|on an aspen regeneration project on the
Warner Mountain Range of the Modoc National Forest. His solution? Try
to go low-tech.
"Areas like Warner Mountain are beautiful, breathtaking and pristine
and people don't want to hear logging machines when they visit," said
Weidner. "You don't like disturbing areas like this, but to keep
aspen trees healthy the conifers have to be removed. That's why we
decided to use horses for this project."
With six family members and two Belgian horses named Tango and Cash,
Weidner removed unwanted conifer trees from 100 acres of the forest.
The conifers were crowding out aspen stands by stealing water on
which the aspen trees depend. And aspens stands make better wildlife
habitat than conifer forest.
As part of its effort to improve wildlife habitat, the National Wild
Turkey Federation's (NWTF) California State Chapter bankrolled
$22,000 of the project. The project cost more than $28,000 and was
funded with the help of other federal, state and nonprofit
"The NWTF has a lot of volunteers in California who want to make our
forests as healthy and productive as possible for wildlife," said
Dennis Daniel, U.S. Forest Service Making Tracks coordinator. "When
aspens aren't allowed to grow properly, wildlife habitat really gets
Not only do conifers soak up the water needed for the aspens to grow,
they produce needles and waste that can build up on the forest floor,
creating a fire hazard.
"Aspens like to pioneer into wet meadows and make for wonderful brood
habitat with a lot of bugs that are important to young turkey
growth," said Daniel. "Conifers don't have any of these qualities and
if they aren't removed, will choke out the aspen stands and create
dangerous fuel loads that can lead to devastating forest fires."
While working on the project, the Weidner family and their horses
took up residence at a campground a few miles away. This wasn't the
first time that Weidner had removed trees with horses. When the
logger was a young boy, he helped his father remove timber from the
Devil's Garden area, also located on the Modoc National Forest.
"I wanted to see if we could take the logs out with horses and still
stay competitive with contemporary logging," Weidner said. "When I
was a kid I helped my dad work with horses, and this project offered
a chance to spend time working with my family. We really got close to
each other when we were working with the horses. Without all of the
noise from skidders we could talk about a lot of things."
But shortly after starting the project the group found a snag in the
loading process. Horses have a difficult time pulling trees uphill.
"Most of the time the horses did a really good job," Weidner said.
"But when we had to drag a log uphill, we had to change our methods a
little. We used a tractor when we had to take the logs uphill, but
dragged the logs along the same path so that we would leave as little
sign of logging behind as possible."
The Weidner family needed far more personnel for the horse-drawn job
than for one of their contemporary logging jobs, and timber sells for
the same price regardless of how it's harvested. Although they did
finish the project ahead of schedule, the family may not attempt this
type of project without some other form of assistance.
"We had six people felling trees, working horses and loading and it
took us two or three days per load. Typically a three or four man
crew could load as many trucks in a day," Weidner said. "At that
rate, with that many people getting paid, I can't afford to log with
There are many more acres of conifers that need to be removed on the
Warner Mountain Range near Modoc, California. Whether animal or
machine will remove the timber remains to be determined.
"We really just wanted to try this as an experiment to see what could
happen," said Mary Flores, USFS District Wildlife Biologist for the
Warner Mountain Ranger District, Modoc National Forest. "We really
liked the result of the project but it was an experiment. The next
time we do a project like this, we'll have to re-evaluate our