Contributed by Melanie Fisher. She has lived in Bend for 15 years and was previously the co-owner of Cog Wild Bicycle Tours. When Melanie is not representing Central Oregon Trail Alliance on the DCFP Steering Committee as one of our Recreation seat holders, you will find her on her mountain bike enjoying the beautiful scenery and flowy trails of Central Oregon.
First, a brief history of our fire-adapted forests:
Here are our favorite reasons why:
Forest restoration creates a better riding atmosphere for the flowy trails found in Bend. Our trail network is full of sweeping turns and endless flow where the fun factor turns up the faster you go. Stutter bumps are created when you can’t see the trail or obstacles ahead of you, requiring abrupt braking that you were not expecting. When there is wider spacing through the trees, you can scan farther down the trail, regulating your speed to match the trail easier.
Restoration also creates a more positive ride experience. Enjoy sweeping views through the forest, ride through native grasses and wildflowers, pass by healthy, happy trees and interesting rock formations that were once hidden behind thick trees. Once you notice all the small-diameter trees are no longer packed together fighting for water and sunlight, you realize how unhealthy they were, which can be a bummer.
With human-caused wildfire starts on the rise and frequent lightning storms during our hot and dry summers, it’s not a matter of if we’ll have a wildfire season, but when.
Fuels-reduction treatments like selective logging, mowing and prescribed fire help to reduce the intensity of a wildfire. Wildfires can burn at such a high heat that most organic particles of the soil can burn away, changing the soil composition from what was once a packed trail into a pile of loose sand. After the first rain or heavy snowmelt off, our trails run the risk of washing away or being altered in negative ways!
Prescribed fire is minimally invasive to our trails, allowing mountain bikers to return to ride soon after the restoration work has been done. Wildfires normally result in months or even years of closures for hazardous trees removal and post-wildfire cleanup. Trails normally have to be rebuilt in areas affected by wildfire.
In an overly dense forest, the native plants that wildlife need for sustenance (such as Ceanothus velutinus, aka snowbrush) are pushed out by too many plants competing for water and sunlight.
Overly dense forests can hinder trees from growing naturally. The mid- and lower-elevation ponderosa pine trees like the ones found west of Bend, drop their lower branches when they age, which helps fire not climb up their trunk. Ponderosa pines are more successful at fighting off beetle infestations if they are receiving enough water, which does not happen when there are too many trees in a small area competing for resources. Restoration allows rain and snow to soak into the soil to feed trees and plants – creating a beautiful environment to support our trails for years to come.
This story was written from a local mountain biker’s perspective and may not necessarily reflect all recreation groups and community members. Over the next few months, we’re going to interview and showcase how forest restoration connects with different groups within our community. Stay tuned!