Forest Stewardship 101

While your own yard might benefit from a simple raking, King County’s forests require a little bit more attention.

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Why not let nature take its course?

Many of the 26,000 acres of forestland owned by King County Parks used to be timber plantations and weren’t managed to be forest habitat. These forests tend to be full of opportunistic trees like alders, or densely planted rows of single tree species, which makes a forest susceptible to disease, pests, and wildfires. To improve a forest’s resilience, King County forest managers are removing the bothersome trees, retaining mature broadleaf trees and snags, and planting conifers. A forest full of trees with different ages, sizes and species allow for dappled shade, a healthy understory, and eventually it’ll become a beneficial forest that can take better care of itself.

Forest stewardship activities

This fall, King County Parks used the following stewardship procedures in the forests of Taylor Mountain and Henry’s Ridge:

  • A variable retention harvest transforms a forest of alders with relatively short lifespans and skimpy canopy cover into a forest full of native longer-lasting conifer and broadleaf trees. This winter, we will be planting 47,000 conifers in the newly cleared areas of Taylor Mountain and 1,500 conifers at Henry’s Ridge.
  • A laminated root rot treatment in stand of mature Douglas-fir, which will stop it from spreading.
  • A variable density thin in dense stands of skinny Douglas-fir to make more room for trees to get bigger.

These stewardship practices are in line with the Forest Stewardship Council accreditation program which means we are certifiably good at forest management. WHOOT!

FSC

Forest certification is a market-based, voluntary system similar to organic certification for farmers and food processors.

The certification process consists of an audit including field inspection of the forest and a review of the written forest stewardship plan and determines if pre-defined regional, national and international management standards are being met.

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How does this happen?

A feller-buncher cut logs while a rubber-tired skidder carries logs to a landing where logs are processed. Skidders lift up front end of the logs to reduce the impact log dragging has on the soil. Only designated skid trails are used to move logs to further reduce the impacts to the forest floor. Once a log is transported to the landing, it’s cut into lengths mills will accept. The logs are then stacked in a deck until they’re transported to the mill. Because foresters are doing a variable retention harvest, healthy conifers and many bigleaf maple are left behind to increase the habitat quality of the stand’s next phase. Downed wood and snags are also left behind wherever possible, improving forage and nesting areas for many forest critters.

 

Skid trails and the landing will be covered with a scattering of fine woody debris or otherwise roughed up and planted where necessary. The nutrients from the wood and the patches of mineral soil from roughing up the surface will encourage shrubs and trees to seed in and grow quickly.

 

What’s next?

Visitors can expect a messy-looking forest for the first year or two. Understory shrubs will bounce back, invigorated by sunlight reaching the forest floor. Branches left on the ground will decay returning nutrients to the soil. Over the next decade, seedlings planted this winter will join the mid-canopy of the forest. The trees that didn’t get harvested will become lush in the absence of competition with other trees. Basically, the overall abundance and quality of the forest will dramatically improve compared to the starting condition – as pictured below.

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