Do you want to get to know the forest really, really well? I mean in minute detail, from the texture and depth of loamy, rich, organic duff that makes up the forest ﬂoor to the canopy type and leaf cover of individual trees. If you answered yes, then try South Zone Vegetation surveys.
They are an intimate, get-to-know you, up close and personal date with the forest and unique habitat types of south central Idaho. So pour yourself some filtered water, sidle up next to an attractive and well formed Pseudotsuga menziesii, take out your logging tape and start observing.
Our SZ Veg Crew surveyed plots east of Challis, right off the Custer Motorway, a deceiving name for a small, windy, dirt road framed by mountains. First, variable plot: Relaskope, logger’s tape, DBH tape, crown ration, foot to crown, tree height, and disease/insect identification.
Second, basics: slope, aspect, GPS coordinates, and percent growth capability.
Third, fuels: duff depth, deadfall counts and measuring.
Fourth, fixed plot: count baby trees in your plot, their heights, crown ratio, and general health.
Fifth, habitat typing: observe the species of vegetation that are in your plot respective of the trees, what percent of each inhabits the plot, refer to habitat typing book that provides a wealth of information, to find the habitat type. You, or another crew-member, faithfully record the data at each plot.
Of course, we saw things other than vegetation, like a bear cub, plenty of Clark’s Nutcrackers, Northern Flickers and raptors of all kinds. Wes Case, Silviculturist for the Challis Oﬃce of the Salmon-Challis National Forest was a great teacher, taking time to go into the field with us and explain detailed data collection techniques and the purpose of our work. Wes also discovered our individual majors and interests to help us network with other Forest Service employees.
When you really like someone, or some…forest, you have to accept, and admire, all of its eccentricities. Like when the blue sky became carpeted in a thick gray in minutes, resulting in a heavy dose of snow and sleet and only yesterday it was more than 70 degrees. And then… a rainbow. ~Lisa Simmons