La Pine High School Forestry
In a unique arrangement with the
La Pine High School Forestry Program, Vandevert Ranch is thinning
its forest and reducing ladder fuels to produce healthier trees
and prevent the spread of forest fires. The program is led by
Scott Gestvang, pictured at right with students on the ranch.
"Mr. G" teaches classes in natural resources and advanced forestry
at the high school. The hands-on brush clearing and and fuels
reduction at the ranch is part of the advanced forestry class and
will qualify some of the students for jobs right out of high school.
Some of the students are members of the La Pine chapter of
Associated Oregon Forestry Clubs, sponsored by Oregon State
At Vandevert, the project began in the southwest
corner of the ranch and is moving north along the west border.
Progress is slow but steady because skills training is part of the
experience and the students generally spend only 1.5 hours onsite
three times a week. The ranch foreman fells selected large
trees before the students arrive (see photo at left). The
ranch is providing a learning environment for the students while
improving the forest at a lower cost than hiring a commercial
The work that the students have
done since the spring of 2007 has already significantly diminished
the fire danger to the ranch. The class started work in the
southwest corner of the ranch because a mass of fallen timber and
thick stands of lodgepole pines made this area more combustible than others.
Also, with prevailing winds, a forest fire would be more
likely to enter the ranch from the west than from the east.
The woodlands along the western border are almost entirely lodgepole
of uneven ages, dominated by younger seedlings (up to 3" diameter),
saplings (about 4" diameter), and poles (4" to 10" diameter).
Unless it has room to spread out, a lodgepole will grow thin and
weak. The Forestry Program is thinning the trees to an average
distance of 14 to 15 feet between them. The remaining trees
will grow to be stronger and healthier.
Thinning the trees while clearing the
brush and deadwood from the forest floor reduces the "ladder fuels"
that could allow a surface fire to ignite the crowns of trees (aerial
fuels) where the fire could spread more rapidly.
In the spring of 2009 the class returned to plant 200 ponderosa seedlings on the west side of Hashknife Road.
Vandevert Ranch Environment