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Huckleberry restoration: a sweet example of collaborative work

As a Forest Collaborative, Pinchot Partners engages with a variety of groups, from the U.S. Forest Service to the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to Hampton Lumber. Another partner it works closely with is Cascade Forest Conservancy (CFC).

In 2017, CFC embarked on a study regarding restoration efforts of Big huckleberry (Vaccinium membranaceum) in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest (GPNF).

The study was carried out in partnership with Pinchot Partners under grants from the Weyerhaeuser Family Foundation and the Resource Advisory Council (RAC).

In fact, it's difficult to estimate the number of people involved.

Three members of CFC, Shiloh Halsey, Amanda Keasberry, and Suzanne Whitney, produced a highly detailed 24-page report. Staff members of the GPNF assisted in planning and refining the work. Jeff Gerwing (Portland State University) provided invaluable input. The project included 611 volunteer hours from citizen scientists.

In 2017, the U.S. Forest Service created a Huckleberry Management Strategy detailing restoration activities. The goal was to “develop a multi-year, self-sustaining huckleberry habitat restoration program on the GPNF."

To begin, select forest units within Sawtooth and Polepatch between 3,000 and 5,400 feet elevation were thinned. The aim was to provide optimal habitat for lateral expansion of huckleberry plants, via rhizome spread, and to hopefully increase fruit production.

CFC’s monitoring study sought to identify the effectiveness of the restoration work. A team of citizen scientists was assembled to perform the surveys. Using volunteers provides unique learning opportunities and outdoor experiences to people from around the region and had the additional benefit of helping keep costs down.

Data collection centered on the following variables:

  • Huckleberry cover following thinning, with subsets categorized according to the method of thinning (heavy machinery or hand tools).

  • Fruit production cross-referenced against several variables.

  • Characteristics such as forest canopy cover, height and density of berry bush cover, presence of bear grass, elevation, sun, and years since treatment occurrence.

The data set from the field surveys, done pre-pandemic in 2017 and 2018, is intended to serve as baseline data for future studies. "We're set to receive an additional $12,000 in a partnership agreement with the Forest Service," said Pinchot Partners Executive Director Janene Ritchie. "The funds will help to continue this partnership with CFC, and for them to continue this valuable work."

More surveys are scheduled for summer 2023 and into 2024.

Read the report here.


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