Northwest forest study aims to examine various management treatments

Northwest forest study aims to examine various management treatments

A recent proposal filed jointly by the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the University of Washington (UW) announced a new forest management study set to occur on the Olympic Peninsula. The study aims to experiment with various forest management treatments within the 270,000-acre Olympic Experimental State Forest which is owned and managed by DNR. What is interesting about this study is the scale of it- covering approximately 21,000 acres of land over 16 watersheds. Criticism of ecologically-based forest management in the past has been in part due to issues of scale. This study, if approved, would attempt to provide relevant data illustrating just how profitable various silvicultural techniques may actually be when stacked side by side and considering ecological and social factors.

Besides helping gain a better understanding into the economics of various forest management approaches, the experiment may also be useful for state and federal land managers in the broader region. DNR is charged with managing forests for a variety of interests, notwithstanding endangered species and rural communities (the latter having been historical beneficiaries of timber tax revenue). Given the recent controversies here in Oregon swirling around the proposed sale of the Elliott State Forest and our O&C lands management, testing solutions that appease seemingly opposed groups of stakeholders may provide valuable insights.

The experiments themselves aim to test four different treatments which vary in intensity and spatial arrangement. Silvicultural treatments include different types of variable density harvests and thinnings, similar to those that Trout Mountain Forestry utilizes for our clients. The study plans to experiment with more alder interplanting and management, testing of wind firmness of residual trees, as well as utilizing hardwoods to increase nutrient loads to salmon-bearing streams (among other things).

While the first treatments may not occur until as early as 2018, the prospect of such a wide-reaching and relevant experiment to the work that we currently do here at Trout Mountain Forestry is exciting.

Variable density harvest in a coastal hemlock forest, managed by Trout Mountain Forestry

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Record December rains challenge forest roads

Fill slope erosion where the culvert was blocked with soil and debris washed downstream by the record December rains. 

Fill slope erosion where the culvert was blocked with soil and debris washed downstream by the record December rains. 

December 2015 saw some serious rainfall and storm events, far exceeding the previous record for precipitation in that month, and with that record rainfall came some major challenges to forest road infrastructure in northwest Oregon. During the most intense periods of rainfall, small landslides were a common occurrence on steep slopes, particularly where high cut-banks along roads became saturated. As small headwater streams became raging torrents, they sometimes overwhelmed culverts at stream crossings, particularly where soil and rock were being carried downstream and filling catch-basins. In such situations, the downhill side of the road fill is very vulnerable to erosion as the stream is flowing across the road and finding its way down the other side. Seen here is a picture of such a situation in the North Tualatin Mountains, west of Portland. 

Of course, no one knows what the rest of the winter and spring holds in store for us, but the break in heavy rain we are experiencing now (minus the snow and ice) presents a good opportunity to get out and survey forest roads and culverts for damage and assess whether maintenance is needed to keep them functioning properly for the remainder of our rainy season. 

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Watershed Tour

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Watershed Tour

Watershed Tour A Feast For Tree Lovers

Excerpt from  JAMES DAY Corvallis Gazette-Times

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Stop 1 included a new wrinkle for the tour, now in its ninth year. A short trail was carved off to the side of a rutted forest road to get participants closer to some of the forest’s older trees. The ground was crunchy and mulchy, with a fat slug perched on dead wood and black-and-yellow millipedes moseying about among the moss.

As the tour moved down the ridge Charlie Bruce of the watershed board spotted a bald eagle flying overhead. Mark Miller of Trout Mountain Forestry, which manages the watershed for the city, pointed in the direction of the bird’s nest … then talked some more about the forest.

“Our stewardship plan calls for three types of forests: middle-aged, plantation and old growth and older,” Miller said, while pointing toward a 180-year-old Douglas fir, the oldest tree in this stand.

“We have some trees that are 300 to 500 years old, but you only get one or two of those per acre.”

The city has been receiving drinking water from the area since 1906, but it wasn’t until after the start of the 21st century that the city put a plan in place to manage the forest. Miller notes that the first harvesting of trees took place in the 1920s and 1930s, “with the practices of the time: clear-cutting.”

“Our goal is forest health and resiliency from fire, wind, insects and disease,” Miller said. “Without a forest we don’t have good water quality. And a healthy forest needs timber harvests.”

Read the entire article at the Corvallis Gazette-Times

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