60 Years of Research Produces Book About Ancient Oregon Rain Forest

PULLMAN, Wash. — Life in an ancient western Oregon rain forest is the focus of “Not Just
Trees: The Legacy of a Douglas-fir Forest,” a book published recently by the WSU Press at
Washington State University.
Author Jane Claire Dirks-Edmunds of McMinnville, Ore., based the book on her research of
the Oregon Coast Range forest on Saddleback Mountain, known today as Saddle Bag Mountain,
on the Van Duzer Corridor in Oregon’s Lincoln County.
The book covers a span of more than 60 years. It is the tale of the Douglas firs, cedars and
hemlocks that once grew there. It is also about the lives of great and small creatures and plants,
of slugs and worms, spiders and bugs, butterflies and birds, lichens and mosses.
Dirks-Edmunds began studying the forest in the 1930s while an undergraduate student at
Linfield College in McMinnville. She worked with her mentor, James A. Macnab, a Linfield
professor. After graduating in 1937 from Linfield, she earned her doctorate in zoology at the
University of Illinois in 1941, under the tutelage of one of the nation’s earliest and foremost
ecologists, Victor E. Shelford.
She returned to Linfield in 1941 and taught biology until 1974. During this period, she
resumed studying the forest and recording its life through logging in the 1940s to clearcutting in
the 1980s. She is now a Linfield emerita professor in biology.
Although the ancient forest was cut away, Dirks-Edmunds endured to become the forest’s
bard. Logging of the forest in the 1940s saddened her, but she continued her research. The book
includes the careful recording of a young second-growth forest developing on the precise site of
the ancient forest, a regeneration that is unlikely in the tree farm that now occupies the site
following clearcutting in the 1980s.
According to a WSU Press representative, the book’s in-depth study, conducted over so
many years, has never been undertaken on a single western forest before, nor is it likely to ever
be repeated.
“Not Just Trees” tells about the “amazing” variety of life in the forest — from birds living in
the canopies to mycorrhizal fungi entwining and nourishing the roots of trees, to the voles,
beetles and bacteria that feed on the truffles produced by the mycorrhizae, said the
representative. “It is also the story of a tenacious woman, an ecologist who studied Oregon flora
and fauna before there were guidebooks, at a time when precious few even knew what the word
‘ecology’ meant. In these days of much controversy over and contemplation about the few
ancient forests that remain in the Northwest, ‘Not Just Trees’ truly offers a unique perspective,
reminding us of what we lose when we destroy our last old-growth forests.”
The book is described by the representative as “factual, historical, anecdotal, nontechnical
and a trifle romantic. This is a must have book for both the general reader and the scholar.”
Internationally acclaimed scientist Anne Ehrlich, author of “The Population Explosion,” says
the book “will please anyone who cares about forests, wildlife, and the intricate workings of
ecosystems.” The book’s foreword is written by Robert Michael Pyle, award-winning author of
“Where Bigfoot Walks.”
“Not Just Trees” is the WSU Press’ 100th title published since it was revived in the 1980s.
The press’ history dates back to 1928, but it had been dormant for several years until the
publication of John Reps’ “Panoramas of Promise” in 1984. This year, the press will publish 13
books, all dealing with the Pacific Northwest.
The illustrated, 360-page book is available in the United States in hardback for $35 and in
paperback for $22.95 at bookstores or directly from WSU Press at 800/354-7360. In Alaska and
Canada call 509/335-3518.