A Humbling Experience
Landowner Feature – Diane Fields & Dick Williams
By Carolyn Myers Lindberg
The first impulse was a generous one on the part of Diane Fields. She decided to buy 60 acres of land off Cornelius Pass Road at the request of her son who was living next door to the property and thought it would be wonderful to raise his family next to a natural forested area. As soon as her partner Dick Williams spent time there, he enthusiastically joined the financial endeavor!
Their thought was to bring the weed infested acreage back to its natural state as a mixed-species old-growth forest. They had no idea what that would involve.
The previous owner logged the land and had recently replanted much of it. However, by now it was seriously overgrown with Himalayan blackberry, Scotch broom and other invasive species that were killing the tree seedlings. So, Dick and Diane grabbed their loppers and shears and started attacking the weeds. They achieved a considerable amount on the accessible areas of the property but it didn’t take long for this intelligent pair to realize that the weeds were way too much for them to handle alone.
Dick called the West Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District with a list of questions, initially working with Rural Conservationist Scott Gall and then with Forest Conservationist Michael Ahr and Natural Resources Conservation Service District Conservationist Steve Fedje. Eventually, Dick and Diane applied for and received a WMSWCD grant to get started with invasive species removal. Dick says, “It showed us that we could do some really significant things on our property. It was the first step in the process which eventually lead to an EQIP grant as well.” He says it allowed them to do what they wanted and intended to do with their land.
The more time they spent working on the land, the more they enjoyed it. They say all kinds of wildlife, from eagles to songbirds to a herd of about 70 elk use their forest. Their son even saw bobcat and coyotes. A conservationist with the Columbia Land Trust documented 32 bird species on the property, signifying it as an important wildlife habitat corridor.
WMSWCD Forest Conservationist Michael Ahr helped Dick and Diane write a stewardship plan, detailing all the features of the property, future goals and actions to reach those goals. Now, most of the invasive species are gone, freeing the small trees to grow. Dick says they can now manage the invasive weeds and tree thinning that is required to grow a healthy forest. This spring they’ll oversee the planting of 4,000 more trees; mostly hemlock, Western red cedar and grand fir.
Diane says without assistance from WMSWCD and NRCS, the stewardship plan would probably never have been written and their land never improved to this extent. Dick says, “It’s fascinating and humbling to be committed to a project of this scale with a time frame of hundreds of thousands of years.” He adds, “Reagan was wrong-each forest is different.” And they love watching the changes in their forest each time they visit.