Active management helps protect Wash. forest from wildfire

Ashley BachBLOG

The Jolly Mountain Fire has burned 26,000 acres in Central Washington and threatens the cities of Cle Elum and Roslyn. Residents of the Suncadia Resort, near both Cle Elum and Roslyn, have been warned of the fire, but so far, the threat to the resort has not been as dire because of active management of the forests nearby, according to Lens.

Those forests were owned and managed, until 1996, by the former Plum Creek Timber, which was acquired by Weyerhaeuser last year. In more recent years, the forests have been treated by a Forest Health Stewardship Team at the Suncadia Resort.

“When I first saw (the Jolly Mountain Fire), I thought ‘well, I’ve done a lot of work on this side of the resort.’ If I had a choice to fight this, this is one of the areas I’d prefer it to come,” Roslyn native Tony Craven said. A former Cle Elum Forest Service ranger, he is the forestry and firewise coordinator for the Suncadia Community Council and a member of the state Wildland Fire Advisory Committee, which meets regularly at the resort.

The forest treatments by the local Forest Health Stewardship Team are based on a 2008 Forest Health Stewardship Plan developed for the resort.

The plan…notes that Plum Timber “left the area in a relatively good condition in many aspects”. It also states that “modern fire prevention efforts (since the 1940’s or even earlier) have helped in maintaining this artificially high tree density,” a conclusion many forest experts highlighted to state lawmakers during this year’s legislative session.

Much of Plum Timber’s forest work, in conjunction with the efforts of the Forest Stewardship Team, is why the resort is relatively safe from wildfire, Craven said. “They put in a fuel break immediately on their property line and went through and thinned the forest up there.”

As a result, much of the area potentially threatened by wildlife consists of open ponderosa pine stands, he said. “If a fire did come, before it got to any of our structures, we have probably a mile to two miles (of open forest) from the edge of our property.”