With tens of thousands of trees split in two, broken at the top or blown over entirely, Hood River County Forestry is assessing the extent of the damage to acreage caused by recent snow and ice storms. HRCF staff took an aerial survey of its forests Thursday to get an idea of what areas were damaged most and where to focus efforts first.
Although not specifically good news, County Forest Manager Doug Thiesies said, "It wasn't worse than we feared. The damage is pretty patchy. There are areas that were hit pretty extensively, particularly on the west side in the Riordan Hill area."
From the flyover, Thiesies estimated about 600 acres of county forest land sustained 10 percent or more stand damage.
From a timber standpoint, HRCF is assessing what salvage opportunities are feasible and where priorities should be set. Roads in the upper hills still have enough snow to be largely impassable, so getting on-the-ground assessments will take a while.
"Our roads and trails are going to be significantly impacted for a while," Thiesies said. "For now, the weather is going to affect what and how much we can get done out there. It's going to take us a little while to assess the whole situation and figure out our best plan of attack."
Thiesies said he expects the county will be able to make significant progress on clearing roads and trails from downed trees before summer, but that forest users will need to be patient for a while. For hikers, mountain bikers and motorcycle/ATV users who utilize the popular trails in the Post Canyon and Riordan Hill areas, that means many trails are going to be in rough shape for a while.
"We want to get the word out for people to please not go out and start cutting downed trees," he said, explaining that to be salvaged, downed trees need to be cut to certain lengths. "We really don't want people out there trying to clear roads and trails on their own without permission."
Thiesies acknowledged the importance of the area's recreational trails and said HRCF staff will work with local trail builders and the county forest recreational trails committee to get things cleaned up as soon as possible.
"We want to make sure things are safe for people out there, and right now that's not the case," Thiesies said. "There's a lot of stuff on the ground and it's going to take a little while to get things corrected."