An Intact Forest Furthers Climate Action
Many of the properties Columbia Land Trust manages come into our care in need of restoration. In these cases, our stewardship team works carefully to create the needed conditions for a healthy, functioning ecosystem. Restoration plans may include increasing habitat complexity such as snags or log jams in rivers, re-establishing the native plant community, controlling weeds, and with some forested sites, thinning previously harvested areas to facilitate tree growth, let in sunlight, and promote natural understory development.
However, in a different and relatively rare case, the Land Trust recently received a donation of more than 600 acres of wonderfully intact forest in Columbia County, Oregon.
In the Cedar Creek forest, the trees are a magnificent mix of mostly Douglas-fir and western hemlock, with western red cedar, bigleaf maple, and red alder completing the overstory. Some are more than one hundred years old. There are very few invasive species present, and at the base of the large trees grows a vibrant understory of vine maple, salal, red huckle- berry, Oregon iris, clubmoss, sword fern, and countless other species that thrive in the Northwest’s oldest, healthiest forests.
“In a region that is fairly intensively managed for timber production this older forest is a special and important habitat area,” said Stewardship Director Ian Sinks. “It provides a very diverse range of ecological functions including wildlife habitat and water catchment. On hot summer days this site is cool, the soil is moist, and the trees are full of bird activity.”
Columbia Land Trust is honored to conserve and steward this forest in perpetuity for the goals of protecting wildlife habitat and addressing climate change. The mature Douglas fir and hemlock trees pull carbon out of the atmosphere and store it in their leaves, bark, and roots. Long after a tree falls and decays, becoming part of the forest floor, it continues to store carbon for centuries.
The forests that define the Pacific Northwest play a powerful role in mitigating the impacts of a warming climate, and protecting old forests like Cedar Creek (and enabling them to grow even older) is a critical part of the Land Trust’s 25- year Conservation Agenda.
“This old forest is a quiet, resolute testimony to the salve nature provides our shared earth,” said Forest Conservation Director Cherie Kearney.
By Alex Atkinson and Kelsey Farabee