OREGON CITY, Ore. – Gilbert Shibley is preparing to take his last walk in the woods as a forestry program assistant for the Oregon State University Extension Service in Clackamas County.
After 15 years of helping the county's residents manage their forests, the Estacada-born woodland owner will retire on June 30. Before he does, however, he'll teach his three-week, semi-annual Basic Forestry short course one last time.
From April 28 to May 17, he'll teach aspiring woodland managers – usually families who own forestland – about topics that include taxes, reforestation, fire prevention, marketing, thinning, pruning and harvesting. Registration is open until April 23. Extension in Clackamas County has offered the course for more than 30 years. Shibley, who will turn 70 this month, has taught it for about the last dozen years.
He teaches from experience.
In 1975, after teaching biology at Lawrence University in Wisconsin for 10 years, he returned to Oregon to be close to his family members and help them manage their forestland near Estacada – the same land where he was born and now lives. A portion of the property, which has since increased to 620 acres, had been in the family since 1864, when his great-grandparents homesteaded it. But Shibley's expertise wasn't in forestry; he had a doctorate in animal physiology from the University of Oregon.
So he enrolled in the Master Woodland Manager program offered by Extension in Clackamas County. After 85 hours of instruction, Shibley, like all graduates of the program, was expected to spend at least that much time as a volunteer, spreading his new knowledge to others with questions about forestry.
After he completed the course in 1993, Mike Bondi, Extension’s forestry agent in Clackamas County, hired him as his part-time forestry program assistant.
"Gilbert has been an incredible resource for the 3,000 private owners of woodlands in Clackamas County, who collectively own more than 1 million acres of forest in the county," said Bondi, adding that Shibley may not be replaced because of budget constraints.
"What makes Gilbert special for us in Extension is his practical knowledge. He knows what he is talking about because he’s done it on his own family land. For example, Gilbert knows the details of building a bridge across a stream because he built one. He’s also an expert on estate taxation because he’s had to deal with this family issue, too."
As a forestry program assistant, Shibley's duties have included visiting properties, dispensing advice over the phone, teaching classes on planting trees, and lecturing at Tree School, a one-day forestry boot camp offered by Extension in Clackamas County. He has also helped coordinate the activities of the nearly 50 Master Woodland Managers in the county.
Shibley's tenure as a forestry program assistant wasn't the first time he had worked for Extension. From 1976 to 1990 he was an Extension agent for the 4-H Youth Development Program in Multnomah and Columbia counties. His passion for 4-H stemmed back to when he was a farm boy in Estacada and participated in the program by raising chickens and cattle and belonging to its cooking and "bachelor sewing" clubs.
Looking back, Shibley is proud of what he accomplished while working for Extension. Of his time in Clackamas County, he said: "It was worth spending time doing that, helping people know how to manage the forestland so it stays healthy and productive. It's been a good cause to be a part of because it's important. If people don't feel they're getting much good out of their land, they won't work to keep it forested, and the community and state then suffer when we have less of a forest economy."
Scott Hanson, president of the Clackamas County Farm Forestry Association and a graduate of a Basic Forestry short course taught by Shibley, said his shoes would be hard to fill.
"He's an excellent teacher; he's easy to understand and patient," Hanson said. "We're fortunate to have someone of his abilities in the county. He will definitely be missed."
To register for this spring's Basic Forestry short course, call the Extension office in Oregon City at 503-655-8631. The course takes place at Colton High School, and the cost is $50 per family.
For more information about Extension in Clackamas County, go to http://extension.oregonstate.edu/clackamas/.
To learn more about Extension's forestry and Christmas tree program in Clackamas County, go to http://extension.oregonstate.edu/clackamas/forestry/ForestryChristmasTrees.php.