This summer I am interning for Mount Adams Resource Stewards (MARS), a non-profit organization based in the small town of Glenwood, Washington that promotes sustainable forestry to improve the health and longevity of rural resources and economies.
Abundant in Washington State are communities that have historically relied on prosperous timber markets for economic prosperity. Many small-town economies in the Pacific Northwest were at one point driven by the lucrative green forests that surround them. For decades, the timber industry supported jobs and businesses in such rural economies. However, due to the influx of environmentally conservative legislation, the housing crisis, and a host of other factors that manifested around in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, the timber industry in the Pacific Northwest is no longer able to produce the same quantity of timber, and has suffered serious economic losses.
In the midst of these depreciated ecological and economic climates, MARS was formed with the intention of facilitating new growth, and forging stronger relationships between land and community. Through natural resource stewardship, economic development, and community interfaces, the organization has attempted to unite the land and the people to promote universal and co-dependent growth. To improve surrounding forests, MARS bought numerous forested properties, managing them to be healthier and more resistant to fire and disease. Unlike normative logging practices which tend to high-grade timber stands (taking the most profitable trees and leaving the less profitable trees), MARS maintains the ethic that healthy trees make a healthy — and sustainable — forest. Therefore, the organization looks to thin smaller growth, removing more co-dominant and intermediate trees while leaving a greater percentage of dominant trees. Additionally, its prerogative is to push forests back to a more natural (pre-logging) stage, selectively thinning species that tend to dominate their co-inhabitants. On many of the properties that MARS owns, this means thinning Douglas Fir to make room for Oak and Ponderosa Pine.
In tandem to helping local forests, MARS also supports the local economy. Most all logging, wildland restoration, and fuel reduction projects are staffed and supported by community members, allowing spent funds to be infused into the area economy. Additionally, education initiatives and community engagement opportunities funded by MARS unite the concepts of forestry and sustainability, ultimately leading to more beneficial and consistent economic situations.
I am now two weeks into my time at MARS, and have already learned a considerable amount about forestry practices, sampling techniques, and the importance of community engagement. I have spent much of my time in the forest surveying tree stands while working to determine how to improve the health of various forests. I also helped analyze the effectiveness of a recent prescribed forest burn on one of MARS’ properties, working to determine what forest conditions contribute to greater rates of tree mortality and how to ensure that fire is working to advantage forests in the Pacific Northwest. Currently, I am in the planning and organizing stages of a meadow restoration project that will attempt to return the area to a pre-human state. Soon I will take geologic core samples to determine the meadow’s historic sediment composition and hydrologic profile, information that will help resolve where and how the restoration occurs.
Over the course of the next few months I hope to survey other aspects of MARS’ programs and apply myself in as many areas as possible. If the first two weeks are any indication of the work ahead of me, I am in for a formative, educational, and exciting few months!
Experiences like James’ are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Internship Coordinator Victoria Wolff.