Individual small ownerships don’t have a big impact on the sustainability of Oregon’s forests, but this year’s Linn County outstanding tree farmers feel every acre helps.
Mike and Jo Barsotti also believe there is always something new to learn on how to blend your forestry objectives with what makes a sustainable forests. And it is fun to manage a forest in their back yard, they say.
The couple bought and moved to their 19-acre tree farm just south of Lyons in 2001. The ridgetop property is at 1,700 feet. It is part of both the North and South Santiam watersheds. It was fully stocked with 14, 30, and 60 year-old Douglas-fir and a house that was built in 1994.
The Barsotti harvested the oldest stand, half in 2004 and half in 2018. These areas were replanted with Douglas-fir and some western red cedar. They built and rocked a road with the proceeds from these operations to allow year-round management. The remaining forested areas have been commercially thinned.
“Mike and Jo exemplify that one need not have mega-acres to effectively manage forestland,” said Joe Holmberg, Linn County’s Oregon Tree Farm System forester.
There are more than 1,300 ATFS-certified tree farms in Oregon.
“Anyone with 10 to 10,000 acres of forestland can become a member of the American Tree Farm System,” he said.
A tour to showcase the Barsottis’ management efforts will likely be scheduled for mid-September.
Young stands have been pruned. The previous owner planted 9 acres of pasture in 1987. It was pruned in the mid-1990s. Mike was his service forester back then. Mike is just finishing up the initial pruning of the stand planted after the 2004 clearcut. Their main reasons for pruning included wood quality, a bit of protecting from wildfire, and aesthetics. Improving songbird habitat was added as a reason for pruning after Mike attended an Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) workshop on songbirds.
This OFRI workshop and publications changed the way Mike views reforestation. He was an Oregon Department of Forestry service forester in the 1980s and ‘90s assisting family forest landowners convert pastures and brush ground back to trees. The strategy back then was to remove all vegetation and keep it that way until the newly planted trees had two growing seasons. Now Mike is trying to manage for both trees and native shrubs. Pruning young stands lengthens the time to crown closure thus giving native shrubs more years before they are shaded out.
The 2018 harvest unit was planted in 2020 and has had two years of weed control but the hazel, vine maple and ocean spray are being left as songbird habitat. Mike is pruning these shrubs so that they don’t overly compete with the seedlings.
Mike was an Air Force photo journalist during the Vietnam War era. Skills learned back then have been put to good use working with Oregon Small Woodlands Association and the OTFS. He is past president of OSWA and helps out with publicity for OTFS.
The Barsottis along with other nominees from other Oregon counties will be visited this summer by a team of professional foresters. They then decide who will be Oregon Outstanding Tree Farmer for 2021.