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93 Trees, Weeds, and Rivers: The Work of Restoration vvv “Ecological restoration is a practice of hope; hope because restorationists envision a better future as a result of their efforts. Ecological restoration is a practice of faith; faith because restorationists work in a world of uncertainty. Finally, ecological restoration is a practice of love; love because restorationists care about, and give their lives to, efforts that protect and enhance the lives of humans and other-than-human beings alike.” —From Human Dimensions of Ecological Restoration Trees The rain came as soon as I arrived to plant trees by the Willamette River. Everywhere I looked, other volunteers shrugged into jackets and shuffled to stay warm. I fumbled with my gloves, put them on, then took them off to see what felt best. It’s hard to grab a sapling and plant it with thick gloves. It’s also hard to do it when the winter cold goes sub-surface and numbs your hands. I decided to go with gloves. 94 Meander Scars To plant a tree, you have to decide what belongs where. If it’s a cottonwood that needs the water table to grow, you plant it by the river. If it’s a Willamette Valley ponderosa pine—once abundant in the area—you plant it farther upland, although I have seen a variety that likes to get its feet wet. The best time to plant a tree is when the seedling is dormant, which, in the Willamette Valley, means during a time of likely rain and definite cold. Which is also why all of us volunteers were out here in wintertime, holding construction-orange buckets stuffed with saplings. A volunteer coordinator corralled us to demonstrate how to plant a tree. He had that Forest Service look—evergreen jacket, black boots, tan hat with the bill in a perfect curve and official-looking logo stitched on the front. He told us that the holes had been pre-dug, but we’d have to deepen them since they had filled in with mud because of the rain. He shoveled out mud with the speed and dexterity of a pro, plunging in the blade, bringing up mud, dumping it with a slight turn of the wrists, all in a continuous motion. Then he grabbed a sapling, placed it in the hole, and kicked in dirt with a deft sweep of his boot. To plant a tree, you have to dig deep and wide enough to hold the sapling’s roots. You have to make sure the top root is covered with a healthy layer of soil. Then, you have to fill the hole back in and tamp it down with your boot or the backside of your shovel. Today we would plant rows and rows and rows of cottonwood, ash, and Willamette Valley ponderosa pine to build up the Willamette’s riparian zone and convert this pasture back to a functioning floodplain. The volunteer coordinator explained that restoration is part of his group’s conservation strategy. First and most importantly, they preserve intact land before it becomes too degraded, then they work to improve its ecological function. We cannot perfectly replicate the vanishing prairies of the Willamette Valley if we don’t know what those conditions are, he said. In short, we need the wild. With nature’s perfect template in hand, we can plant trees with a better understanding of how to provide homes for wildlife and food for the river, as well as prevent runoff from pouring into the river too fast and causing erosion. 95 Trees, Weeds, and Rivers: The Work of Restoration I paired up with a thin, grinning girl with perfect olive skin, maybe in her mid-twenties. Her fine brown hair, bejeweled with silver raindrops, wisped around her narrow face. We took turns shoveling and placing a tree in the ground. The gloves were already working against me. The sapling roots tangled and twisted so when I grabbed one from the bucket, all the others came with it. Off with the gloves. At first, each tree took us a minute or so to plant. We fumbled with the shovel while trying to find the exact hand position to maximize leverage. With my arms already weighted by the inertia of cold and rain, the shovel felt bulky and leaden. The grain of the wood pressed against my hand, at times grating it. Some holes were narrow, which meant we lost our leverage because we had to dig...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780870717277
Related ISBN
9780870717260
MARC Record
OCLC
867741825
Pages
176
Launched on MUSE
2013-11-28
Language
English
Open Access
No
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