Felling a forest to save a meadow

Siuslaw National Forest managers must decide whether to save meadows or let trees encroach.

Frank Davis strides to the edge of a clearing near the top of Marys Peak, the highest point in Oregon’s Coast Range. “You want to see the coolest thing in this meadow?” asks Davis, a veteran natural resource planner for the Siuslaw National Forest, which manages the peak. “It’s a Harry Potter snag,” he says, gesturing to a tall, mossy tree that looks like it could be the lair of some enchanted creature, “one of the most beautiful things a person could ever want to see.” Its shaggy limbs reach down toward him, groping through the mist that shrouds the peak’s 4,097-foot summit.

On a clear day, Marys Peak commands views from the shimmering Pacific Ocean to the sheen of a dozen snow-capped volcanoes far to the east. The peak, which the Forest Service designated a scenic botanical special interest area in 1989, is home to a distinctive plant community, including a rare noble fir forest and rolling meadows, which showcase a menagerie of native grasses and wildflowers. Glacier lilies poke through the snow in spring, followed by fiery columbine, purple alliums and dainty pink phlox.

Davis is here because, over the last century or so, the Harry Potter tree and its fellow noble firs have invaded the meadows on the summit of Marys Peak. In places, the trees have crowded out the wildflowers and blocked the mountain’s panoramic views, which draw approximately 10,000 annual visitors. Many worry that the meadows could vanish completely.

Read the full story at High Country News.

Looking toward the Pacific Ocean from the meadows on top of Marys Peak, which were disappearing before land managers intervened. (Credit: Julia Rosen)