Thinning in the Pacific Northwest?

Daniel B. Wheeler dwheeler at
Wed Oct 9 10:47:58 EST 2002

lhfotoware at (Larry Harrell) wrote in message news:<7a90c754.0210071654.35c6fef1 at>...
> October 6, 2002  The Register Guard
> Forester touts thinning as solution to debate
> MAPLETON - A lush trail near Cataract Creek in the Coast Range holds
> the secret to the end of animosity over logging and environmental
> protection in Northwest forests.
> By shifting timber sale programs entirely to thinning second-growth
> plantations and restoring watersheds, the government could move away
> from logging what's left of the Northwest's old growth, Furnish said.
> He said that new vision and strategy for managing federal forests
> would improve the overall health of overcrowded stands, boost the
> growth of trees that remain, reduce wildfire danger, create desirable
> wildlife habitat and even give loggers decades of work in the woods.
It might even make better quality trees, worth more. Pruning has that
But there is a danger than politicians would think what works in the
wet rainy side of the Coastal range would also work on the Ponderosa
plains. (BTW, reduction to 100 trees per acre seems _very_ severe
unless the stand is about 50 years old.)
> Environmentalists would be pleased with the greater emphasis on saving
> old growth, and the Forest Service would spend far less time and money
> fighting appeals and lawsuits, he said.
> The natural spacing of trees at the Cataract site is about 250 per
> acre, making for a jungle-like density. Three stands were thinned - to
> 100, 60 and 30 trees per acre.
So thinning to stands of of 150 to 175 trees earlier might also be
That's the one thing I _don't_ find in the story: how old these trees
are. At 250 years of age, 100 trees/acre is crowded: about 30 trees is
more reasonable.
> Bore samples taken from Douglas fir, hemlock and other trees left in
> the thinned areas show they began growing faster after the competition
> for sunlight, water and crown space was removed.
When hemlock is included in the stand, densities should be increased
by at least 30-50 trees/acre. The presence of hemlock is a strong
indication the area receives more rainfall than just a Douglas-fir
stand. And hemlock holds 110% of its wood mass in water weight. That
water is released during times of heat, and cools the forest and
nearby trees during drought. (Western redcedar reacts this way even
> Eventually, ecologists say, such stands can be returned to an
> old-growth state.
(HALLELUJAH! Somebody finally gets it!)
> "One of the huge challenges I had as a forest supervisor was to shift
> the focus away from `How do we keep cutting the big trees?' to `How do
> we assert the priority of young timber stands?' " he said. "Everything
> about the Siuslaw National Forest was predicated on cutting big trees,
> to the tune of about 350 million board feet a year."
> In Coast Range forests, before sweeping protections for the northern
> spotted owl and marbled murrelet were in place, plantations were
> harvested on an increasingly faster rotation to meet the growing
> demand for wood, Furnish said.
> "When these trees would get a certain size, we'd clear-cut and start
> over again," he said. "So the idea of coming in and actually thinning
> these plantations was unique."
Maybe not unique. Experiments have been on-going near Eugene on the
Blue River.
> The project was met with skepticism from both timber interests and
> environmental groups as well as resistance from within the Forest
> Service.
Sounds about right. It does require a certainly knowledge of how trees
grow. That leaves out both big timber and most environmental groups.

> "They clearly have a different objective," he said. "We could sustain
> a (thinning-only) program, but it's not anything like we've been
> directed to do under the Northwest Forest Plan. I mean, it's not even
> close."
That's because there's been so much clearcutting it has affected other the salmon runs indigenous to the Siuslaw River, for
> Oregon 4th District Rep. Peter DeFazio agreed. He said the Willamette
> and other national forests along the Cascades were assigned under the
> 1994 forest plan to "harvest old growth."
> "That was the way it was going to be, because that's the only way they
> could reach the volumes," DeFazio said. "So that's been their
> direction. They don't have the latitude or the budgets or anything to
> begin to totally reorient and look at the kind of stuff going on with
> the Siuslaw."
> A thinning program in national forest plantations could be carried out
> across millions of acres, he said, "but it would require rewriting
> significant portions of the forest plan, it would require
> appropriations from Congress, and it would require the president to
> lead the way."
> Comment by poster: Sounds good to me. Haven't I been saying this all
> along?
Now if we could just get rid of this president and get one that
actually knows some forestry... But that's unlikely to happen when the
timber industry was perhaps the largest single contributor to the Bush
campaign coffers (through individual donations, of course). And Bush
definately knows which side of his toast is buttered.

Daniel B. Wheeler

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