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.