Let's Talk About the Trees

MAIN POINTS:  (i) Only Nick and his crew are authorized to remove trees (that means chain saws).  (ii) Anyone is allowed to clear branches with hand saws, at your own risk.

Mother Earth is pissed, and she's pushing back, hard.  The weeks-long heat dome last summer, followed by the months-long drought, followed by record amounts of rain this fall, followed by a record amount of snowfall this month, followed by a record multi-day cold snap that froze the heavy snow to the tops of the tree branches ... well, you don't need to be an arborist to know what that means.  The trees in the forest have been weakened by these extremes and are dropping: ten of them, 50 of them, hundreds of them, falling across the ski trails at Cabin Creek, night after night.  Nick reports that he and his crew barely get a trail cleared of fallen trees and groomed before trees fall again.  As Jonathan so aptly put it, "Nick is fighting a heroic fight, but I fear the trees are winning as they have us outnumbered."

A bunch of people who ski and snowshoe at Cabin Creek have been asking how they can help, and we really appreciate it!  We have been under the impression that only Nick and his crew are officially allowed to cut and remove trees on USFS land during the grooming season, but after conversations with the ranger, we have new news.  Here is the latest information from Rune on what we can and cannot do, and how you can help.  And thank you!

  • Only Nick and his crew are authorized to remove trees.  At this point in the season, he has already spent approximately 100 hours on tree removal alone.  That means 100 fewer hours of grooming this year.  I would encourage people to contact the WRAC and State Parks (see the fourth point below for details) to see if it is possible to get a one-time funding using some of the reserves from last year to cover at least some of this year’s tree removal expense.  This is a problem across the State but given the popularity of Cabin Creek, there really ought to be some relief using funds from last year.
  • Based on our conversations with the USFS ranger, I think it is safe to let people know that the use of hand saws and operating at their own risk is acceptable, and that we are working with the Forest Service to sign folks up under the Forest Service Volunteer Agreement.  
  • The bigger picture here is that the system isn’t working when we have massive amounts of trees on the trails.  For the groomer to remove an occasional fallen tree goes with the job, but the groomer is not a lumber jack and State Parks really ought to work out a system with the Forest Service for how this is going to be handled.  The Forest Service Rangers are qualified to remove trees, but they have other duties during the winter and may not have the time to respond in as timely manner as we need, or to respond at all.  The solution appears to be to have an army of qualified and certified volunteers who can show up when needed.  I extend a thank you to everyone willing to help with the removal of trees, and again, we will do what we can as a club to obtain approval to do so, but the responsibility to figure out a short- and long-term solution really is between State Parks and the Forest Service. 
  • The upcoming WRAC meeting is on January 29.  I would encourage people to get engaged.  Region 1 is King, Snohomish, Skagit, Whatcom and the Northern peninsula counties.  james.c.rhodes@gmail.com is the email for the Region 1 representative. bote3@hotmail.com is the email for John Baranowski (Chair), the Region 5 representative (Cabin Creek is situated in Region 5).  Pamela.McConkey@parks.wa.gov  is the State Parks Manager.

Bottom line, we are figuring out how to put together a work crew.  Details will be posted here as they become available; stay tuned!