By Pat Nelson
Valley Bugler Columnist
On frosty days this time of the year, I like to drive by the Lewis River Reforestation property at 1203 NW Hayes Road in Woodland. There, I marvel at the rows of white crystals, some that resemble Chihuly sculptures. But they’re not sculptures, they are ice-coated trees (as pictured at right). Sometimes, along the perimeter of the property, ice covers larger trees and shrubs, turning their sprawling branches into glassy pieces of art. But next to rows and rows of icy white trees are green trees standing in long lines. I wondered why.
This year, I decided it was time for me to find out more about this winter wonderland. The company raises 9 million trees on its 52 acres, starting with seeds collected from cones and selling the trees when they are two years old. The one-year-old trees are still fragile, so when the temperatures dip, sprinklers are turned on for frost protection. The water causes the trees to ice up, creating that miniature crystal forest.
Bruce Summers is the Woodland nursery manager. “We grow the trees to replant clear cuts,” he told me, “and our customers are timber companies from Coos Bay to Port Angeles.” The trees restock existing forests that have been depleted because of deforestation. Summers reports that Lewis River Reforestation trees have an 80 percent to 90 percent survival rate.
According to the Washington Forest Protection Association, “Washington has some of the toughest forest practice laws in the country. Each year, forest landowners in Washington plant an average of 52 million tree seedlings in areas that have been harvested. On average, that’s three seedlings planted by hand for every one tree removed.”
Washington’s first forest seedling nursery was built in 1911. Lewis River Reforestation was established in 1982 and ships 4.5 million two-year-old trees per year. The company employs 35 to 40 people during harvest. Mostly Douglas fir is grown here, and also some cedar and hemlock.
Both Lewis River Reforestation in Woodland and Lava Nursery, Inc. in Parkdale, Oregon, are owned by the same corporation. Lava Nursery, Inc., began operations first, in October 1976. This nursery currently farms 50 acres of bare root seedlings, producing 4 million seedlings per year, and its greenhouses produce 1.0 to 1.5 million seedlings per year.
I learned about some of the benefits of reforestation: it reduces greenhouse gases and combats climate change; conserves soil and air quality; reduces water pollution; prevents or reduces erosion; increases the supply of sustainable timber; and rebuilds natural habitats and ecosystems. All that, and the process can be beautiful, too!
From now on, I won’t just see beautiful crystal sculptures. I’ll see the good that reforestation does for our planet.
See more photos of Lewis River Reforestation on its Facebook page. Photos show seed starting and harvest time plus my favorites, the ice-covered trees and equipment that look like fragile glass sculptures.
Pat Nelson, is co-creator of three humorous and sometimes edgy anthologies: ‘Not Your Mother’s Book: On Being a Parent’ (Amazon.com & retailers); On Being a Grandparent; and On Working for a Living.