After the seedlings have taken root, survival of the fittest becomes the game with, of course, some needed assistance from foresters. Actually, more than 85% of the planted seedlings will go on to survive in the reforested areas. Over the next generation of forest, private landowners will invest over $400 per acre to improve the growth of their young trees. Often it takes three generations of human foresters, practicing sustainable science-based forestry, to manage just one generation of private forest.
Thinning is the process of tree removal in a forest stand to reduce tree density and tree-to-tree competition, encouraging increased growth of fewer, higher quality trees. Tree thinning is conducted every 10 to 15 years in replanted second-growth forests to remove the weaker trees, allowing more room and light for stronger trees to continue growing and to improve the overall health of the forest. Trees and branches that are removed during the thinning process are used for many paper and pulp-based products.
Scientific research shows that actively managing forests can actually help restore ecosystem health and improve habitat quality by using tools such as thinning treatments. Thinning also reduces excess fuels in a given area, making wildfires more manageable thus reducing smoke emissions.
It is possible to improve forest health and reduce severe fire risks while supporting jobs in rural Washington. For example, the Washington DNR’s 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan shows how these objectives can be met.
With proper application of forest herbicides, private forest landowners can promote the growth of their young trees by controlling wild vegetation that competes for growing space above and below ground, and by enriching soils with fertilizers. Strict requirements on herbicides use has Washington foresters taking the necessary steps to achieve their benefits without risking water and soil quality, the habitat of the fish and wildlife, and the human lives that live and work around our private forests. The forestry practices of WFPA’s members have been developed through years of science-based research, adaptive management, and collaboration.
Insects, disease and excessive animal damage can be a threat to healthy, sustainable forests. Foliage and root diseases can spread among the forest, killing trees. Insects, such as bark beetles, attack trees already under stress from some other factor. Temperature extremes, drought and high winds can damage broad areas of forest or create stress which makes trees more vulnerable to disease and insect infestations. Excessive animal damage can prevent young seedlings and vigorously growing new forests from reestablishing. Accurately diagnosing and managing these forest health threats is the first step to protecting forests from harm ensuring they will grow into the future.
Achieving healthy forests is a shared responsibility between the public and landowners. Private landowners are participating in the State’s Forest Health Technical Advisory Committee, which held meetings across the state to listen to the public’s concerns about forest health. Legislation will be drafted that takes a three-tiered approach:
Fire is a natural and beneficial part of a healthy ecosystem. Catastrophic wildfires, on the other hand, can endanger fish and wildlife species, compromise air quality, and threaten the safety of Washington’s communities. While only one percent of wildfires become catastrophic, these forest fires are responsible for more than 90% of the total acreage burned. The greatest threat of catastrophic wildfire today is in U.S. National Forests, where years of fire suppression practices in the 20th century has allowed our federally-owned forests to reach dangerous fuel load levels. Because fire ignores ownership boundaries, private forest landowners across the state are collaborating with the local, state, and federal governments to develop programs for increased funding for fire fighting and prevention, as well as to research and adopt best fire management practices.
Scientific research shows that proactively managing forests can restore ecosystem health and improve habitat quality by using a variety of fire management tools. Selective harvesting, thinning treatments, brush removal, and pruning are practices used by foresters to thin out forests crowded with too many trees, branches, and undergrowth. In areas with an over-accumulation of fuels, a combination of thinning small trees and clearing brush followed by controlled burning can be the most effective method to reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire. “Prescribed fires” are managed fires used to intentionally clear out heavy vegetation under trees, prepare new seed beds, and dispose of excess wood debris on the forest floor. All of these active fire management tools can make forest fires more manageable and reduce smoke emissions during burning.
Learn More About Reducing the Risk of Catastrophic Wildfire