"And why do you think that is...?" is an expression used by Joe Mayberry, a talented helicopter flight instructor who teaches at Leading Edge Aviation in Bend. It can be applied to many, many areas of interest, including the exciting recovery of the 20,000+ acres burned by the Pole Creek Fire.
What was a disaster of enormous proportions for wildlife, forest habitat and watershed is now in the recovery stage, and what a classroom it is! Forget the doom-and-gloom of what's been burned, it’s time to look forward to the marvelous opportunity we have at our very door step to watch and study the recovery. If observed diligently, it could carry a student into college with a healthy scholarship.
A long-term project like this—one that could be carried out from kindergarten to high school graduation and beyond—should best be done as a team with about three or four like-minded students. They could begin now, before the snow falls on the burn.
There are innumerable excellent questions to ask and answer through years of study. "How will all the carbon affect our water, plants and wildlife?" Millions of tons of the stuff is covering those 20,000 + acres. What will happen when the snow and rain soaks the landscape and deposits it in the soil? Whychus Creek has already turned brown after the last week’s first rain. Will this be the demise of the spectacular fishery recently reestablished? What about the other minerals that have been both created and destroyed by the fire? How will those factors impact the recovery underway as we speak—and why do you think that is?
There are talented people all around us who are ready and willing to help any young person who would like to study these phenomena, and ask, "Why do you think that is?"
Kolleen Yake and Kathy Beck, of the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council, are two people who can help a student answer those questions. They have the tools and the know-how, and are ready and willing to help.
Dr. Tom Rodhouse of Bend works for the National Park Service; he's an outstanding expert on bats and other mammals, and is ready and willing to help any way he can. Darin Stringer, a Bend forestry ecologist is rarin' to go. All you need do is ask, and help will be there to bring a student closer to taking on a long-term study that will not only reveal the healing of a burned forest, but will provide possible career paths for the future.
One of the most knowledgeable birders I have enjoyed over the many, many years I've been birding is Tom Crabtree, an attorney in Bend. Tom will be ready to help with the ID of any bird a student may discover. And it won't stop there, he can also provide details of the bird's life history and help a student understand why it is where it is, and what it may mean to the future forest.
Hydrologists will be interested in what a student can tell them about the soils in the Pole Creek Fire, and at the same time, share what he or she knows about the behavior of water on and under the earth.
Dr. Stu Garret, a retired Family Practitioner from the Bend Memorial Clinic and past President of the Native Plant Society can be of immeasurable help in teaching about wildflowers and other plants that appear in the Pole Creek Burn.
For those ready to study without professional help, there are excellent resources out there. Eric Eaton, an entomologist pal is the author of a magnificent field guide that should be in your library anyway: Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America. And Al St. John, of Bend author of Reptiles of North America, will also help with any herps (which are lizards) you find.
Maret Pajutee, Sisters District Ecologist, can help in setting up study plots—an area that will provide the most usable amount of data. Photo points can be established in the plots to record the changes that will take place over the years to come. Gary Miller, a professional photographer in Sisters, will be on tap to help future photographers.
If you are the parent of a child from kindergarten to a senior in high school who wants to leave the computer games behind, get off his or her behind and go outside—please take the bait and go up and look at the Pole Creek Fire as soon as you can. Think of a way your child can take part in watching, studying and enjoying the miracle of regeneration.
If they are ready to get started on learning more, send me an email. It will be necessary to write a proposal of the work the student(s) want to conduct, as the USFS will review the proposed project and provide permission to enter the burned area.
Oh, one thing I can guarantee, any child who takes on this project will come back home with soot in and on everything, but you will always see the smile and hear, "Oh, boy, what a cool day I had!"