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The DNR plan points to prescribed burns, thinning and the steady harvesting of small-diameter trees to help restore forest health.
Pilot projects at Mill Creek Watershed could point the way to long-term forest health solution.
More than 9 million acres of forest in Washington and Oregon should be selectively logged and burned to make the remaining trees more resistant to wildfire, disease and drought, according to a new study by the U.S. Forest Service and The Nature Conservancy. The study looked at forests in Eastern Washington, Eastern Oregon and Southwest Oregon across federal, state, tribal and private ownerships. About 40 percent of those forests are experiencing conditions outside of their historic range, it concluded.
The dry forest north of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation used to burn every five to 20 years, resulting in open stands of ponderosa pine. But a century of wildfire suppression has changed the forest’s make-up. Now, it’s a flammable thicket of pines and fir that compete for light and water.
Patches of red needles on the ponderosa pine trees caught Kent Moline’s attention as he hiked the bluff below High Drive on Spokane’s South Hill this spring. He knew the trees should have already shed their dead needles and “I wondered if it was a pine beetle outbreak,” said Moline, a board member for the nonprofit Friends of the Bluff.
A fungus that devours the roots of Douglas fir trees costs the timber industry millions of dollars each year, and it’s likely to become a bigger killer as the climate changes, a new study says. Laminated root rot, a native pest, is found in Douglas fir stands throughout the Northwest. If the disease doesn’t kill the firs outright, it leaves them weakened and susceptible to bark beetle attacks and uprooting during wind storms.
A five-year project to use trees to promote the health of the Spokane-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer has ended, with new trees planted, a blueprint for where to plant more, a boost for a Hayden program that uses poplar trees to drink up treated wastewater and various efforts to improve forest health throughout the region. “Knowing how trees could benefit the aquifer, we had a really unique opportunity,” said Mary Fritz, program planning specialist for the Idaho Department of Lands in Coeur d’Alene.
Toppling trees at Riverside State Park is helping create a healthier forest of native ponderosa pines. The thinning project is also providing work experience for 50 inmates from Airway Heights Corrections Center while producing winter firewood for low-income families.
Washington Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark will convene a committee of foresters, scientists and other experts in an effort to contain a pending forest health epidemic east of the Cascades. Since the 1980s, the number of acres of trees killed by insects and disease has doubled. Over the next 15 years, state projections indicate that elevated tree mortality could occur across 2.8 million acres of Eastern Washington, or roughly one-third of the landscape.
Bark beetles have ravaged hundreds of thousands of acres of Colorado’s forests, yet that state has only one large sawmill left to bid on federal timber sales. That’s a problem for the Forest Service, which is depending on the timber industry to thin stands of unhealthy, crowded trees across the Rocky Mountain West, a top U.S. Department of Agriculture official said Thursday.
Timber and conservation are two entities not always known for collaboration. Yet since 2003, members of the Northeast Washington Forest Coalition have worked together to develop a common sense of interest between all forest users.