Early in the Mitigation Plan ‘process’ I inquired of the Planner if she knew why the clearing was a clearing. To me this seemed the most basic of all planning considerations: if you knew why nature had maintained the area as a clearing for over 50 years, then you would know how to plant it (or you could heed the words of my neighbor, the retired Washington State Forestry restorer: “You can’t mitigate a clearing.”). Of course, you could also just plant the clearing as though it was an extension of the wetland without even looking for a reason. I have found the reason, however; in the past year I have determined that it is a nexus of poor soil, excessive stormwater runoff, a smothering leaf drop, and the browsing of woodland creatures that has kept the area bare. In planting almost exclusively conifers and evergreen broadleaf natives, I have now found the rule of unintended consequences in my own Mitigation Plan Do-over: where it once died back to barren, twiggy scrub, now my clearing remains leafy and green (though small and barely established ) year-round. What used to be a snacky stopover to casual passers-by is now an all-you-can-eat buffet to all manner of animals. They come, they stay, they eat and destroy a lot. Now I have one more animal pressure to add to the list, and it might be the most destructive of all: the rutting buck. While that sounds like a bar I’d really like to go to, in fact it is a majestic beast which I have seen only once, the largest deer I have ever seen in Western Washington. Not including antlers, the animal is easily as tall as I am (six-four), and it sports a wide eight-point rack which it rubs on
saplings to shed its early season felt and let everyone know to whom the woods and its resident females belong. Unfortunately this behavior has de-limbed two alpine Noble firs, scraped bark and branches from three yellow cedars, and completely uprooted a Mountain hemlock. I mixed up a batch of deer spray and soaked my trees and shrubs with it, hoping to ward off further damage from deer and other chewy woodland creatures. Now my forest glen, rather than of cedar oil and moist woodland duff, smells of sin and murder and hatred, with maybe some fish guts, cayenne pepper, and camphor thrown in…but at least it is well-tidied of fallen leaves. As handsome as the deer might be, I shall not name him ‘Roast,’ as he looks pretty tough and musky compared to his younger and more delicious looking cohorts (Tenderloin, Ribrack, and Stew). I only wish that out of five thousand and three or so trees to choose from, he hadn’t used my young and choice saplings to send out the ruminant equivalent of a booty call.