Exploring Conservation Forestry at Hyla Woods

Reprint: originally posted 9/24/14


By: Jennifer Nelson

“The first rule of intelligent tinkering is to hang onto all of the pieces” – Aldo Leopold.

I recently asked Peter Hayes to share the history of Hyla Woods, a non-industrial private forest that his family manages with conservation as a driving value.

DSC_0267(1)What does conservation mean to your family?

Whether it is in forests, farm lands, range lands, or beyond, we are concerned that in too many cases, profit comes at the expense of degradation of the land in general and of commonwealth values in particular. To address this problem, we need working models of operations that clearly maintain and restore the land’s health and wealth while being profitable enough to the owners and workers that they will stay involved. For the past 28 years, we have been prospecting for ways that we might become one of these models. What we’re doing fits with a core Oregon legacy of trying to ‘take care of what we’ve got’ and act in ways that maintain and expand options for future generations. It is just common sense.

What are some of the ways in which Hyla Woods connects with the broader community?

We are active in both the Build Local Alliance ( and the Tualatin Headwaters Partners in Production. We are also long-time members of the Washington County Small Woodlands Association and value the chance to learn from and support one another. The members are great people and the association is a good example of volunteer efforts to maintain and build the common good.

Why were you interested in working with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) on forest stand improvement (pre-commercial thinning and pruning) and removal of invasive plants?

For many years, we had been hesitant about working with NRCS, but we are hopeful that the partnership will be valuable to both parties. The work that we have agreed to do together is work that we have identified as a priority for many years and are keen to get started. The resources provided by NRCS (knowledgeable advice, useful contacts, cost sharing) are welcome additions.DSC04432(1)

We have done these types of stewardship activities on our own for the past 25 years, and yes, we can measure the value of doing them. We gauge our progress toward a hierarchy of four goals: take care of what we’ve got (maintain land health and wealth), restore resources that need attention (rebuild the land’s health and wealth and repair past degradation), protect land from future degradation, and try to model an economically viable way for others to do this.

There are some specific benefits we are looking for too, like fighting back invasive weeds and replacing them with native plants, accelerating the progression toward older more complex forests through thinning, and reducing fire risks through thinning and pruning. We are concerned about Scotch broom management, emerald ash borer, and diseases in Oregon white oak and value the chance to work with others to understand and address them. A big reason for building forest complexity is to increase our forests’ ability to resist and/or adapt to these types of pressures.

DSC05567 What are your thoughts on the experience of being a small private forest owner, working with your family?

I feel very fortunate to be involved with a family business – particularly one that grows things that people need. The world would be a different place if more people could directly experience the challenges, dilemmas, and rewards of running a land-based business.




Wednesday, February 21, 2018 - 6:00pm to 8:00pm