Taking a cruise through timber

The Forestry Club students from Umpqua Community College were able to experience an actual boots-on-the-ground timber cruise and do the work themselves on 57 acres of private property several miles northwest of Roseburg.

Craig Reed | The News-Review | May 5, 2022

Four local college students took a break from classroom work on Friday to take a cruise — through the timber.

The Forestry Club students from Umpqua Community College were able to experience an actual boots-on-the-ground timber cruise and do the work themselves on 57 acres of private property several miles northwest of Roseburg.

Their goal was to estimate the volume and value of merchantable timber on a steep north-facing slope that was a mix of Douglas fir and incense cedar trees.

The project came about when Isaac Cherry, a freshman at UCC majoring in forest management, was asked by a family friend if he’d be interested in cruising the timbered property. Cherry didn’t hesitate to accept the challenge. He contacted Javier Goirigolzarri, a forestry consultant who owns Resource Management Services in Roseburg, for advisory help.

Goirigolzarri volunteered his time, meeting with Cherry earlier in the week to discuss mapping the property and marking desired plot locations with GPS. They met again at the property on Friday with Goirigolzarri providing advice during the cruise.

Cherry had earlier put the word out about the project to the UCC Forestry Club, inviting members to join him for the cruise. Sophomore Jake Gerrard and freshman Joe Godawa, both majoring in forest management, and Thomas Williams, majoring in forest engineering, accepted the invite.

Each plot was 1/20th of an acre and all merchantable trees within the plots would be recorded. After locating each plot using GPS, the students measured a radius out to 26.3 feet to identify the plot boundary. Then the species, diameter and height measurements of each tree that measured 10 inches or greater in diameter at chest height within that area were recorded. A hypsometer was used to measure the height of the trees.

Goirigolzarri pointed out some defects — rot, scars, mushrooms and forks — in different trees that impact their quality and merchantability.

“They’ve done the classroom work and had occasional field trips, but this was actually getting out on the ground and doing it,” Goirigolzarri said. “It adds to their depth of understanding, the practical experience any student needs to develop into a professional.

“I was truly impressed with these guys and their eagerness to learn more about forestry … whatever aspect they decide to pursue,” he added. “Their objective was to learn about timber cruising, but they were eager to talk about so many other aspects of forestry.”

Cherry, a home-schooled student from the Oakland area, said he and the other students learned the “bare-bone basics of timber cruising.”

“We enter the information in an Excel file and it will calculate the board foot volume of each tree,” Cherry said. “Then there’s an expansion factor, multiplying out the sample plots across the whole stand of trees.

“You’re able to create averages for trees per acre and then how many thousand board feet per species in the 57 acres,” he explained.

Timber cruising normally involves only coming up with a volume of board feet figure, but Cherry is adding an extra step to his project. He’s adding a value estimate.

“Knowing the price (from a sawmill) per thousand board feet per species and including logging and trucking costs, you can figure the value of the stand for that species,” he said.

“Being out here is extremely valuable,” Cherry said of taking data from each plot. “It’s an experience where you’re able to connect technical knowledge from the classroom with real-world job experience.”

Godawa, an Oakland High School graduate, said he had cruised a couple of plots in the past with a forestry friend, but this experience was at a much larger size and scale. The students cruised 22 plots on Friday.

“The big thing is being efficient, learning how best to use the technology,” he said. “It was a great outside classroom. It was beautiful to have Javier (Goirigolzarri) come along beside us and provide valuable knowledge that he’s accumulated over time.”

Gerrard plans to transfer to Oregon State University after completing his sophomore year at UCC. Oregon State and UCC have a partnership in forestry, allowing forestry students to transfer all their community college credits to the four-year university.

“I’d like to play a crucial role in forest management,” said Gerrard, a North Douglas High School graduate. “I’d like to help with improvements on the lands while trying to maximize the value of the land.”

Williams, a Sutherlin High graduate, also anticipates transferring to OSU. As a forest engineer, he wouldn’t do a lot of timber cruising, but he said it’s valuable to have some knowledge of all aspects of forestry.

The forestry program at UCC restarted five years ago and offers majors in engineering, fire, management and operations. In the last couple of years, there have been 25 to 30 students in the program.