Central Oregon has a new resource person for forestry needs. Thomas Stokely started in July at the OSU Extension office as the forestry extension agent.
Stokely is “more of an educator than an actual forester,” he said in an interview with the Spokesman, because his job involves outreach and engagement with the community, including helping landowners and collaborative groups make decisions about land use and forest management.
“Helping people identify their values and objectives for a property and manage the property to reach those objectives,” is an important part of what he does. Those values might include supporting a songbird habitat or thinning a heavily forested area and finding a market for logs, he said.
Stokely has a background in ecology, including masters and doctoral research on the effects of forest management on wildlife habitats.
He has worked mostly on the Oregon Coast range, but since coming to this side of the mountains, he has been focusing on the issues specific to Central Oregon.
Fire is a significant issue for Central Oregon, he said. “A century of fire suppression has led to a dense homogenous layer of fuels and vegetation in many areas,” he said, which leads to “high severity fires.”
One of the ways Stokely is trying to combat that is restoring the forest to be more resilient to fires, something he said can be achieved through thinning and prescribed fires.
Other concerns include restoring “health and vigor” to trees so that they are resistant and resilient to both insects and diseases.
“Forest management to reduce pest outbreaks often focuses on the health of individual trees across a given area,” he said.
Wildlife population issues are also linked to forest management, he said, and can be supported through specific management of habitat areas — increasing forage for mule deer by creating forest gaps, for example, or creating snags by targeted killing of trees to create habitat for woodpeckers.
Some issues that affect the general population include managing outdoor recreation opportunities through educating the public about forest management and wildlife and helping people protect their own homes from fire by creating a “defensible space” with landscaping.
Stokely provides individual consultation, as well as putting on seminars (which are being held over Zoom at this time) and meeting with collaborative groups, he said.
He is working in Deschutes, Jefferson and Crook counties, as well as with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.