We’d been invited on this journey by Gabe Scott of Cascadia Wild, looking at the aftermath of several decades of logging at Cape Yakataga and Icy Bay. 20,000 acres (over 30 square miles) were clear cut, mostly on Mental Health Trust land, with some on state land to which the University of Alaska had logging rights. But they stopped logging in the summer of 2007, just before we walked through the first time. Not because of any outcry at the vast expanse of forests being flattened, not because the waste inherent in the operation was unacceptable, and not because the system where we fund our universities and mental health programs through clearcutting seemed dumb. They stopped the logging because it stopped making money.
We were there to look at how well the logging company had cleaned up, to do a few experiments, and to plot out restoration possibilities.
They're doing some real basic environmental restoration, along with their assessment activities - things like planting willow stakes along river and stream banks, where the loggers left the place ruined:
We planted willow stakes in the hope that their spreading roots might keep a bank from collapsing, preventing the salmon eggs from suffocating under a wash of silt, helping out a salmon run that might otherwise dwindle. We experimented with quick ways of strewing or planting vegetation on the road, hoping it might accelerate the rate at which the gravel turns to forest. Decades from now, Gabe speculates that perhaps the young dense trees in the upcoming forest could be thinned.
In addition to involving their baby as much as possible in their daily activities, they've started a blog for little Katmai, subtitled, "Our little Alaskan Volcano":
Tuck baby into wrap, face into mommy or daddy’s chest. Shoulder backpacks that seem oddly bulky for just a few days travel - expanded by a collection of baby diapers, baby sleeping bag, baby clothes and a baby life vest. A much larger volume than baby himself, in fact. Walk a few minutes until baby falls asleep. Continue until baby screams.
Pluck him out, nurse him, and pop him back into the wrap, face out this time. Protect baby’s eyes from the bushes as he gets a close-up tour of river bank alders, logging road ditches, and forests. Try to keep mosquitoes off the baby’s face. Continue until baby screams.
Pluck him out, nurse him, and pop him back into the wrap, face in. Repeat.
images - erin and hig