Today's lesson is an exercise in recovery of a forest from clearcutting. In the summer of 2001 the land adjoining my land on the east was harvested by the landower (a lumber company). They clearcut some areas and left a few other areas more lightly cut. But they did take out everything bigger than 8 inches in diameter, and most of the small trees were destroyed during the logging. All of this left the land pretty much wiped out. Now, the laws in Oregon require that seedlings be planted after harvesting the lumber, and they even specify the density required -- I think it's a hundred seedlings per acre.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
By Chris Crawford
The photo shows what the land looks like after eight years of recovery. You're looking down a slope. In the distance you can see uncut forest (not virgin forest, but it hasn't been logged for some decades now). There's an edge of thin-timber forest about a hundred yards downslope; apparently the loggers decided to leave that section unharvested so as not to disturb the existing trees. On the right is a large bushy pair of madrones; the original trees were cut down and thrown away, but the trees have returned from the roots and will outpace anything else. In the foreground you can see two Douglas Fir seedlings. However, I do not believe that these are the results of any reforesting efforts on the part of the timber company, because where I have seen planted seedlings, they are all Ponderosa Pine, a tree better suited to the kind of dry slopes that the timber company has created.
Oh, and that cactus-like thing on the left is just a big weed.
I walked around the property looking for some good photos but these were the best I could get. That's because the loggers worked a patchwork, completely destroying about 70% of the land, but leaving about 30% in patches containing mostly younger trees. This 30% will provide some seeding for the rest of the land. And it also makes it impossible to convey the extent of the damage in a single ground-level photo.
Here are some general conclusions:
1. After eight years, the land has shown very little recovery. There are a goodly number of seedlings scattered about, but they're all less than 12 inches high, and even they average perhaps ten seedlings per acre.
2. There has been some growth of undesirable species, such as madrone and manzanita. I estimate that, 30 years from now, at least 30% of the land will be covered by madrone and manzanita.
3. Although the loggers burned a considerable amount of slash, about 1% of the land is covered by uncleared heavy slash that impedes the growth of new trees.
4. These guys did NOT plant 100 seedlings per acre. We walked the land immediately after they left, and we saw perhaps 20 seedlings per acre. Moreover, at least half of the new seedlings are volunteers, not the results of their own planting. Thus, the results of their reforestation yielded about five trees per acre. A mature forest in this area will have about 400 trees per acre.