A program such as Bondi's has benefits beyond the woodland boundary, as property owners learn to care for waterways and wildlife as well as trees, according to Jim Cathcart of Oregon Department of Forestry in Salem.
"The best thing we can do is have people take an interest in their land," said Cathcart. "Developing a management plan helps the tree farmer, and it helps the rest of us, too."