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Richard Good used his Timber King 24-foot bandsaw to salvage board feet out of a Ponderosa Pine. These blue pine boards were used to construct his sawmill. (WARREN GOOD photo)
Elgin tree farmer continues family’s legacy of land stewardship
ELGIN — Twice honored as “Union County’s Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year,” Richard Good has earned that prestigious title by careful forest stewardship planning, applying commercial thinning practices and single tree selection to maintain an uneven-aged stand.
As a result, the Oregon Department of Forestry and the Oregon State University Extension Service twice recognized Good for his sustainable forest management at their annual Farmer-Merchant banquet in La Grande in 1990 and again in 2012.
Behind the honors, though, is a hard-working, eco-conscious farmer, who values his family’s 123-year-old history of land stewardship. He and his wife, Sandy, want to maintain what they were entrusted with by sustaining their healthy 700 acres of forest, using no-waste logging practices.
At the same time, they feel a keen responsibility to preserve the forest’s environment for cohabitation by cattle, domestic animals, wildlife, grasses and seven species of trees.
In 2003, Arvid Andersen, a forestry consultant from Baker City, praised Good Ranch as one of the top three tree farms he had consulted. For Good, it was the culmination of 28 years of conscientious forestry management. His tree farm, 11 miles northeast of Elgin, received its American Tree Farm Certification in the early 1980s and was added to the registry of Oregon Century Farms in 1990.
The Good tree farm is largely comprised of Douglas fir, ponderosa pine, western larch and white fir, with marginal species of spruce, lodgepole pine and alpine fir.
“In 1975, Rod Brevig of Boise Cascade cruised our forest land and set up a logging program for us,” Good said. “The land was broken into 10 plots of varying sizes. A program was set up according to what plots needed commercial thinning the most. These sections were overstocked and I needed to space the trees out.”
Good started to follow the stewardship plan in 1976 by doing some Cat logging in Section A. In Section B, an overstocked canyon, it was a one-man logging operation. To do it, he used an Idaho Jammer to line the logs from the bottom of the canyon up 600 feet to the road at the top of the canyon bank.
The process was laborious. Good walked down the steep canyon bank to the bottom, connected the winch line to the fallen tree and then walked back up to the Jammer that pulled the tree up to the road’s edge.
“I selected the trees, marked them, cut them, skidded them out and decked them,” Good said. “Then I hired Cody Hindman and Tim Gilbert to haul them out to Boise Cascade, who had first chance at buying them.”
In later years, he hired commercial loggers to harvest trees for him, but even then, he always followed the stewardship plans recommended by Boise Cascade in 1975 and the Oregon Department of Forestry Service’s Tree Program in 1993 and 2005.
“Good stocking is 66 trees per acre,” he said. “They won’t grow when they are overstocked. They can easily get bugs in them and then the whole patch starts to die.”
To prevent this, he kept detailed records of each section, what species of trees were growing there and their sizes to ensure that he kept an uneven stand. As he logged, he made sure to leave plenty of good seed trees behind for natural replanting.
“I was keeping track of the Douglas firs, the white firs and the larch to show their growth, so I could log them at just the right size and get the most board feet out of each one,” he said.
Conservative, no-waste forest management was something Good became quite skilled at doing. The Douglas firs, for example, would give him a 2-log length, and he learned how to efficiently scale a log to get the most out of it and subsequently the best price, too.
Utilizing everything he could from each tree, even diseased trees, was an important practice in his forest
When he spotted a tree affected by pine beetles, he cut it down and put it through his home sawmill. He used every board foot he could for fenceposts, stays or as paneling in his home. Wood that was unusable that way was chipped and used as mulch, animal bedding or for the wood stove and boiler in the house.
“After Rod Brevig cruised the land in 1975 at 1-1/2 million board feet,” Good said. “From that time to 2003, I took out 3 million board feet. In 2003, forestry consultant Andersen cruised our land, estimating it had 2 million board feet remaining. Since then, we did two loggings of another 200 thousand board feet, and we’ll take more out this year.”
Good’s stewardship also means being on fire watch, especially during the dry season of each year. In August 2007, a fire destroyed about 40 acres of land just above Rysdam Canyon and 150 feet from Good’s forest.
“A neighbor called to warn me about it,” Good said. “I took my bulldozer, and it took me an hour to travel three miles to the south side of my property. There I made two passes to make a fire break, and I was assisted by local fire departments who arrived in response to the call for mutual aid. There was a wall of fire 30-feet tall coming toward my property. It was terrible.”
Then very unexpectedly, the winds that had been blowing north suddenly started blowing south. If that weren’t strange enough, it also began to rain. This quirk of nature saved the Good’s land from the fury of that blaze.
Being a steward of the land and its resources is what Good’s occupation has been for the last 38 years or so. This is how he shows his respect and appreciation for a family estate established in 1890, the legacy of his grandfather and father before him and a property he has loved for the past 76 years.