Creating a Park-like Forest

Couple is recognized for management of their 66-acre woodland property

Story and photos by Craig Reed

Richard Rawson and his wife, Donna, were recognized by Douglas County Small Woodlands Association for their stewardship work on their 66-acre property in the Metz Hill area north of Oakland. Photo by Craig Reed

A forest once infested with poison oak and blackberry bushes has turned into a timbered park of Douglas fir, oak, and madrone trees through the planning and hard work of Richard and Donna Rawson.

The Rawsons were named the Douglas County Small Woodlands Association’s 2020 Tree Farmers of the Year for their stewardship of their 66-acre property in the Metz Hill area north of Oakland. The recognition and a tour of their property by association members were delayed by the pandemic, but were eventually held in mid-2021.

The couple bought the land in 1981. Through the years, either by hiring out the work or doing it themselves, they have slowly renovated the acreage.

“It’s an entirely different place than what it was 40 years ago,” Richard says. “I’ve gotten more than my money’s worth from the enjoyment of working on this land. It’s been worth it. It’s in better shape than when we bought it.”

The land was heavily logged in 1949, with logs milled on-site into railroad ties. Sawdust was scattered around the property. Because the land was left to regenerate on its own, poison oak and blackberries spread, along with a mixture of young trees.

But that brush—along with Scotch broom, hawthorn, and thistle—was cut down and sprayed. Ponds were developed for wildlife and for use in case of wildfire, and roads were built around the property for both work and access in case of fire. Several piles of woody debris were left to provide habitat for smaller wildlife.

Richard Rawson, far right, talks to fellow members of the Douglas County Small Woodlands Association during a tour of his property.

In 1992 and 1994, some trees in the forest were thinned, but there was no major logging until an ice storm, drought and a major snowstorm in the past five years affected the trees.

Following those events, the Rawsons had professional help making decisions. They began working with Barnes & Associates—a Roseburg-based forestry consulting business—in 2016 to develop a land-management plan.

“I’ve never regretted investing in consulting foresters,” Richard says. “I wish I had earlier.”

Roy Brogden, president of Douglas County Small Woodlands Association, says that when selecting a tree farmer of the year, harvesting, thinning, vegetation control, and fire prevention management are considered. He compliments the Rawsons on their property.

“They’ve done what is best for the land and the forest,” Roy says.

Richard and his wife, Donna, are recognized and honored by Roy Brogden, president of the Douglas County Small Woodlands Association.

Richard has been a board member for the small woodlands association for the past three years and has helped it organize fire season preparedness workshops and other field tours. The mission of the 200-member association is to help small landowners manage their resources.

Richard completed the Oregon State University Extension Master Woodland Manager volunteer program training in 2019. His home forest is also certified by the American Tree Farm System.

Richard says his property has produced approximately 260,000 board feet of timber, 125 cords of firewood of both Douglas fir and oak, and many family Christmas trees.

A thinning of smaller Douglas fir trees on 8 acres was planned for last fall, but wet weather delayed the project, likely until the spring. Richard continues to clear the underbrush, specifically for fire prevention.

The couple’s property is in the Metz Hill area north of Oakland.

Donna keeps herself busy planting and growing native plants. Some of the plants are transplanted to the property.

“The work out here helps keep me healthy,” Richard says.

Both Richard and Donna are 75.

“It has satisfied my inner need for nature,” Richard says. “I’m pleased with what I see now.”