Blowdown Tests Timber/Fish/Wildlife

Timberlands about half the size of Washington, D.C., were flattened by the early December storm that packed winds of more than 147 mph along the southwestern coast of the state.

The estimated 17,000 acres of blown down timber on state and private timberlands will rigorously test the forest practice regulations developed within the Timber/Fish/Wildlife (TFW) program.

Through TFW and its evolution – the 1999 Forests and Fish Report – state, federal, tribal and environmental representatives and the timber industry aim to protect fish and wildlife habitat while providing for the economic health of the timber industry.

“We didn’t want to make some sort of blanket exception to go in and harvest it all just because it was such an unusual event,” said Mark Mobbs, manager of the Department of Environmental Protection for the Quinault Indian Nation (QIN).

“We’re using the process outlined in the forest practice regulations,” Mobbs added. “We will have to make a lot of individual site visits because the wind treated each area differently.”

Roughly 600-800 million board feet of lumber may be salvaged from the blowdown in the next 16 months. That’s about 20 percent of the annual timber harvest for Washington state. Two-thirds of the salvage will be on private timber lands.

Under normal conditions, a buffer of trees is left along fish-bearing streams. Timber harvest is rarely allowed close to the stream, but because the storm flattened many of these areas, TFW partners are deciding where and how much can be salvaged. Downed timber provides important habitat near streams.

“Trees that fall into the stream create pools and backwater areas for fish to rest and hide, and trees that fall on the forest floor provide habitat for amphibians and small mammals,” said Joel Green, TFW

fisheries biologist for QIN. “Downed trees also help prevent bank erosion, and provide nutrients for the forest floor and the nearby stream as they decay.”

Also being discussed is whether to allow more salvage to make it easier to plant new trees. “We have to balance the longterm benefits of planting the new trees versus the importance of the downed timber already there,” Green said.