Reforestation Brings New Life
Each year forest landowners in Washington plant an average of 52 million tree seedlings in areas that have been harvested. Private landowners take a proactive approach, not only to reach the state requirement of reforestation within three years of harvesting an area, but to ensure growth of desirable tree species, to allow for proper spacing between the planted trees, and to restore wildlife habitat. Actually, you can usually find private forest landowners replanting within 12 to 18 months of the harvest to promote faster growth, before wild plants can move in and block out the sun.
Tree Nurseries Ensure Strong and Healthy Third-Growth Forests
Where do these 52 million tree seedlings come from? Nearly all come from tree nurseries right here in Washington. New forests are grown from seed collected from cones within the same seed zone or region that has the distinctive environmental conditions for a particular tree. While the first seed zone maps were published in 1966, a lot of new information has been incorporated since then. The use of seed zones help landowners replant trees that are best adapted to the site, thus producing long-lived and healthy stands, limiting damage from climate and pests and maintaining locally adapted gene pools.
Second, Third-Growth Trees Thrive in Our Private Forests
The private lands of WFPA's members support second and third-growth forests - the result of an investment made over the past 60-70 years to reforest harvested areas with new trees. The American Tree Farm Program was started in the early 1940s to promote replanting and to introduce the public to sustainable forestry. America's first Tree Farm was designated in McCleary, Washington in 1941.
With the introduction of reforestation in the mid-20th century, nearly all the harvested logs that go to market today are from second- or third-growth trees. The growth and harvest renewal cycle allows foresters to maintain a sustainable supply of forest products over time. This commitment to the land has long ago replaced the early 20th Century philosophy of harvesting the forest that nature had provided, and moving. Responsible forest practices will provide a stable supply of wood without over-harvesting Washington's forests.
Protecting Washington's Old-Growth Forests
DID YOU KNOW: Washington State has 2,838,432 acres of old growth forest? That is equal to 3.6 times the area of the State of Rhode Island. Old-growth forests are an important link to our state's past. Several hundred years old, these forests can be characterized by their mixed age of trees, the number of canopy layers, the composition of woody debris and soil on the forest floor and the specialized plant and animal species living there. Actually, very little old growth is found on private forestland. In the Pacific Northwest, nearly all of old-growth forests lie within federal lands where logging has been strictly limited due to federal protection for the Northern Spotted Owl and an emphasis on old forest ecosystem protection.
In fact, federal forest plans call for restoration efforts to grow the current 8.5 million acres of old growth in the Pacific Northwest to more than 12 million acres. Over time this will enhance the environmentally rich habitat set aside for old growth dependent communities of plants and wildlife to prosper. In recent years to further protect our state's old-growth forests, private forest owners have sold, exchanged or donated old-growth tracts on their lands to put these lands in public ownership.