Foresters and Their Own Forest, Forever

July 6, 2021

By Kirk & Madeline David, Idaho forest landowners

If you have purchased land for any reason, you know the wisdom of that bit of common sense. If you possess “undeveloped” land and are like most conservation-minded folks, you feel you have acquired not only the privilege of ownership, but also a responsibility of stewardship beyond personal reasons.

Kirk & Madeline David share a chuckle outside their log home

Of course, personal reasons are pretty much the place where we all start. As a degreed forester, from the beginning I (Kirk) felt that every true forester should own at least a little bit of forest of his or her own to manage, observe, learn from, and “practice what they preached.” After completing my paper chase, I bit the bullet and purchased my first twenty acres.  With a forester’s eye, I found a bit of paradise that I was convinced, “had it all.” Even during the first task of creating a small log house on a postage stamp-sized corner of the land, I was sizing up and engaging in some hands-on work (with mules!) to make some minor stewardship touches I learned in training. Within a few more years, my wife and I had the opportunity to obtain another 135 acres uphill of the original patch – to protect “our” watershed.

Forty years later, through close observation and attention to what naturally happens on the land, and in comparison to my own management activities, I learned almost as much or more from the forest, as I have from several years in a top-notch ivory tower!

Our intention with the land is that it is a working forest.  For us, this is a distinction between preservation and conservation.  Preservation means that nothing ever changes. But the biotic world is renewable, recyclable, and all the other environmentally positive attributes. Madeline and I believe our job as divinely blessed stewards is to wisely conserve and perpetuate those valuable resources as best we can.

We don’t have a conventionally “modern” life here on Cedar Mountain. We heat with wood. Our small patch of native grass can’t be remotely called a lawn, and domestic flowers don’t grow well in the shade of the pines and fir. But we are treated each year to an ever-changing pageant of wild violets, Solomon’s seal, side flowered mitreworts, wild roses, ocean spray, syringa, wild strawberries, fairy slippers, self-heal, Queen’s cup bead lily, Indian paintbrush, pearly everlasting, showy aster, goldenrod, pine drops, the occasional Indian pipe and wild ginger. And oh the fungi we have found!

Kirk educates Dave Schaub about pinecones found in his forest

In the process of working the land to assist its health and productivity, we have witnessed a turkey hen incubate her poults on a nest out the back door, a moose raise her newborn calf out our front door, a bobcat queen parade her kittens past the kitchen window, cougars investigate the front porch, a raccoon examine the back porch, and elk and deer herds constantly graze their way through the brush. It’s been a while, but I have been surprised (so was it!) several times by the sudden appearance of a black bear on the trail.  Snowshoe hares, pileated woodpeckers, porcupines, rubber boa snakes, mallard ducks, the list grows. After a thoughtful day of working in the woods and earning that healthy-tired feeling from all your efforts, moments like these are ample reward. Our adjoining landowners are a mix of rural farmers and industrial forest owners, so our individual-tree-selection harvesting maintains habitat that all those animals utilize to their (and our!) advantage.

In regards to forests, size matters! A tree is a tree, but a multitude of trees becomes a forest. Keeping forests as forests means not fragmenting and parceling out the landscape so much that the attributes and advantages of a forest are lost. Our forest is located in Kootenai County, Idaho, which recently received the dubious honor of having the fastest increase in development of any county in the entire United States. One way to “give your land a seat at the table” when deciding its fate is to utilize your property rights, ensuring that the land is given permanent protection against unwanted subdivision and development. Inland Northwest Land Conservancy provides that valuable tool for landowning stewards to protect their land for present and future generations of humans and wildlife.

Kirk and Madeline David sealed the conservation of their Cedar Mountain Working Forest with Inland Northwest Land Conservancy in December 2015. The conservation easement ensures that their 155 acres will never be subdivided or developed, and can remain a healthy working forest and a haven for wildlife, with abundant streams that replenish the Rathdrum Prairie Spokane Valley aquifer.

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