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La Pine High School Forestry Program


In a unique arrangement with the La Pine High School Forestry Program, Vandevert Ranch is thinning its forest and reducing ladder fuels to produce healthier trees and prevent the spread of forest fires.  The program is led by Scott Gestvang, pictured at right with students on the ranch.  "Mr. G" teaches classes in natural resources and advanced forestry at the high school.  The hands-on brush clearing and and fuels reduction at the ranch is part of the advanced forestry class and will qualify some of the students for jobs right out of high school.  Some of the students are members of the La Pine chapter of Associated Oregon Forestry Clubs, sponsored by Oregon State University.




At Vandevert, the project began in the southwest corner of the ranch and is moving north along the west border.  Progress is slow but steady because skills training is part of the experience and the students generally spend only 1.5 hours onsite three times a week.  The ranch foreman fells selected large trees before the students arrive (see photo at left).  The ranch is providing a learning environment for the students while improving the forest at a lower cost than hiring a commercial enterprise.





The work that the students have done since the spring of 2007 has already significantly diminished the fire danger to the ranch.  The class started work in the southwest corner of the ranch because a mass of fallen timber and thick stands of lodgepole pines made this area more combustible than others.  Also, with prevailing winds, a forest fire would be more likely to enter the ranch from the west than from the east.

The woodlands along the western border are almost entirely lodgepole of uneven ages, dominated by younger seedlings (up to 3" diameter), saplings (about 4" diameter), and poles (4" to 10" diameter).  Unless it has room to spread out, a lodgepole will grow thin and weak.  The Forestry Program is thinning the trees to an average distance of 14 to 15 feet between them.  The remaining trees will grow to be stronger and healthier. 

Thinning the trees while clearing the brush and deadwood from the forest floor reduces the "ladder fuels" that could allow a surface fire to ignite the crowns of trees (aerial fuels) where the fire could spread more rapidly.               

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