Room to Grow - Columbia Land Trust
Forest thinning efforts near the Little White Salmon river support the development of old-growth forest while producing lumber for local businesses.

When it comes to mixed-conifer forests, more isn’t always better. It may seem counterintuitive, but in some cases the best way to restore a forest is to cut down a select number of trees.  Such was the case on an eight-acre stand within our Little White Salmon Conservation Area in Skamania County, Washington, where our stewardship team recently completed a timber harvest. This particular stand features a diverse assortment of plant life, including birch, bigleaf maple, and cedar trees as well as a host of native shrubs like vine maple, oceanspray, rose, Oregon-grape and a variety of ferns.

The annotated cross section (right) explains why thinning this stand of trees will ultimately improve overall forest health. This tree is representative of many of  the roughly 50-year-old trees in the Doug fir-dominated forest.  At about 15 years of age, growth slowed as the forest canopy began to close and competition for sunlight increased. Our thinning efforts will help accelerate the development of the remaining trees and facilitate mature structures.  If we were to core a remaining tree in about 15 years, we’d anticipate seeing growth rings akin to those in the early years of this tree’s development.

We contracted with Miller Timber Services out of Philomath, Oregon to conduct the logging. They used a cut-to-length logging system (a tracked harvester and forwarder), which minimizes ground disturbance (compaction). Logs are processed entirely in the air, which limits the amount of disturbance off the skid trails (no dragging logs around). The forest looks a bit rough right now, but in a few years time it will look beautiful, and more important, it will be on track to develop into a rarity on the landscape: old growth!

We appreciate the cooperation of neighboring landowner, SDS Lumber Company, who connected us with Miller Timber and M&M Excavating. The logs we harvested from this eight-acre parcel were sold to SDS Lumber Company in Bingen, Washington for use as saw logs, and to M&M Excavating for conveyance to the hop pole market in the Yakima Valley. Proceeds from the sales will support additional land conservation and restoration efforts across our region.