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Think global and plant local

“I saw a hummingbird the other day.” Dan Bish cooed. “It was sipping on red-flowering currant — the first of the native flowers to bloom in the spring. If you want to support native wildlife, you have to provide them with something to feed upon.”

The last installment of Act Locally considered the topic of “buying local.” Well, Bish, and his business, Plant Oregon, are about as “local” in origin as one can get.

Bish’s paternal ancestors arrived in the Oregon Territories (which included Oregon, Washington, Idaho, as well as parts of Montana and Utah) in the 1840s. His fourth great grandfather had been appointed as the federal agent to Chief Seattle. His maternal ancestors moved to the Rogue Valley in 1911. Several of them operated a butcher shop in Medford.

However, Bish’s mother’s uncle became head of Oregon’s Game Commission (precursor to the Department of Fish and Wildlife), and was responsible for re-populating mountain goats, Mazama sheep, and other species which had been brought close to extinction by our state’s earliest settlers.

With conservation running deep in his veins, Bish grew up in a home of professional educators on a property in rural Talent that the family had purchased in 1955. Though he studied at Southern Oregon University and Linn Community College, gardening was always his true passion. “I created my first park at the age of 5.”

Following the natural course of things, Dan started propagating native trees and shrubs in the early 1970s, formalizing the business into a certified nursery in 1976. Today, Dan shares responsibilities with his son, Dave Bish, and Dave’s partner, Jenny Black.

Plant Oregon’s facilities at 8677 Wagner Creek Road are open 9a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Customers can stop by to view inventory, which in addition to red-flowering currant, includes a variety of indigenous shrubs, as well as multiple species of trees. Aware that our climate is in transition, Dan Bish makes sure his nursery is supplying hardy species that have the ability to survive whatever new weather patterns emerge. Customers can also order online at plantoregon.com/pilot.asp.

Retail is only one aspect of Plant Oregon’s business. Much of the father and son’s focus is upon restoring native wetlands. Subcontracted through the nonprofit The Freshwater Trust, Plant Oregon removes invasive species from alongside rivers and creeks, then replants the area with indigenous species. Often the purpose of adding trees is to create shade in exposed areas in order to keep waters at comfortable temperatures for aquatic wildlife.

Readers might remember that Act Locally discussed how Ashland (among other communities) raises the temperature of local creeks when rain and garden run-off trickles down over hot pavement, then is channeled through storm drains directly into our streams. Creeks also become over-heated when water treatment plants release processed, clean effluent back into natural waterways.

In recent years much of Plant Oregon’s work has occurred along the Rogue River where public treatment facilities opted for planting shade trees rather than installing much more expensive cooling systems. The City of Ashland is in the process of considering doing the same (stay tuned).

The Bishes have also completed wetland restoration on private properties in the Ashland area. Readers who have creeks running through their yards or perhaps have other types of drainage issues might want to consult with Dan Bish as to whether his team could be of service. He can be reached at dan@plantoregon.com or by phone at 541-535-3531.

Readers who a looking for a green business through which to purchase carbon offsets might also want to consider participating in Plant Oregon’s Carbon Sequestration Credit Program at plantoregon.com/pilot.asp?pg=carbon. Donations to the program help Dan Bish purchase and plant trees which pull carbon out of the atmosphere.

However, readers may be surprised to learn just how many trees are needed to offset the greenhouse gas emissions from even just one tank of gas. Plant Oregon provides a couple of web links with the protocols through which the mathematically inclined can crunch the numbers at https://ecometrica.com/assets/one_tonne_carbon_tree_discussion_paper_3.pdf or https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/contentIncludes/co2_inc.htm )

If, as the Plant Oregon website suggests, a redwood tree takes four years to sequester the emissions from one gallon of gas, southern Oregon would need to reforest an awful lot of acreage — not that we have enough rainwater available to do that. Sounds like we need to be reducing our GHG emissions through other means as well.

Ashland resident, author and anthropologist Nina Egert has been a lay environmentalist since the early 1970s.

Photo By Jenny BlackDave and Dan Bish work on a restoration project.