Tillamook State Forest, OR: If you've ever wondered what land managers are doing to practice Leave No Trace and what issues they face, this interview is for you. In order to better understand specific recreational impacts to Tillamook State Forest and how the Oregon Department of Forestry works to resolve them, the Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer West Team interviewed Macy Yates, Recreation & Facilities Specialist for Tillamook State Forest. Macy has literally seen it all - from left behind self-made port a potties to piles of litter so vast that you would think you were in a third world country. She has also been apart of many success stories and has a wealth of knowledge surrounding recovery of damaged sites, amongst a variety of other skills. While this interview is specific to Tillamook State Forest, the impacts discussed below provide an insight into issues that are evident across the nation, throughout our parks and in our waterways.
BEHIND THE SCENES INTERVIEW WITH MACY YATES:
Macy and Jenna discuss impact at Tillamook State Forest.
J&S: How did you get into this line of work?
Macy: I started my career with the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area in the Young Adult Conservation Corps. I attended the University of Oregon earning a Bachelor of Science in Outdoor Recreation and Park Management. My entire 35 year career has been in parks and recreation management and environmental interpretation serving with the US National Park Service, US Forest Service, US Army Corps of Engineers, Oregon State Parks and Oregon Department of Forestry.
All in a days work: Macy locks up the storage area after unloading a truck full of tools for an upcoming trail maintenance day.
J&S: What does your day-to-day routine look like as a Recreation & Facilities Specialist?
Macy: Depending upon what time of the year it is, I may be working on implementing a variety of facility and trail maintenance projects, conducting grant writing, designing facility improvements and developing long range planning projects. In the summertime I spend nearly all of my time at our trailheads, hiking trails and in our 5 overnight campgrounds, and visiting with campers in our 84 designated dispersed campsites.
Jenna and Macy take a walk over the Wilson River footbridge to help gain a greater understanding of impacts.
J&S: What are the top three impacts created by forest users in the Tillamook State Forest:
Macy: 1.) Human Waste - surrounding campsites, day use areas and river banks 2.) Live Tree Damage - chopping, slicing, shooting at and debarking trees of all sizes 3.) User Created Trails - over 30 sites along a 15 mile stretch of the Wilson River (a major coastal salmon river) have trails that head straight for the water, carrying silt and debris directly to the water during rainy periods.
Live tree damage: Impacts from tree bark being chopped and hacked exist at nearly every campsite in Tillamook State Forest.
J&S: What actions are you able to take as a land manager to mitigate the impacts?
Macy: We continue to work on re-routing trails that drain directly into water sources, but need additional funding and agreements with other agency landowners before some work can be done.
Human waste and tree vandalism are behavioral issues that require a shift in people’s mind-set about what is ethical and responsible behavior. Working with Leave No Trace has been a great opportunity to formulate messages and education strategies to communicate with the general public.
An example of impacts, in this case the use of paper plate notes, being resolved through education and management in the Tillamook State Forest.
J&S: If you could wave a magic wand and have everyone arrive to the forest with one piece of knowledge what would it be?
Macy: The human waste problem. People need to understand it doesn’t disappear overnight and they’re not the first, nor the last to visit. Many guests will use these same sites throughout the seasons.
Macy shows Sam an area on the Wilson River where human waste, along with toilet paper (what's known as the "white roses" of the forest), has been deposited on the surface of the ground in the past. Remember: keep calm and dig a cat hole at least 200 feet from the river, 6 to 8 inches deep.
J&S: What is the craziest impact you have seen in the forest?
Macy: That’s a toss up with the number of years I have been in on the job. The man-made hot tub on the river has got to be one of the craziest though. What this entailed - Some people created a rock caldron, covered it with painter’s tarp and lined it with plastic. They then ran a hose under the river and up to Wilson Falls to collect water. The water collected flowed into a metal container surrounded by heat coils heated by a propane burner, which then dumped into their “hot tub”. Yes, we made them take it apart and pack it out.
It is great to see everyone enjoying the waterways in the forest: Remember if you generate trash and waste, please pack it out.
J&S: Can you tell us about an area that was impacted and how you solved it?
For the last three years we have been redesigning riverfront dispersed campsites by moving the camping areas 75 to 100 feet back from the water, fencing perimeters to prevent site expansion and limiting vehicle access with large boulder barriers and designated parking areas. In some cases as funding permits, portable toilets are provided during heavy summer season use.
Macy shows Jenna campsites that have been restored through successful management practices.
J&S: What draws you to the Tillamook State Forest?
Macy: Even with our human impact issues, the forest is still a great place to work. My office is 285,000 acres of scenic forests, rivers and home to a great variety of wildlife.
One of many beautiful views in Macy's office.
Do any of these impacts sound familiar? Take a look around the next time your enjoying your favorite trail or neighborhood park, and the noticeable damage might be shocking. Remember, these are our shared lands and waterways, and if we want to preserve them we must all take care of them. So be a part of the solution, join the movement and practice minimum impact outdoor recreation.
See you downstream,
Jenna and Sam
Leave No Trace’s Jenna Hanger and Sam Ovett are part of the 2015 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, Deuter, Hi-Cone, REI, Smartwool, The North Face, and Yakima.