Happy Valley tour highlights family’s passion for trees

Nov 3, 2023 | Author: Larry Mauter, LCSWA member | Editor: Nancy Hildebrandt

Reforestation workshop moves outdoors

At Happy Valley Tree Farm there is a pole barn where history is written on the walls.

Records of the Udell family’s experiences with plantings and harvests in the hills north of Waterloo are there to see.

There is the photo of President Ronald Reagan congratulating Bert and Betty Udell in 1982 as they were recognized as national tree farmers of the year.

Saturday Oct. 28 was a frosty morning at Happy Valley. History was brought alive with a guided “rolling tour” of the property, with stops that highlighted activities through the decades.

Coffee, breakfast goodies and a hot stove in the barn greeted visitors.

The three-hour visit was a second part of the reforestation workshop sponsored by the Linn County Small Woodlands Association.

Handouts provided included aerial maps of different stands going back to 1948 as well as seedling and herbicide records stretching back to 2006.

Cascade Timber Consulting Inc. of Sweet Home has had a management role on the property since 2010. John Jayne, silviculture forester at CTC, explained his company’s role at Happy Valley.

Bert Udell was a forest engineer, timber cruiser and surveyor. The family added new parcels to their farm through the years, said family member Christy Tye. The 750 acres has been a site for Boy Scouts, 4-H and other community events.

Family member Fay Sallee recounted some of the changes she has seen. Her dad used to cut Douglas-fir Christmas trees in a way that would leave the limbs from the bottom whorl to turn up and form the next crop of Christmas trees on their own. Since then the bushy trees have been left to grow as a screen between campsites. Eventually they will be harvested for timber.

Fall Sallee standing near a tree

Fay Sallee explained on tour how her dad harvested Christmas trees in the past, cutting trees that would then regenerate on their own.
Photo by Larry Mauter

Another change that has occurred is thinning practices at Happy Valley. Bert Udell subscribed to the “carrot method” for thinning, said Sallee, removing the largest trees to make room for smaller ones. Since 2008, small clear cuts have been the standard, three to seven acres at a time. Now, because of the number of acres that have all reached maturity at the same time, continuing with the small clear cuts could lead to loss of trees. Options discussed on the tour included increasing the size of the clear cuts or trying “sanitation cuts.”

Oregon Department of Forestry Stewardship Forester Steve Kendall explained on the tour that sanitation cuts features light thinning in older stands “taking out the poorest of the poor” trees and leaving the stronger ones to continue to grow.

Steve Kendall talking to group standing in woodland

ODF Forester Steve Kendall, foreground, described thinning techniques during the Oct. 28 tour.
Photo by Larry Mauter

The tour included visits to stands ranging from two to 63 years in age — as well as a 5-acre harvest site just completed in August.

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The Udell property was a certified “green tag” forest in 1989. Photo by Larry Mauter

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