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Linn County Tree Farmers of the Year Transform the Forest

Bogwood property in Linn County, OR

 

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Ten years ago, the 80-acre property near Scio, Ore., affectionately named “Bogwood” by current owners Lee Peterman and Shirley Jolliff, looked very different. What was then an overstocked mix of conifers and hardwoods has been transformed into a substantially less-dense property, allowing room for native trees and plants to thrive, as well as local wildlife to move in and get comfortable.

The transformation isn’t limited to the landscape; it extends to the property owners themselves.  In less than eight years, Lee and Shirley have gone from academics with little woodland experience to 2020 Tree Farmers of the Year in Linn County, Oregon. 

A Bog to Call Home

When Lee and Shirley first set foot on the property in 2013, they knew it was home.  All they needed to see were the grand maples and elegant white oaks to be convinced. Despite their enthusiasm, it was apparent they had a long road ahead. 

Lee and Shirley Own and Operate Bogwood
Lee Peterman and Shirley Jolliff own and operate Bogwood in Linn County, OR

The property is rectangular, with the tree-lined perimeter standing about 90 to 95 feet higher than the interior, which means that any water or rain drains to the center. The result is a bog-like area extending approximately 22 acres through the middle of the property, hence the name “Bogwood”. 

Over the years, the area had become overgrown with invasive species, including English Hawthorne and Himalayan blackberry. Confounded but not entirely stumped (pun intended), Lee turned to the Oregon Small Woodlands Association for advice. Their recommendation: contact the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).  

In 2016, NRCS Linn County field office staff Nathan Adelman and Dan Olson met with Lee and Shirley to discuss their goals and tour the property. Following a thorough review, Dan suggested restoring the 22-acre bog as wet prairie habitat. Wet prairie is traditionally found in low-lying grassland and supports a variety of native plants and animals, making it an ideal conservation goal based on the existing structure of the property.

To help them achieve their goals, Lee and Shirley applied for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). 

Through EQIP, Lee and Shirley obtained financial and technical assistance to implement a number of conservation practices, including brush management, conservation cover, and forest stand improvement, to name just a few.   

Clearing the Way for Native Species

Equipped with a restoration roadmap outlined in a forest management plan, Lee set to work clearing the way for native species.   

While the initial plan called for removal of every conifer within the EQIP boundary, Lee and Shirley were reluctant.  

“I think I made a gasping, crying noise in the back of my throat when Dan first brought it up,” Lee recalled. “Where I grew up, if it’s green and growing, you embrace it.”
 

Even so, Lee understood the need to make room for native species, such as white oak.  They adapted the plan and began removing any sickly or dying conifers, as well as those in areas too dense to support the native vegetation.   

Oregon Sunshine
Recently planted native bed - Oregon Sunshine

For every tree Lee removed, Shirley followed by reseeding the area with native grasses and plants. The initial plan called for six species of plants to be seeded throughout the EQIP boundary. By the time Shirley was finished, that list had expanded to include another eleven native species.

“I may have gotten a bit carried away,” Shirley laughed.
 

Shirley gathered seeds mostly from friends and neighbors, clearing them with NRCS to ensure they were native and appropriate for the habitat.

“Pretty soon, hopefully, we’ll have the meadow replanted to support all kinds of wonderful annuals and perennials and pollinator habitat,” Shirley said.

And with the reintroduction of native plants, native animals have followed. By Lee’s estimation, the bird population has nearly quadrupled since they moved in. Recent sightings include Band-tailed pigeons, Cedar waxwings, Northern flickers, and even the occasional Calliope Hummingbird. Other animals include a bobcat, bats, numerous deer, foxes and coyotes. 

“Our goal right from day one was to provide the best habitat for the greatest number of species we can,” Lee said. 

Building from their Success

In 2018, Lee and Shirley applied for a second EQIP contract to enroll the remaining 55-acres of the property in EQIP.  The focus of this contract, which remains ongoing, is tree culling and pruning, along with brush management to restore forest resilience and prevent wildfire.  

Lee has already marked hundreds of conifers across the property for removal. 

“I knew there were just too many trees,” Lee explained. “What were we going to do with all those trees?”
Bio Den on Bogwood Property
Bio-den constructed from slashed conifers

To answer that question, Lee and Shirley had to get creative. For starters, Lee has been using the pruned branches and brush piles to create wildlife nests, or what some biologists refer to as “bio-dens.” 

“I take these logs and stack them up Lincoln-Log style and then pile up branches in between the levels,” Lee explained. “That gives rodents and rabbits space on the bottom and then birds can build nests between the levels."

Lee further recalled with a laugh, “I had a Pacific Wren just chewing me out because I wasn’t moving fast enough to get her condo finished.”

In addition to these bio-dens, Lee also relies on his wood working skills, using leftover woody debris and logs to create bird houses and bat boxes. Nothing goes to waste at Bogwood. 

And birds and bats aren’t the only ones benefiting; beavers too. 

Beaver dam analog
Beaver dam analogs improve water retention on the Bogwood property. 

Beaver dam analogs, or BDAs, are man-made structures that mimic beaver dams and serve to moderate stream flows and improve water retention. Lee embraced this innovative practice, installing various BDAs throughout the property using leftover logs as supports, along with brush and debris to build out the main structure.

While no beavers have moved in yet, Lee has observed improved water retention within the bog, noting the area remained green throughout the entire year following installation. 

Looking Ahead

In barely five years, Lee and Shirley have made drastic changes across the property. In addition to the conservation practices implemented with assistance through NRCS, Lee and Shirly have also tackled a number of personal conservation projects, including the installation of a 7 kW solar power system and widespread use of electric and battery-powered equipment.

“We try and walk the walk,” Lee explained. “We don’t just say it, we do it.”

And that is the motto sure to guide them throughout the next ten years. Lee plans to continue culling trees and brush to promote local hardwoods, while Shirley hopes to expand her native seedings to encompass the entire 22-acre bog.

Big plans, but no doubt Linn County’s Tree Farmers of the Year are up to the task.

For more information about EQIP or to apply for financial and technical assistance with NRCS, contact your local field office or find us online at www.or.nrcs.usda.gov.