Bell family tour shows value in keeping records — a crucial aspect of forestry

Sep 8, 2023 | Author: Tim Otis, LCSWA member | Editor: Nancy Hildebrandt

Neal Bell and family honored by LCSWA with annual award

The Neal Bell family hosted a tour of their tree farm on Saturday, Aug. 19. Neal, wife Valerie and son Damon are the Linn County 2023 Tree Farmer of the Year.

The family has 110 acres of ridge-top property near Scio. Neal and Damon gave us a detailed look at the many aspects of managing their forest properties. We all know it is many things, but I was reminded again how much planning, learning, and hard work it takes to care for these amazing places we call home.

After a brief introduction by chapter President Mike Barsotti, we began the tour at the site of an old lookout, near an early 2022 12-acre clearcut, done to capture what you all may remember as a very brief spike in log prices. This gave the opportunity to share the many aspects of this operation, including roads, marketing, harvest methods, yarding at 45-degree to the road, hauling, planting preparation, planting methods, vegetation control, deer browse protection, subsequent adjacent wind throw, and salvage. Also discussed was log length to maximize scale at the mill. I think we often forget how much is involved in each part of forest management. Neal — who was 2007 Linn County tree farmer of the year — gave us a valuable reminder with his lifetime of experience.

Another highlight of the tour was a chance to see the methods used to thin a 27-year-old stand of Douglas-fir.

The Bells use a M8200 Kubota tractor with a Farmi winch — which has been customized with hooks, pruning platform, and tool holders for this task. Neal has also kept careful records of growth in this stand, on permanent plots using the “Tariff Tree” method of tracking the volume of standing timber.

While many of us probably just wonder how the trees are doing (myself included), then maybe hire a forester to do an appraisal, Neal has systematically tracked the growth himself. Many helpful tips were shared here, including using only a quad machine to enter the stand prior to this first commercial thin, and carefully laying out skid trails, minimizing soil compaction.

Also, most of the stand has had the lower branches pruned up to 18 feet. Anyone who has done this knows how much work it can be, but the advantages are obvious when you are thinning. Among other benefits, you can see the tops of the trees much better, the logs are easier to handle, the fire danger is lower, the value of the remaining standing timber is increased, and you can easily get to anywhere in the stand.

Finally, we toured the 13-acre “powerline triangle” plot that was logged in 2017, planted in 2018 with Douglas-fir, then, due to a seedling storage issue, replanted in 2019 with both D-fir and Coastal Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens).

This site had been occupied by oak and maple that had been damaged by wind storms, ponded areas, and some firs with tree-rot. After four years, these Redwood seedlings were doing well on this site — some outgrowing the Douglas-fir. Although it is easier to just “do what we did before” when managing forest land, Neal and Damon demonstrated the value of looking forward, maybe changing how we do things and what we plant. Certainly, there are no guarantees when we try something new, take a risk, but the commitment and courage to learn and change are characteristic of the best of us, of those we give our recognition as “Tree Farmers of the Year.”

Linn County Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year

2023 Neil,Valerie and Damon Bell.

2022 Ed and Jim Merzenich and their families

2021 Mike and Jo Barsotti

2020 Lee Peterman and Shirley Jolliff

2019 Kathy and Tim Otis

2018 Sherm and Leslie Weld

2017 Ivan and Rebecca Wolthius

2016 Joe and Shirley Holmberg

2015 Dave and Karen Bateman

2014 Linda Butts

2013 Rod and Ann Bardell

2012 Ed and Jim Merzenich and Karen Wilson

2011 Henry and Mollie Wolthius

2010 Dale and Shirley Crocker

2009 Fun Forest (Cota and Melcher families)

2008 —

2007 Neal Bell

2006 Don and Carol Cree

2005 Lon and Laura Rankin

2004 Aaron and Shawn White

2003 Alvin Sorseth

2002 Jim and Mary MacPherson

2001 Bentz Family

1998 Ed Merzenich

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Tour attendees saw clear skies and ridge-top views Aug. 19 as Neal and Valerie Bell were honored at their Scio tree farm.

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