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Field Program

[Image Description: Two MCC members taking a brief break; one is sitting on a rock, the other is standing nearby. They are both in their uniforms, looking out at the expansive, mountain view surrounding them.]

What the heck is a Douglas Fir?

A crew leader wearing a white helmet stands in the foreground, on a gravel road that winds to the right. Two crew members stand further down the road. They are all smiling.

Tally Lake RD has trees, and MCC Forestry Crew 8 is here to count em’. Whether that's Dougs, Lodgepoles, Subs, Larches, Pondos, or the unmistakable Spruce, we count them all. Stocking Surveys is the name of the game. We go to various oddly-named timber sale areas (Swamp Rat, Red Shiner) and measure out 1/100 acre plots with MCC-provided Diameter Tape. Within these plots, we count and measure seedlings, saplings, and juvenile trees, from the smallest 2-year 4-inch Larches to the largest 7-foot 60-year-old Subalpine Firs. While the differentiation of species comes easy to some, it is harder to others. “I’ve had it with these damn Firs!” said Crew Member Margaret Judge whilst waist-deep in a heavy Douglas Fir and Subalpine Fir grove. Telling the difference between these deceptive conifers proved to be the toughest challenge of our 8-day hitch, even throwing Crew Leader Anthony Lombardo into what he called an “Existential Crisis” on day 6.

Although the work was often frustrating, it was nonetheless important. The importance of this work was continually emphasized by our delightful project partners out of Tally Lake RS; Culturalist, Erika Williams, and Forest Restoration Specialist, Karl Anderson (a 35-year veteran of Flathead National Forest). They came out on multiple occasions to check in on our crew and help us with our work. Both agreed that the post-harvest survey work we are doing will help the district understand how forests are regenerating and how they will continue to do so. With this work, we will determine which harvested units will become healthy, lush forests in the future and which might be ready for harvest again in the next hundred years.

On our first day of the hitch, Erika took us to one of her favorite camping spots in the RD, a lovely campsite on the south side of Sylvia Lake. There, the crew enjoyed fishing, rock-throwing, sitting around the fire, and watching the lake’s plentiful wildlife go about their day. A crowd-favorite, the loon spent its evenings parading around shouting its distinct call that kept up weekend campers at the North-lakes campground. We didn’t mind though. The loon reminded us of our absent Co-Leader Ben Beese, who identifies with the noisy bird as his spirit animal. One night, the crew hiked up to a ridge north of the lake to witness a beautiful sunset over the Kootenai on the year’s longest day.

In summary, Crew 8 had an enjoyable and productive hitch, knocking out 18 units, covering just under 300 acres, and providing a solid estimate of what the Flathead can expect from forests yet to come.