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Read of the Day: Kitzhaber report to restore east-side forests

Kitzhaber report to restore east-side forests

December 11, 2012

New report: Restoring Oregon’s east-side forests is a win-win

By Oregon Forest Resource Institute,

Accelerating the work to restore ailing federal forests will help both the environment and the economy in eastern Oregon. This is the conclusion of a new report prepared at the request of Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and legislative leaders: “National Forest Health Restoration: An Economic Assessment of Forest Restoration on Oregon’s Eastside National Forests.”

The Oregon Forest Resources Institute and The Nature Conservancy  teamed up to produce a four-page summary of the report.

The report looks at doubling the number of acres of east-side national forestland that undergo restoration – such as selective harvest, thinning and underbrush removal – from 129,000 annually to 250,000. Doing so, the report states, could create an additional 2,300 jobs in eastern and south central Oregon. The study says every $1 million invested in restoration generates $5.7 million in economic returns.

The work brings timber to struggling mills, provides jobs, and restores fire resiliency to the forest, the report states. Because of fire suppression, historic practices and passive management, some dry-side federal forests are choked with as many as 1,000 trees per acre, where historically about 75-100 trees per acre were typical. Some 80 percent of the 11.4 million acres of east-side forests under U.S. Forest Service management are at moderate to high risk of devastating crown fires.

The report highlights the importance of local collaboratives – in which government, industry and conservation interests work together to plan and implement restoration jobs.

The report was assembled with funding and guidance from conservation groups, government agencies, academic institutions and business trade associations. The full 94-page report  also is available for download.

For county-by-county information on Oregon’s forests sector and how it fits into the state’s overall economy please see the executive summary of OFRI’s recent economic study, “Poised to Rebound,”  or visit OFRI’s dedicated website, TheForestReport.org.

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Yellow-cedar are dying in Alaska: scientists now know why

PORTLAND, Ore. February 1, 2012. Yellow-cedar, a culturally and economically valuable tree in southeastern Alaska and adjacent parts of British Columbia, has been dying off across large expanses of these areas for the past 100 years. But no one could say why—until now.

“The cause of tree death, called yellow-cedar decline, is now known to be a form of root freezing that occurs during cold weather in late winter and early spring, but only when snow is not present on the ground,” explains Pacific Northwest Research Station scientist Paul Hennon, co-lead of a synthesis paper recently published in the February issue of the journal BioScience. “When present, snow protects the fine, shallow roots from extreme soil temperatures. The shallow rooting of yellow-cedar, early spring growth, and its unique vulnerability to freezing injury also contribute to this problem.”

Yellow-cedar decline affects about 60 to 70 percent of trees in forests covering 600,000 acres in Alaska and British Columbia. The paper, “Shifting Climate, Altered Niche, and a Dynamic Conservation Strategy for Yellow-Cedar in the North Pacific Coastal Rainforest,” summarizes 30 years of research and offers a framework for a conservation strategy for yellow-cedar in Alaska.

Some key findings include:

  • The complex cause of yellow-cedar decline is related to reduced snow, site and stand characteristics, shallow rooting, and the unique vulnerability of the roots to freezing in low temperatures.
  • Low snow levels and poor soil drainage lead to impact root injury and the eventual death of yellow-cedar trees. The tree thrives in wet soils, but its tendency to produce shallow roots to access nitrogen on these sites made it more vulnerable when spring snow levels were reduced by climate warming.
  • Yellow-cedar health depends on changing snow patterns, thus locations for appropriate conservation and management activities need to follow the shifting snow patterns on the landscape.
  • Some responses to shifting climate are expected to be complex and difficult to anticipate. Long-term multidisciplinary research was needed to determine the true role of climate in the health of yellow-cedar and untangle it from other processes and natural cycles in forests.

The yellow-cedar is a slow-growing tree; many are 700 to 1,200 years old. The tree has long been culturally significant to Native Alaskans who use it to make paddles, masks, dishes, and woven items. The wood is also very valuable commercially (for home and boat building) because of its straight grain, durability, and resistance to insects.

Attention is now directed toward a solution to protect and manage yellow-cedar, as coastal Alaska is expected to experience less snow but a persistence of periodic cold weather events in the future.

Scientists are working with partners in the Alaska Region of the Forest Service to use this new information as the framework for a comprehensive conservation strategy for yellow-cedar in Alaska in the context of a changing climate.
“ We also have ongoing projects with colleagues in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska on planting and thinning to favor yellow-cedar on suitable habitat,” adds co-lead author and station scientist Dave D’Amore, “especially on well-drained productive soils where most of the commercial forestry exits. Silvicultural techniques can be used to nudge the ecological niche of yellow-cedar, making it more competitive on these favorable sites.”

Other coauthors of the synthesis are Paul Schaberg, U.S. Forest Service, Northern Research Station; Dustin Wittwer, U.S. Forest Service, Alaska Region; and Colin Shanley, The Nature Conservancy. (Photos are available on request.) Read the paper online athttp://www.aibs.org/bioscience/current_issue.html.

Yellow-cedar trees grow in California to Prince William Sound in Alaska. Yellow-cedar decline occurs along a 600-mile zone from British Columbia to southeast Alaska; and on about one-half million acres in southeast Alaska. Map: Colin Shanley, The Nature Conservancy
Yellow-cedar trees grow in California to Prince William Sound in Alaska. Yellow-cedar decline occurs along a 600-mile zone from British Columbia to southeast Alaska; and on about one-half million acres in southeast Alaska. Map: Colin Shanley, The Nature Conservancy
Dying yellow-cedar tree. Photo: Paul HennonDying yellow-cedar tree. Photo: Paul Hennon

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