Western Field Trip, Part 4: Duke Forest West
by Emily Myron -- June 25th, 2012
For my final entry about Western Field Trip I was going to tell you about our informative and – compared to sleeping on the gym floor – comfortable time with Potlatch Timber Corporation; however, I have decided to tell that story through pictures, instead. Potlatch is an approximately 1.44 million acre, FSC certified timber operation. We had the pleasure of being led through all of the steps of production…
You start with a very steep mountainside and lots of heavy machinery…
Clearing a mountainside like this one can be accomplished using (essentially) two machines. First, someone must manually fall each tree with a chainsaw. Then, the Yarder (the red machine below) is used. It has a cable that runs down the hillside and is attached to trees at the bottom of the slope. Next, the operator runs a carriage down the line, which is attached to the felled tree. The tree is pulled up the hillside, via the cable, by the Yarder. The orange machine is called a Loader, and it is able to pick up these massive logs and stack them safely on the hillside. It was incredible how efficient the machines made this process, given the steepness of the hillside. I cannot imagine how dangerous these jobs must be – both for the men on the ground manually felling trees and for the men in the machines lifting these two-story tall trees.
Trees that aren’t high quality enough to be made into lumber become pulp for paper. The logs are dried before they are picked up and pulped.
In order to have a sustainable operation, Potlatch needs to replant the trees, and we were able to help plant some of the seedlings!
Hmm that makes this process sound a lot simpler than it really is, but you get basic the idea!
After a long day in the forest, we were invited to a dinner hosted by Potlatch staff. There, we spoke with families who had been living and working at Potlatch for their whole lives. It was fascinating to hear stories of how the town has changed from a booming area with huge bunkhouses, mess halls, schools, and general stores, to the sparse town you can see today. Many of the workers are now contract workers, so they do not take up residence in the beautiful country. It means that the area is no longer a booming town, but it is still populated by people who were born and raised in the mountains and who are proud of the hard work they do.
Everywhere we visited on Western Field Trip, we were met by welcoming, candid, wonderful people who were so excited to share a piece of their lives with us. Coming into this trip with a background in wildlife conservation, I didn’t know much about Superfund sites, mining, forestry, or dams, and this experience was an extraordinary introduction into each of these important natural resource management fields. I was also able to make connections between every single one of the industries we learned about and wildlife conservation, which only highlights how connected everyone, and everything, is when you think about conserving our planet’s resources – whether underground, growing stories tall, or racing downstream.
Shortly – and by that, I mean about 16 hours – after arriving back in Durham, I graduated with my Master of Environmental Management. This degree has been an incredible journey, and it was fitting to have ended it with one last trip.