PROTECTING THE CAMP
By Alice Perry Linker
Observer Staff Writer
The 4-H camp, complete with lodge and cabins, nestles in a forested area about 10 miles outside La Grande, but all has not been well in the forest. Looming over the tall trees and thick shrubbery was the specter of wildfire.
To the rescue came three partners, the Oregon Department of Forestry, Boise Cascade and the Oregon Youth Authority. The three rescuers blended their skills and money to drive the specter away.
The lodge and cabins have not lost their forest, but selective logging, coupled with thinning small trees and cutting down unwanted brush, have brought a ring of safety to the buildings.
The entire rescue took only a few weeks.
"We wanted to get something going," said state forester Mark Jacques. "We didn't start planning until summer."
Working with the 4-H board, Boise marked the trees that needed to be cut down. Each tree was approved by the board. In return, the lumber company received the logs.
"Boise was very cooperative," Jacques said.
"They did a great job. They were real light on the land," said Diane Partridge of the forestry department.
Logging took only two or three days, and next on the scene were the young men from Riverbend at Hilgard.
"They are the key to getting the job done," said Buck Fullerton of Boise.
The youth cleared, sawed and chopped by hand, taking out the little trees with no commercial value, as well as the thick underbrush growing within 75 feet of each cabin and the lodge.
The young men finished the cutting and clearing last week, and this week, they're feeding the debris into a portable chipper, contracted under the National Fire Plan.
"The kids did an outstanding job," Partridge said.
The entire project was completed at a cost of about $4,000, with $3,000 coming from federal funds awarded to Union County for forest restoration. Another $1,000 came from National Fire Plan funds.
But the job has only just begun, according to Jacques. About five acres of an 80-acre property were thinned and cleared.
"Trees are dying throughout the 80 acres," Jacques said. "The land is overstocked; it comes down to good forest health."
The thinning project at the 4-H camp is only one of many fire-plan funded projects designed to protect homes and other structures from wildfire. The state forestry department's efforts this year have concentrated on Mount Emily, near Cove and near Morgan Lake. Jacques said he hopes to increase the numbers of acres and move into other areas of the county next year.