Reforestation is fundamental to sustainable forestry

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In pure numbers, forestry in Washington produces far more trees than it harvests – for every tree harvested, three are planted in its place. Private forest landowners are more aggressive in reforestation than the 3-year time frame that state law requires, replanting trees in 12-18 months before wild plants can swoop in.

Reforestation doesn’t get mentioned much by those who oppose timber harvests because for them, it’s an inconvienent fact, but planting millions of trees is a critical part of modern forestry. In Washington alone, 52 million trees are planted each year. In the U.S., 1.43 billion seedlings are shipped by forest nurseries for replanting in U.S. forests.

A video from the Washington Forest Protection Association summed it up well:

Forest landowners, who supply us with wood and paper products, want to get the new forest up and growing as fast as they can. Trees are a renewable resource and reforestation helps make sure future generations will have forests just like we have, providing jobs and wood products, clean air and water and wildlife habitat.

This commitment to sustainable forestry was on full display this week with a special ceremony in Mason County, Wash. Seattle’s Green Diamond Resource Company, which was founded 125 years ago as S.G. Simpson & Company, celebrated the planting of its 100 millionth tree.

Green Diamond didn’t start counting the number of trees it planted until 1943, so the number of new trees could be even greater.

In the midst of a 40-acre clearcut Wednesday just east of Taylor Towne in Mason County, about 75 people with ties to the state’s timber industry watched Green Diamond Resource Company Chairman Colin Moseley plant what was proudly called the family-owned forestry company’s 100 millionth tree.

Moseley had some help on this milestone occasion from two Democratic congressmen: Denny Heck of Olympia and Derek Kilmer of Gig Harbor. Green Diamond’s 323,000 acres of South Sound timberland spill over into both Heck’s 10th District and Kilmer’s 6th District and Heck was quick to point out that the tree planting was happening in his district.

The Douglas fir seedling that gained so much attention was surrounded by about 16,000 slightly larger Douglas fir and Ponderosa pine trees that were planted in 2011 on the 40-acre parcel, which was harvested in 2010. On all four sides of the reforested area, Green Diamond timber stood in age classes ranging from 15 years old to 80 years old., symbolizing the fact that the company, which began as S.G. Simpson & Company has been around a long, long time — since 1890 to be exact.

The planting ceremony was also a commemoration of the timber industry’s cyclical nature and how much care forest owners have to take in what kind of trees they plant.

(U.S. Rep.) Kilmer lauded Green Diamond and other stalwarts in the timber industry, companies that weather ups and downs in the economy as they wait decades for their crops to mature.

“The work Green Diamond is doing is important and invaluable for future generations and decades to come,” the second-term congressman said.

About 80 percent of the trees Green Diamond plants after a timber harvest are Douglas fir. The other 20 percent consist of six other conifers, including the Ponderosa pine so visible on Wednesday.

The pine trees were introduced in some reforestation areas several years ago for a couple of reasons, explained Green Diamond area forester Mark Wittenberg. They work as a replacement tree in areas plagued by root rot, a fungus that attacks Douglas fir. Plus, the pine trees don’t attract thieves who vandalize and cut down young fir trees for their boughs.

As for the end use for the pine trees, Green Diamond has a few decades to find a market.

“We’ll figure out something to do with them,” (said Blayde Fry, vice president and general manager of Green Diamond’s Northwest Division).