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From farm to forest.

Byline: Sherri Buri McDonald The Register-Guard

CORRECTION (ran 2/14/2006): The first name and title of Chris Seal, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, was inadvertently left out of the story on tree planting at Green Island that ran on Page C1 on Sunday.

Tree planting took on a creative flair with the Stringer family at the McKenzie River Trust's Green Island west of Coburg on Saturday.

Dad Darin pulled a sapling from its pot, loosened its root wad and plopped the young tree in a predug hole.

Then, in a flurry of booted feet attached to sons Conrad, 5, and Ethan, 2 1/2 , the hole filled with dirt.

Unorthodox technique, admitted Darin, a wildlife ecologist.

But it did the job, and the family moved on to plant its next tree.

The Stringers were among about 75 volunteers who planted 3,400 trees on a 20-acre swath of farmland in the 948-acre Green Island complex, located at the confluence of the Willamette and the McKenzie rivers.

The McKenzie River Trust, a 16-year-old nonprofit based in Eugene that protects river environments in Lane and Douglas counties, bought the land in 2003 from the Green family, who had owned and farmed it for more than 70 years.

After doing technical studies of the land and drafting a 10-year management plan, the trust is beginning to restore the farmland to its more natural and diverse forest state.

"That's how I got these guys out here," 37-year-old Darin Stringer said, referring to his sons. "I told them when you guys are my age, there will be a forest where there had been a field."

The white dusting on Conrad's lips told of a more immediate incentive, though.

"They love the doughnuts," mom Sydney said.

The hope of the McKenzie River Trust is that a more diverse plant community on Green Island will help attract more diverse wildlife, including migratory songbirds, red-legged tree frogs, Western pond turtles, mink, river otter and beaver.

The trust held a small tree-planting on Green Island last year. But Saturday's joint effort by the trust, the McKenzie Watershed Council and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service was on a much bigger scale, said Joe Moll, the trust's executive director.

The trust plans to plant trees, native plants or flowers on an average of about 50 acres a year, he said.

On Saturday, volunteers spread out in teams of three to plant a mix of black cottonwood, big leaf maple, Oregon ash, a Willamette Valley subspecies of ponderosa pine and Western red cedar.

During a brief training session for volunteers, Seal pointed out some of the differences between the species.

"They probably all look like a stick in a pot," he joked. But after a few hours, all of those "sticks" were out of their pots and standing tall throughout the field.

"It goes fast when you have this many people," said Bob Parker, who has served on the board for the past 11 years.

Seventy percent to 80 percent of the young trees are expected to survive in the first two years, Seal said. The biggest threat to their survival would be a dry summer.

But if all goes as planned, the Stringer boys may well return to Green Island in 30 years and walk through the young forest they helped plant.

CAPTION(S):

Conrad Stringer (center), 5, pushes soil into place while helping the McKenzie River Trust plant trees on Saturday on Green Island. Big-leaf maples are among the 3,400 trees waiting to be planted by 75 volunteers on Saturday morning.
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Title Annotation:Environment; Volunteers plant trees to help make Green Island greener
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Feb 12, 2006
Words:599
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