"This kind of work will last. When they clearcut, they come through and cut it all down, then the work is over for 40 years. But here, we’ll be coming back to this spot in maybe another 12 years."
- Russ Shippey, Master Logger
Russ Shippey has had a chainsaw in his hand since he was 17. The 49-year-old moves up and down the steep slopes of the Ellsworth Creek Preserve like he’s walking through his own backyard.
He’s a master logger, certified in a new style of logging: selective logging. This is a technique The Nature Conservancy is using at Ellsworth Creek to turn heavily logged and replanted industrial forest into a temperate coastal rainforest.
On a recent sunny fall day, Shippey was teaching Wade Giguere, another experienced tree faller, the specific skills for selective logging to fulfill the Conservancy’s stewardship plan for this forest. By thinning out some of the dense stands of Douglas-firs, they’ll create space for cedars, hemlock, spruce, and some Douglas-firs to grow big again. Light and air will once again filter to the forest floor to nourish diversity and recreate the conditions of an old-growth forest.
An Rx for Trees?
Tree fallers work by hand, choosing trees to fell according to a prescription written by Conservancy foresters, then trimming the branches so they can be pulled out from the forest without damaging surrounding trees.
“About 10 years ago, I saw this was the way to go,” Shippey said. “This kind of work will last. When they clearcut, they come through and cut it all down, then the work is over for 40 years. But here, we’ll be coming back to this spot in maybe another 12 years. You guys (The Nature Conservancy) are doing the right thing here.”
The economics are important to these men who’ve worked in the woods all their lives and are supporting families. Traditional timber harvest is seasonal, happening mostly in the summer and fall when conditions are drier. Selective harvesting can go year-round.
“Winters have been hard,” said Giguere, who is married with children. “Christmas was tough last year. It’s good to have this steady work.”
But it’s more than an economic argument for both men. They also value the long-term health of the forests.
“You do a clearcut around a crick, you see the crick dry up,” Giguere said. “What we’re doing here, this forest is going to be here in the future. We live out here because we love it. My family, my wife and kids, we hunt, we fish, we camp. We want to be out here too.”
Your support can restore temperate rainforests on the Washington coast and make sure there are still big trees to explore in the future.