Reduction of forest fuels, such as small trees and shrubs, was a priority when Oregon Retreat Centers LLC assumed ownership of the Buckhorn Springs Resort from the Sargent family in June of 2021 and, in August, experienced the largest wildfire on record for the property. In fact, “wildfire was on our mind since the beginning of the purchase,” said Will Lucas, the resort’s venue supervisor, and not only because the property includes a grand rehabilitated lodge and other structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The new owners were also looking to manage the land as an example for other landowners. “We want to be good stewards,” said Lucas. “We want to use best practices to fulfill that mission.” His team had to decide how.
How to do ecological forestry work well, quickly, and in a way that sets the forest and people up to prosper in the future? For Buckhorn Springs Resort, that process started by securing a grant from the NRCS Conservation Implementation Strategy after learning of the landowner assistance program from neighbors who reported the August fire. With NRCS funding, the resort sought a crew to implement the field work plan. According to Lucas, Lomakatsi has the “right people” for the job—because it’s not just a job to Lomakatsi but a long-term relationship for long-term, large-scale strategic stewardship.
From initial conversations, Lomakatsi demonstrated superior commitment and knowledge of the fire-adapted landscape. Lomakatsi’s team was far more engaged than other potential contractors, Lucas disclosed, as if “not just trying to get the job done” but to continue the work and conversation past the duration of NRCS support and to share in the vision for healing. According to Lucas, the resort decided,
“We can trust them with our forest.”
Throughout June and July, a field crew of five men dotted the property, all running chainsaws through dense thickets of madrone, manzanita, buckbrush, and small-diameter trees to release white oaks and promote growth of bigger trees that can withstand drought and periodic low-intensity fire. Based on experience and a carefully designed stewardship prescription, the crew leaves some shrubs for deer browse and some standing dead trees for bird and other wildlife habitat, explains Joe Ochoa, Lomakatsi Tribal Crew Manager. On-going inspections by Lomakatsi and Oregon Department of Forestry ensure the thinned hillsides meet specifications in the prescription. Lomakatsi’s intertribal crew also came from Klamath County to join this crew and pile the thinned vegetation to finish this unit—making this project another one of Lomakatsi’s examples of engaging with landowners and partners like NRCS to restore forests and sustain communities.