Lomakatsi has decade of mastery

In the mid-'90s, two federally contracted mobile forest — workers began looking for a way to incorporate ecological principles into — their work.

At first, Marko Bey and Justin Cullumbine were volunteering — their time for a community organization they began and the small grants — started to come in - for work done after the infamous New Year's flood, — and a $1,000 grant from the Ashland Food Co-op in 1998 for Bear Creek — Watershed restoration work done with schoolchildren.

Ten years later, the nonprofit Lomakatsi Restoration Project — has 22 employees and 200 volunteers working in at least 20 different watersheds — in Southern Oregon and Northern California, and is part of a larger community — restoration forestry network regionwide.

"We (the environmental community) have been saying no — to agencies for so long - but what do we want them to do? Lomakatsi answers — that," said Oshana Catranides, executive director of Lomakatsi.

The boom-bust timber industry is gone; Lomakatsi is part — of a new group of environmentalists and forest workers whose basis for — timber removal is based on the health of the land.

"The work we did as forest workers was based on a clear-cut — economy that existed into the '90s," explained Bey, director of operations — for Lomakatsi. "Tree-planting was based on timber production, we took — a different approach."

Lomakatsi focuses on holistic restoration, not simply — revegetation. This means empowering the workers and involving community — members in the process, explained Bey.

Until recently, all of Lomakatsi's work has been done — on private land, because that is where the ecological principles can be — put in the ground, Bey said.

Lomakatsi identifies key areas of land, then lines up — parcels by approaching the landowners and asking for their cooperation. — A current project in the Colestin Valley involves 31 landowners along — a four-mile stretch.

Access to private land is imperative: About 70 percent — of coho salmon habitat is on private land, as is the remaining 2 percent — of Oregon's remaining oak savannas, Bey said.

Lomakatsi trains a mobile work force in restoration principles — and local habitats so it can thin, burn and re-seed the area with native — grass and trees that have grown in nurseries.

Tended by schoolchildren and volunteers, the nurseries — hold more than 5,000 plants on land donated by the Jackson Wellsprings — and community members. The re-vegetation efforts are fully funded by door-to-door — solicitations, which brought in about $30,000 last year, Bey said.

The success is tangible.

A stream came up where alders and cottonwoods were planted — eight years ago behind the Willow Wind Community Learning Center, then — the Waldorf school, Catranides said.

The now 20-foot-tall trees are one of the sites used by — the Klamath Bird Observatory for tracking birds, Bey added. When the site — is more established schoolchildren will plant ponderosas and pines, he — said.

"Restoration is a process that takes years. It is a lifetime — investment. Community collaboration is the key," Bey said.

Further success

Lomakatsi recently received its first contract for work — on federal land through the U.S. Bureau of Land Management: the Penny — Stew land stewardship contract.

The 100-acre project focuses on thinning wildfire fuels — in the Williams wildlands urban interface zone. Instead of removing old-growth — trees, which have already proven their fire-resiliency, smaller diameter — fuel is removed, Bey said.

Outsourcing land stewardship contracts is in its infancy, — so hopefully the Penny Stew contract will serve as a model for future — contracts, said George Sexton, conservation director of the Klamath-Siskiyou — Wildlands center.

The same fire science was used in Ashland's recently completed — Community Wildfire Protection Plan, currently being reviewed by the Forest — Service as part of a larger watershed fuels reduction project.

Bey said that if the Community Wildfire Protection Plan — is implemented, Lomakatsi will offer a bid for the stewardship contract. —

In the meantime there are about 40 projects going on at — any given time, workers to train, volunteers to organize and grants to — write.

"We are chasing to stay in business all the time. It is — never 'We achieved success and that's it.' We're always running," Bey — said.

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