MOSCOW, Idaho — Trudging through a densely planted patch of birch trees in spitting rain, Ronald Mahoney spotted one more. He yanked the chainsaw into action, sawed a V-shaped wedge into the trunk and finished it off with a clean cut from the opposite side.
The birch, particularly beefy and marked with a blue ribbon, came crashing down precisely where the 65-year-old retired extension forester wanted it.
“You can see how fast it’s growing,” Mahoney said, squatting over the stump and tracing the circumference with his fingers. “Each one of these rings is a year. This one’s growing maybe … three-quarters an inch in diameter every year.”
Deeper in the patch, another chainsaw buzzed to life.
Mahoney, a retired forestry professor from the University of Idaho, was about halfway through leading a small crew in logging about six dozen hardwoods from the school’s research station in Sandpoint. For 11 hours, the team — consisting mostly of students, members of the school’s chapter of the Society of American Foresters — cut, piled and loaded eight species of trees. They’d been grown from seed sources ranging from Pennsylvania to Idaho to northern British Columbia.
They were planted more than two decades ago, when Mahoney, with the help of then-graduate student Yvonne Barkley, began studying how hardwoods grow in the heart of conifer country. The Sandpoint station was one of several patches throughout the Northwest and Canada where the two researchers planted more than 30 species of trees.