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Success Stories A Conservation Investment for Sustainable, Marketable Timbe

A Conservation Investment for Sustainable, Marketable Timber Products

Dan Mast (left) and NRCS district conservationist Tom Purvis discuss ways to improve forest health on his land. Like many people who make a living off the land, Dan Mast works to make the best management decisions he can for his land and his future. Conservation, he says, is a sound investment in the natural resources that support his livelihood.

"When you've managing a timber enterprise in a 50 to 60 year rotation, you have to be aware of conservation," Mast asserts. "You wouldn't have anything down the road if you weren't."

Mast manages 800 acres of family-owned forest land in southwestern Oregon. While the family also operates a grade A dairy and raise lambs, Dan believes that maintaining a diverse operation is the key to survival for small operations like his.

"In this particular area, forestry is of course very important to small acreage owners," he said.

Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) and other native plants thrive in healthy ecosystems on Mast´┐Ż property. Mast's property includes 200 acres of mature timber as well as another 590 acres of under stocked woodlands that, for decades after it was originally logged and prior to the Mast ownership, had not been replanted or managed for timber.

Mast contacted district conservationist Tom Purvis with the local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for help developing a conservation plan to manage the site for sustainable timber production.

"Tom [Purvis] has a reputation in the community as someone people can talk to and work with," Mast said. "He has lived here for years and can appreciate some of the resource problems."

NRCS provides conservation planning assistance to private landowners to help them evaluate the natural resource conditions on their land. Conservation planning is an important step that helps land managers assess management alternatives for meeting both production and conservation goals.

Purvis worked with Mast to develop a plan to meet Mast's goals for sustainable timber production while protecting healthy plant and animal communities, preventing erosion, protecting water quality, and deterring invasive species on his land. The plan focused on a practice called Forest Stand Improvement. This includes establishing a forest through tree planting, increasing the growth and quality of young timber stands, and removing mature timber for forest products or wildlife habitat. In addition, Mast installed all-weather access roads, fish friendly stream crossings, and forest harvest trails and landings designed to protect water quality and prevent soil erosion.

Andrew is especially thankful for the support of his family during all of the installation work. Without the help of his wife Saraetta, their daughter and three sons, he would not have been available to oversee the construction of the conservation practices. They have been a great help feeding and milking the cows, and doing the regular barn chores.

Although Andrew credits the contractors and NRCS with the coordination of installation, he spent a lot of time deciding on what was going to work best for this farm. If he had jumped into making changes immediately, he wouldn't have had time to learn and think about other options. His patience and prudence allowed him to make some wise decisions about the natural resources on his farm, and that is what conservation is all about.

"The conservation plan lays out priorities for management," Mast explains. "We've gone through the unit and prioritized the projects over the next 20 years."

Not only is Mast working to optimize forest production, but his conservation plan will also help him market the timber as it becomes ready for harvest.

"One factor in marketing logs is the certification issue," he said. "Retailers are demanding it, and more mills are asking for it."

Forest certification assures buyers that the forest products are produced and harvested in an ecologically sound manner that maintains natural forest characteristics and protects soil, water, plants and wildlife.

"Having a conservation plan takes care of the first step in receiving certification, because you have to have a plan to earn one, said Mast.

By implementing a conservation plan, Mast knows that he has taken an important step in improving the quality and value of his land today and in the future.

Jill Rees
NRCS, November 2006

Updated 10-25-07