The Muse: Climate Action in the Place We Live - Columbia Land Trust
© Lenkerbrook Photography
This issue, our muse comes from Stewardship Director Ian Sinks

Not far from where I live are sentinels of a previous age. Scattered in patches in hard-to-reach places, where lava flows, steep slopes, and administrative boundaries made these areas of old forest unavailable for harvest. Trunks five feet across rise out of the duff, centuries in the making, speckled with the spectacular green of vanilla leaf and oxalis. Equally large trunks lay along the ground, slowly becoming soil, but not before providing important habitat for wildlife for many decades. And the silence! Noise from the modern world cannot penetrate these old forests, where often the only sound comes from the plaintive buzz of the varied thrush. These are some of the places I go where I can disconnect, recharge, and learn.

Columbia Land Trust employs “conservation forestry” on many of its lands to achieve older forest habitat objectives. It is a term generally used to describe a forest-management strategy employing thinning, interplanting, and creating features such as snags and downed wood to improve the habitat and conservation value of the forest. It can accelerate the development of forest structure, provide jobs in the woods, feed the local mills, and contribute to funding the future stewardship of the forest.

Conserving forests also is a key strategy to address the urgent issue of climate change. As a natural climate solution strategy, these old forests store massive amounts of carbon in not only the trees but also the downed wood and the soil. When science and events around the world increasingly make it clear that the situation is worse, perhaps far worse, than we think, it is easy to lose perspective and even hope. But it is sitting in the silence of these places that actually gives me hope. The work of the Land Trust has conserved tens of thousands of acres, planted hundreds of thousands of trees and shrubs, and these habitats that provide so many functions and benefits also secure thousands of tons of carbon every year. Direct action in the place we live.

As a woodworker and resident of a wooden house, it’s not that I don’t appreciate the practical realities and benefits of timber production. It’s that I know the answer lies somewhere in the middle of these two needs. It’s in this space that the work of the Land Trust finds its most meaningful impact.

And we all need places to go where we can listen to the silence.