Creative Forest Thinning Reduces Fire Risk and Fosters Healthy Forests — The Nature Conservancy in Washington



Selective tree thinning is a start for restoring forests to historical conditions. By only removing selected small-diameter trees and leaving some larger trees with diverse spacing (clumps, openings and individual large trees) foresters are reducing the density of the trees and returning the forest to a more natural state. A “masticator” machine is also used to “chew up” small brush and further reduce the fuels that could possibly stoke a large wildfire.

In the coming years, TNC and partners will use prescribed fire to make the forest healthier while reducing the fuels that would cause a large wildfire and improve the safety of the nearby communities.

At the “How Go Unit,” foresters create an inventory about the forest, including acres, species, tree height, etc. Based on the information, a prescription is made and sent to contractors for selective cutting.

Herman Flamenco, conservation forester for The Nature Conservancy, spends days on site to observe and evaluate conditions of the forest for making prescriptions. While reducing forest density, the prescription ensures to maintain special features on the land. For example, a snag, which is a large dead tree, will be left uncut and serve as a potential shelter for animals.

When making these decisions, foresters and managers put both forestry knowledge and creativity into consideration. Flamenco believes there is much to learn from these innovative practices.

“It is a lot like art and science combined,” Smith said.

With the ongoing project, TNC prioritizes hiring local loggers, contractors and workers. The goal is to support the local natural resource economy. As the land is restored to its natural state, communities and smaller businesses can benefit from an increase in tourism and recreational use. However, in the short term, this work relies on patience and collaboration from the snowmobilers, skiers, hikers and mountain bikers who enjoy this land. Residents have been supportive and have followed signs to avoid the treatment site. TNC works to balance active forest restoration with recreational opportunities for residents and visitors.


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