Camp Life: Walla Walla to Montana

We've had an action-packed start to the semester but that doesn't mean we haven't had a little time to laugh and relax. We hope you enjoy this selection of our favorite camp photos from the beginning of the trip!

Meet Our Speakers: Brian Kelly

Brian Kelly strives to do his work where the spheres of ecology, society, and the economy meet. He believes that there is a way to go about conservation work that will benefit all three, and speaks about this intersection passionately. In his words, “People who disagree need to respect each other.” Brian is the Restoration Director for the Hells Canyon Preservation Council, a collective founded in 1967 with the mission to “protect, restore, and connect.” The HCPC formed in reaction to proposals to build dams in Hells Canyon, where the Imnaha and Salmon rivers join the Snake. Since then, it has prompted the creation of Hells Canyon National Recreation Area (HCNRA), a 652,000 acre parcel of land that includes 200,000 acres of wilderness. This area connects the Rockies and the Pacific Northwest, allowing species like wolves and moose unfettered access across the western portion of the US. In terms of conservation, Brian thinks that “change is growth, and growth is part of life.” Bearing this principle in mind, human connections must be forged that can allow for restoration practices that are flexible and tailored to the specific place being restored.

By: Kenzie Spooner

Meet Our Speakers: Nils Christofferson

Nils Christoffersen is the executive director of Wallowa Resources, an organization that seeks to wed local economic stability and the sustainable management of natural resources.  Nils spent his early career farming on an Israeli kibbutz, working aboard a fishing boat, ranching in Australia, and exploring community land management in Southern Africa.  Seventeen years ago Nils moved to Oregon and began his work with Wallowa Resources.  Today, his feet planted broadly beneath a stand of mixed conifers, Nils gestures animatedly and asks us what kind of ecosystem we see.

The Westies spent the morning touring a series of forest sites in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest with Nils, stopping to analyze and discuss the management history at each stand.  During our last hour together Nils led us through the Integrated Biomass Energy Campus, an entrepreneurial sawmill that processes unmarketable timber.  This facility has created a market for understory timber and secondary growth, thereby reducing the amount of forest ground fuel and adding value to an underutilized resource.  The business serves as a model of innovative stewardship.  Is Nils stated: “Instead of being overwhelmed by change from the outside as things collapse and have others decide that we should be a destination resort or a prison …we could all work together on a new and different model that would advance this vision of socioeconomic revitalization and align it with land stewardship.”  

By Maya Aurichio

Meet Our Speakers: Dale Johnson

Standing on a sweeping ridge overlooking Oregon’s Wallowa Valley, Dale Johnson cuts the figure of the classic rancher. Wearing work boots and faded jeans under a striped button-up and ball cap, the robust octogenarian seems thirty years younger as he takes in the vista spread a thousand feet below us—verdant valley rising to majestic mountains, with a canyon’s crest yawning out on the right. The Johnson family has resided here since 1888, when Dale’s great-grandfather claimed a 160-acre plot that, through three centuries and four generations, grew into a sizable ranch situated at the canyon’s terminus. Dale has managed that homestead since 1979, and he now leads us via narrow dirt roads to a mountain tree farm bearing the legacy of his predecessor, uncle Howard Johnson, who planted, treated, and harvested these 4,000 acres of timber by himself from passing on the ranch until his death in 2006.

            The family holds deep roots in the Wallowa Valley, and Dale professes hope that future generations will continue their forebears’ stewardship of the land. Despite urbanization looming on the horizon that vision remains plausible. Howard’s daughter Joanna owns and manages the tree farm, and Dale’s four children will share ownership of the ranch when he dies. The venerable patriarch seems unconcerned about the future, perhaps because of the past. Surrounded by thriving ponderosa pines, he observes, “the land’s been in the family since the 1880’s, and I’d say we’ve taken pretty good care of it.” Looking around, I’d have to agree.

            By: Hunter Dunn

Meet Our Speakers: Jim Zacharias

“Somewhere between a hippie and a cowboy.” That’s how Jim Zacharias describes himself. Dressed in his ripped logging attire you wouldn’t guess that he’s on the Wallowa Resource Board—or any board for that matter. There’s a large hole in the right shoulder of his collared white and baby blue stripped shirt. A shock of greyed hair reaches for his neck from underneath a Jay Zee Lumber ball cap that might once have been black.

As a high schooler, Zacharias contemplated being a wildlife biologist, but like many of his classmates he decided to become a logger which allowed him to stay in the county. After losing his mill job in the 90’s timber bust, he started the Joseph Timber Company, the first mechanical thinning operation on public land in the county. Now he owns a custom logging company which has a contract with a private ranch to extract $50,000 worth of timber annually. As a small-scale logger, Zacharias made a point of showing us the line between the property he selectively cuts and the property the Hancock Investment Group recently clearcut. In contrast to the outsider group, his company elects to leave snags for wildlife habitat. Hoping to dispel misconceptions about loggers, he told us, “Even the biggest, roughest, toughest logger, if he sees a birds nest in that tree, he kind of cringes.” 

By: Griffin Cronk

Meet Our Speakers: Doug McDaniel

As his truck bumps along the road through a meadow of pine trees, Doug McDaniel smiles and says deliberately, “I’m pumped about what’s going on in my life.” Thinking back, he recalls his two-month stint in dental school, which ended when he decided that it was a waste to be inside on a beautiful day, particularly when elk season was about to open.  Doug has lived his whole life in Wallowa County, working as a forester before moving into timber management and industrial engineering.  Currently, he works on restoring a length of the Wallow River that cuts through his land. Channeled by the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1950s, Doug has taken the initiative to excavate the section and return it to its meandering state.  The river now winds through his property, providing habitat for fish, tall grasses, birds, and swaying cottonwoods.  He adamantly solicits participation from the community on this project in the form of opinions, suggestions, scrutiny, and criticism. When asked what he likes most about working in the forest, he responds “[my] life is outside…it’s just home.”

By Hannah Trettenero