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La Grande Observer 12/22/14

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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow SAVING ASPEN GROVE RESULTS IN FIREWOOD FOR LOW-INCOME

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SAVING ASPEN GROVE RESULTS IN FIREWOOD FOR LOW-INCOME

COMMUNITY ASSIST: Members of a Youth Conservation Corps crew sort through a pile of ponderosa pine that was cut in the Sugarloaf Mountain area. The crew was preparing the wood so that it could be cut into firewood and given to Neighbor To Neighbor Ministries. The crew members shown are, left to right, Tyler Edmunds, Shane Shermer, Heather Howell, Nick Mendiguren and Cheryl Bolthouse.  (The Observer/DICK MASON).
COMMUNITY ASSIST: Members of a Youth Conservation Corps crew sort through a pile of ponderosa pine that was cut in the Sugarloaf Mountain area. The crew was preparing the wood so that it could be cut into firewood and given to Neighbor To Neighbor Ministries. The crew members shown are, left to right, Tyler Edmunds, Shane Shermer, Heather Howell, Nick Mendiguren and Cheryl Bolthouse. (The Observer/DICK MASON).

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

A drive to save a stand of aspen in the Sugarloaf Mountain area is having a sweet spinoff — providing winter firewood for low-income residents of Union County.

This is a story of what happens when basic forestry and community awareness intersect.

Ponderosa pine had started to dominate a stand of aspen on Sugarloaf Mountain near Mount Emily Summit Road. The pine was shading the aspen, making it difficult for the trees to grow.

Enter Mark Penninger, a U.S. Forest Service biologist with the La Grande Ranger District. Penninger launched a drive to save the aspen.

Under his direction a contractor cut down the ponderosa pine, allowing the aspen to be exposed to more sunlight. The wood that was cut was moved to the side of a road. A pile of timber 12 feet high and about 40 feet by 40 feet was created.

The wood was not valuable as timber because it was crooked, but Penninger didn't want it to go to waste. He contacted Neighbor to Neighbor Ministries, a volunteer organization that serves people in need, and offered to donate it. Leaders quickly accepted the offer.

A large amount of work had to be done before the wood could be given to the group. The wood pile was 12 feet high. The ponderosa pine had to be sorted and cut.

Penninger called in a Youth Conservation Corps crew to tackle the pile. The eight-person crew made short work of the wood pile. The crew members collected the slash, put it in separate piles and pulled out the large logs so they could be cut into firewood with a chain saw by Penninger.

The project took about three days, less than the YCC crew anticipated.

"It was intimidating to look at at first,'' YCC crew leader Travis Weimer said.

The firewood was later picked up by Neighbor to Neighbor volunteers. About four cords was provided.

Loree Leonard of Neighbor to Neighbor Ministries said the firewood has provided a significant portion of the 30 cords of wood Neighbor to Neighbor leaders like to have on hand each winter.

The slash from the pile was put into six piles that will be burned this fall.

The YCC crew members who did the work along with Weimer included Tyler Edmunds, Nick Mendiguren, Cheryl Bolthouse, Heather Howell, Chris Marshall and Shane Shermer. All are Union County residents.

"They have done a great job. This is a great group to work with,'' Penninger said.

The YCC crew is working under a cooperative agreement with the Training and Employment Consortium and the U.S. Forest Service.

Bill Munro, a wildlife biologist with the Forest Service, is helping Penninger direct the YCC crew.

The crew is putting in fences around the aspen stand to protect the young trees from cattle, deer and elk.

The fence will remain up until young aspen can withstand intrusion by wildlife.

The aspen restoration project is a cooperative program sponsored in part by the Oregon Hunters Association, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Forest Service and the Blue Mountain Elk Initiative.

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