Lane Parry, Forestry Consulting, Baker City, OregonPlanter bag loaded with Larch saplings.

Managing the Unmanageable

Lane Parry, Forestry Consulting, Baker City, Oregon

By Lindsay R. Mohlere

On the afternoon of August 10, 2015, Lane Parry, president of Lane Parry Forestry Consulting of Baker City, Oregon, was visiting one of his contracted logging crews working a thinning project on the north side of Little Baldy Mountain, when he noticed smoke on the south side of the mountain. At first, he didn’t think too much of it. A dry lightning storm had moved through overnight, and there had been several lightning strikes in the area — he knew fire crews were nearby.

Lane Parry, Forestry Consulting, Baker City, OregonPart of the 20-man crew reforesting the Cornet/Windy Ridge fire. Crews plant an average of 1,200 trees per day.

“I putted around for a while looking at their job, checking the job, and the smoke was looking bigger,” Lane said. “I ended up going up on the ridge for a better look, thinking that it wasn’t that bad. About ten minutes later, the wind kicked up. I was like, ‘Oh! Yeah! It’s coming fast.’”

Lane then alerted the logging crew, and the race was on to get men and machines to a safe place as the fire devoured acres at about 20 miles per hour.

What Lane had observed was the beginning of the Cornet Fire, which eventually joined with the Windy Ridge Fire to become what is known as the Cornet/Windy Ridge Fire. It devastated over 100,000 acres of private and public range and forest land in eastern Oregon, until it was contained in October of that year. Little did he know that he would soon be contracted to manage the salvage and reforestation operation after the fire was out.

It was a difficult undertaking, with many moving parts, including the fact that Lane had never done a salvage job of this scale before and had little reforestation work under his belt. However, he was able to put all the pieces together. For his efforts and management of the project, Lane was awarded the Eastern Oregon Operator of the Year Award for 2017.

Lane Parry, Forestry Consulting, Baker City, OregonThe hoedad — an essential tool for planting seedlings during the reforestation process.

Tackling a Unique Challenge

Along with federal lands, the fire impacted 14 different landowners, including several of Lane’s consulting clients.

One of the biggest challenges to salvage logging in Oregon is the fact that if you salvage log, you are also responsible for reforestation. Large, corporate landowners know this and are accustomed to it. In the case of smaller, private landowners, it’s a whole other story.

Most of the private landowners had no experience with salvage logging or reforestation, nor contracting with logging outfits or tree selection. Before one tree was cut, Lane took the extra effort and educated the landowners about the reforestation issue.

Another challenge was mitigating the financial risk involved with the project. “We were a depressed timber market salvage logging low-value pine. So you’re looking at landowners netting about $250 per acre. Reforestation costs $300 an acre,” Lane said.

The first thing Lane did was contact the Farm Services Agency to see if they had any disaster recovery grants. Fortunately, they did. The grants are designed to cover 75 percent of disaster recovery costs. “We got 75 percent of the planting costs covered, and then we started to salvage log. Didn’t take very long to get an answer. The fire was still smoking by the time we heard from them,” Lane explained.

Securing Seedlings

The final hurdle was securing the seedlings necessary to reforest the burn, but because clear cutting is rare in eastern Oregon, an adequate supply of seedlings was not available. Lane sought the help of Private Lands Forest Network, nonprofit group in La Grande, Oregon.

“They’re usually here for non-industrial private ground with, maybe, 20,000 trees. All of a sudden, we had a need for 400,000 seedlings,” Lane said. “Luckily, they knew what to do. The first year, spring of 2016, we could only round up 24,000 trees. But thanks to the efforts of Jamie Knight at Private Lands Forest Network, who got to working with nurseries, got them sowing a lot of seeds, last year we had 210,000. This year, to finish it up, we got over 110,000 seedlings,” Lane added.

Prior to taking on the Cornet/Windy Ridge project, Lane had done some tree planting inspection and over-administered tree planting for Hancock Forest Management, where he worked with C&H Reforesters from Dalles, Oregon. Lane contracted C&H to do the planting, who brought 17 tree planters and three supervisors to the job. On average, each planter will do about 1200 trees per day.

Lane Parry, Forestry Consulting, Baker City, OregonLeft to right: Lane Parry, Geoff Phillips and Dustin Hull.

A Small Company Multi-tasking

“We do a lot of the same things that a private industry forester or even a government forester would do, but as a small company we do it all instead of being compartmentalized like the forest service or state would be,” Lane said, describing the scope of his company.

Typically, Lane will sit down with a timber landowner and tour their ground with them to identify goals and objectives. Then he will explain what he sees from a silviculture standpoint.

At that point, if the landowner decides to go forward, Lane will write a management plan.

Part of the management plan is a timber cruise to inventory the volume the landowner has. It also serves to separate the healthy from the unhealthy trees, so they have an idea of where each tree stands in terms of health and vigor. “The cruise helps us make our management decisions,” Lane added. “We’ll do regeneration surveys at that time too. It helps us get a picture together of what needs to be done.”

If the client then wants to commercial log, Lane will lay out the units and mark the timber accordingly for forest health and the landowner’s objectives. Lane will also contract loggers, negotiate, and sell the logs. “We used to have five or six mills we could shop around, but now we’ve got one or two. I still try to get the best price I can for the landowner,” Lane said.

In addition, Lane said he deals with the state as far as permits and any other issues or challenges that come with the project. “If we have a tricky creek crossing or logging near a waterway or fish stream, I deal with those issues and get permits.”

Lane Parry, Forestry Consulting, Baker City, OregonWhen Opportunity Knocks

Currently, Lane Parry Forestry Consulting employs two full-time employees during the slow seasons of winter and spring. During the summer, Lane employs six total and contracts operators to handle the other various parts of his projects. Lane’s two sons also work for the company during college breaks.

Coming out of Oregon State University in 1988 with a degree in Forestry, Lane went to work for Rogge Forest Products in the fall of that year. A few years later, the mill was bought out and new owners came aboard. Shortly afterward, Lane and Dick Tienhaara, his boss at the time, left to start their own consulting business.

“A lot of private ground wasn’t managed like the big companies manage,” Lane said. “It was logger’s choice, but were they making the best subcultural forestry decisions? We felt that there was a need for consulting.”

“It was right in the early 90s,” Lane recalled. “The log markets were going sky high crazy, and mills were buying everything they could find. As a result, good timber cruisers were in extremely high demand. We mainly just cruised timber.”

After five years of working together, Lane and Dick split the business up, with Dick moving to Roseburg and Lane staying in Baker and Union counties. The skills acquired over those 30 years allowed him to tackle big projects and earn the Eastern Oregon Operator of the Year Award.

TimberWest November/December 2013
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