Elkton Reserve: Oak from the Storm

A tour of Elkton Reserve to survey the damage from the ice storms of 2019 and connect to the forest where some of our beautiful FSC Certified Oregon White Oak is sourced.

On a rainy spring day, I headed south from Portland to meet Allan Branscomb for a tour of the Elkton Reserve. Allan and I met in the town of Elkton, OR so I could follow him up to the property he and his brother purchased in the early 1970s. Along the way we stopped at a roadside historical sign and Allan gave me history lesson on who lived in this valley before Europeans arrived and how the new arrivals and Native Americans lived and fought together. As a part time history buff, I am always intrigued to learn more about the very recent history of our state and its people.

As we pulled away from a great view of the Umpqua River, we started to climb up gravel roads. The higher we went the harder the wind and rain blew until we stopped at a pull-out with a view down to a deep valley surrounded by tree topped ridges. Allan used this vantage to give me a geography lesson of the 410-acre Elkton Reserve. The Reserve lies within an Oak Woodlands Conservation Opportunity Area as defined in the Oregon Conservation Strategy. The long-term value of the Reserve rests with its guarantee of a 99-year easement intended to benefit the public trust.

Allan and I drove to the highest point on the property where he started to describe what happened on that fateful night in the winter of 2019, when a snow, ice, and windstorm brought catastrophic damage to the Reserve’s Oregon White and Black Oak trees. The damaged caused by the storm was so intense that the gravel road to their small cabin was unpassable.  When the storm subsided, the Reserve had lost nearly 60% of its Oregon White and Black Oak trees. Allan, his brother and the Elkton Reserve Land Trust always cherished their forest for its peaceful ecological values and rarely if ever harvested trees strictly for timber revenue. 

Normandie and John, officers of the Elkton Reserve Land Trust, decided to try to find a way to make use of some of the Oaks that had fallen and launched a search for alternatives that would both preserve the long-term value of leaving wood to decay and to produce economic value. The Reserve is certified under Forest Stewardship Council guidelines through a management agreement with Trout Mountain Forestry. J&B Wood Products, an FSC certified mill, provided the specifications that Dennis Miller, a skilled logger with a 25-year history in sustainable forestry, used in selecting wood to be shipped and wood to be left on the ground. The FSC chain of custody is maintained from the Reserve to Sustainable Northwest Wood.

The Elkton Reserve is an active participant in managing its forest for ecological conservation and restoration values in partnership with the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the Oregon Department of Forestry, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Through the NRCS Healthy Forests Reserve Program, any tree removal could not come at the cost of providing vital habitat to the recovery of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) listed Northern Spotted Owl.

As we toured around the lower section of their property Allan told me about the heartbreak that he and his co-owners felt when they toured the damage after the storm. His sadness was somewhat alleviated when he heard that lumber from his Oregon White Oak trees would find its way into furniture and building projects in the Pacific Northwest for people who care about choosing wood from sustainable sources.

Elkton Reserve Oregon White Oak Vanity designed and built by Nathan Dinihanian
Interior Design by Toni Melton:  Remedy Design
Photograph by Kimberli Ransom Photography     

Nathan Dinihanian, Furniture Maker

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