Forest owners in the Pacific Northwest face new threats from a warming, drying climate, on top of pre-existing challenges to forest health stemming from past management practices. Forest plantations established after industrial clearcutting lack the species diversity and spatial heterogeneity that help forests to provide a broad spectrum of ecosystem services. They also tend to be too dense for the expected moisture and heat conditions of coming decades, and are therefore at risk of decline in the face of climate change. Recent research points to steps that forest producers can take to make their forests more resilient in the face of these threats.
This project will build on two previous SARE-funded projects to increase forest producers’ understanding of climate threats and forest health, and train forest producers in management techniques to address those challenges. Through a geographically distributed series of 6 master-class workshops and 80 site visits to individual producers, the project will acquaint 175 forest owners and managers with four key tools to increase their forest’s resilience: stand release, young-stand thinning, commercial thinning, and fire hazard reduction. These educational efforts will address two misconceptions: that previously clearcut forests thrive best when left alone to recover; and that intensive monoculture timber production is the only economically viable choice for forest owners seeking income from their forest. These techniques will help forest owners maintain commercial production of timber even in the face of climatic disruption, and will increase the provision of ecosystem services such as watershed protection, salmon and wildlife habitat, and carbon storage even while increasing the likelihood of robust timber yields.
Project objectives from proposal:
- 140 forest producers increase their knowledge of the ways they can steward their forest to increase seedling survival and improve young-stand growth rates.
- 140 forest producers learn to anticipate the likely impacts on their forest from climate change, and gain greater knowledge of actions they can take to make their forest more resilient in the face of the changing climate.
- 140 forest producers become convinced that active forest stewardship can be preferable to “letting nature take its course” in their forest, as a pathway to greater forest health and resilience.
- 140 forest producers are persuaded that partial harvest techniques such as thinning and individual tree selection can increase the health and resilience of the forest compared with the business-as-usual practice of regenerating it around age 40.
Objectives 1 through 4 are evaluated based on surveys administered before and after the workshops, as described below in Question 9 on Evaluation.
- 105 forest producers commission a new or updated forest management plan in light of the knowledge they gained through this project.
- 90 forest producers embark on a new management activity in the realm of thinning, fire hazard reduction, or seedling release after taking part in the project.
Objectives 5 and 6 are evaluated based on online surveys sent in the last 3 months of the project.