The Brietenbush-Marion Forks
Forage Enhancement Project—Times Nine
By Dave Wiley, Agency Planning Team Leader-Oregon
Dale Wollam and I drove through a sun shower on our way to the Willamette National Forest’s Detroit Ranger District headquarters above Detroit Reservoir in the Oregon Cascades on Friday, April 30, 2010. Rich Stutheit and Joe Purdy were already at the warehouse when we pulled in at 7 a.m. An hour later we had eight more guys and one gal on hand to greet Forest Service retiree and volunteer project leader Rick Breckel when he arrived to brief us on the work plan.
We were a Duke’s mixture of RMEF and Oregon Hunters Association (OHA) volunteers from the Salem and Albany areas, and were the advance party for a huge two-day habitat project. That first day we distributed 7 tons of fertilizer and forage seed to a half dozen widely dispersed work sites, took the hand tools and other equipment to the base camp at Fox Creek, set up the big meeting tent, and spread fertilizer on three meadows using ATVs with mounted spreaders. One of the meadows required an amphibious operation using the Forest Service’s landing craft. How many elk habitat projects have you heard of that involve amphibious operations?
2010 is the ninth year for the Brietenbush – Marion Forks Forage Enhancement project. It is a real study in collaboration, cooperation and team work. It all started with a bunch of friends who just happened to be members of the local RMEF and Oregon Hunters Association chapters. Elk and black-tailed deer populations on the Detroit District were declining, mainly because of a lack of forage. Previously harvested timber stands in the area were filling in and conifers were encroaching on meadows. What to do? Why not approach the Forest Service about doing a forage enhancement project?
We contacted the Forest Service and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW), met with them a few times, and when the smoke cleared the Brietenbush Power Line forage enhancement project was born. Breckel, then the Detroit Ranger District’s wildlife biologist, selected a high voltage transmission right-of-way as the first target area. The power line licensees were the Bonneville Power Administration and Portland General Electric, who along with DFW partnered up with the Forest Service, contributing materials and manpower. Now in its ninth year, the project has grown to include both natural and man-made meadows outside the power line right-of-way at Marion Forks.
Throughout Friday evening, base camp filled up with travel trailers and tents. Even though it was drizzling rain, the assembling crew stood around jawboning—old and new friends talking about the next-day’s tasks and asking the weather gods to stop the rain.
Saturday morning, 80 people responded to the call at 7:30 a.m. Breckel gave his morning briefing, safety talk and introduced the six crew bosses. Volunteers were parceled out to each crew, everyone got another safety pitch by the crew bosses, we did final radio checks and were out of camp by 8:30. It was raining, of course. It would be a sticky day.
I had the Marion Forks crew consisting of 12 folks, eight of them RMEF volunteers. We fertilized Larry’s Meadow, about 20 acres with one ton of fertilizer using two ATV-mounted spreaders. We also applied half a ton of fertilizer to about 3 miles of previously seeded skid trail within the Gingham Ridge thinning using hand-crank spreaders. Not a bad day!
At the end of the day, the OHA always puts on a good feed for the whole crew and families, and this year was no different. Sure glad we had the big tent. Well fed and bone tired, everyone slept well, lulled to sleep by the pounding rain.