Deep in the tall trees

Jun 23, 2024 | Author: Larry Mauter, LCSWA member | Editor: Nancy Hildebrandt

Steve and Katie Kohl’s "Sirius Woods" are sanctuary for old growth, wildlife in Linn County

In the night sky, Sirius is the brightest star. For 2024, Sirius Woods — Steve and Katie Kohl’s 42 acres near McDowell Creek Falls — will shine brightly. The Kohls have been named Linn County Small Woodlands Association (LCSWA) Tree Farmers of the Year (TFOY). They will host a gathering of fellow woodland owners on a September Saturday to be determined.

The couple has actively nurtured the property for 33 years, working with Oregon Department of Forestry staffers to create wildlife habitat and recreation opportunities and to maintain old-growth timber. “Steve and Katie actively manage their tree farm for biodiversity,” said Joe Holmberg, who heads up the TFOY selection process. “Both have been very active in the Linn County Small Woodlands Association.”

Steve and Katie Kohl are both OSU Extension Service Master Woodland Managers. They have advised other forest owners on their projects for the past two decades.

Steve is an associate professor emeritus in Asian languages at the University of Oregon.

Katie has been the long-time chair of the LCSWA scholarship program and has served as chapter secretary as well as an OSWA secretary. She has also worked with 4-H groups. She is a former English teacher who retired from Crescent Valley High School in Corvallis.

Steve Kohl said their property was logged during World War I. The previous owner constructed a 600-square-foot cabin that was hand-built with Eastern Oregon lodgepole pines. The former owner’s dog and cat came with the property 33 years ago. (Sirius is also known as the “dog star.”) Through the years, the Kohls have added a sun room and guest bedroom to the structure. “He was looking for someone who would appreciate the woods, encourage their growth...and not clear-cut them,” said Katie Kohl of the former owner.

Their stand was part of a larger old-growth area “cut now on all four sides,” said Steve Kohl. Their property is lush with tall hemlock, Douglas-fir, grand fir, cedars, sword ferns along with a mix of hardwoods like cascara, dogwood (appropriately), big-leaf maple in the open spaces. They have recently planted incense cedars and Willamette Valley Ponderosa pine in some spots, reflecting the belief those trees can withstand higher summer temperatures. Their goals with Sirius Woods include continued stand improvements and possibly some pond renovations.

Steve and Katie Kohl enjoy a morning walk

Steve and Katie Kohl enjoy a morning walk on their property off McDowell Creek Drive. Photo credit: Larry Mauter

“Natural diversity is one of the things that appeals to us,” said Steve Kohl, with Katie adding “and maintaining old growth that is growing.” Sword ferns harvested from Sirius have been part of the offerings at the LCSWA annual seedling sale. Firewood from the tree farm has warmed homeless shelters in Linn and Lane counties.

Logging roads built more than a century ago offer access to the site for recreation for the Kohls, their three children and four grandkids. There is a series of four small ponds with plants like skunk cabbage and other water lovers along an unnamed creek. The property elevation ranges from 700 to 1,000 feet. Wildlife — cougars, bear, elk and other critters — are regular visitors. “We’ve seen everything over time,” said Steve Kohl.

The Kohls were inspired to purchase the property for a number of reasons. “We had a lot of connections with the woods growing up,” said Steve Kohl. “We wanted to get a piece of woods and take care of it the way it should be.” The Kohls exemplify woodland owners who choose a variety of goals relating to their property, said Mike Barsotti, LCSWA president. It is important to have those diversified areas for the overall health of the forest, he added.

The Kohls and other honorees will be spotlighted in the fall at a ceremony at the Oregon Gardens in Silverton.

Linn County Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year

  • 2024 Steve and Katie Kohl
  • 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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Katie and Steve Kohl have found their home among the tall trees on their 42 acres. Photo credit: Larry Mauter

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