I would have done things differently…
I wish somebody would have told me about…
This was a roundtable discussion between landowners. The questions and answers from the discussion are summarized below (anonymously).
Q: Remaining tree separation? How high should I trim up limbs on remaining trees? How much and what debris should be left on the ground for natural fertilizers? How do thinning companies work and what equipment do they use?
A: Tree spacing depends on the characteristics of the tree, especially shade tolerance. Pruning doesn’t have to take place at all – it’s a cultural practices that is used to accomplish certain objectives like fire protection, aesthetics, wood quality, disease prevention, and other considerations. Your DNR landowner assistance forester can work with you to develop specification based on your management needs and expectations. Anytime you can leave the tree branches in the woods is preferable for nutrient recycling. Typically power or hand-saws are used for pruning and non-commercial thinning.
Q: I recently learned that limbing trees is a hinderance to wildfires – I wish I knew that earlier – can someone give general fire prevention – like 3 things?
A: For advice on the basics of preparing, see the guide ‘How to Prepare for a Wildfire.’
Cost-share opportunities for Central and Eastern Washington are available to non-federal owners of fewer than 5,000 acres of forestland seeking to improve forest health and reduce the threats of wildfire and bark beetle damage. Living with Fire is a helpful guide for homeowners to learn to live in a natural fire environment.
Defend Your Home from Wildfire: flyer in English & Spanish
Q: What I would have liked to know was the pearls and tricks for road and trail maintenance.
A: Water is not your friend, and use timing is everything. Too much to write but these pubs provide important pearls and tricks.
A Landowners Guide to Building Access Roads, and Roads on Small Acreage Forests
Q: I need a chainsaw class, for sure. I have a TON of thinning to do on 32 acres in Colville.
A: WSU Extension offers chainsaw safety and maintenance classes throughout the year, sometimes at big events like a winter school, or sometimes as stand-alone workshops. Due to COVID protections, those meetings have been postponed. In lieu of face-to-face trainings, WSU recommends the STHIL SAFETY SERIES available online.
Q: I have some baby cedars I transplanted from my garden last year. I was wondering if I should raise them in pots another year or plant them this spring.
A: There is no harm in transplanting them in cool, moist location, free of competing vegetation and with at least filtered if not full sunshine. Cedar need light to grow, but can survive with a little some shade. A big challenge is protecting cedar seedlings from animals browsing on them, especially deer.
Q: We lost several trees in Labor Day wind – up to 4′ diameter, all adjacent to a creek – what can we do with the volume of wood? what should we plant in the aftermath?
A: That sounds like a complicated project because special permission, equipment, and operations will probably be required to access and yard trees of that size out of a streamside forest. You may find that the complexity of the job will be so costly to execute that it’s not worth the trouble. Large, downed trees near creeks can be a really beneficial addition to the riparian forest ecologic function and the aquatic organisms like fish and bugs that get their food chain kick-start by the dead tree inputs for nutrients, shade, and structure. The healthiest streams actually have a lot of down and dead trees in them. I would contact Todd Olson from the DNR, who works for the Small Forest Landowner Office and whose job it is to help landowners on-site with these kinds of challenges. If you hire a reputable forester, they ought to be able to work with the regulations to maximize your volume recovery from this vicinity while protecting the “Steam Management Zone” habitats. That same forester can also help you merchandise your oversized timber. If there is more than 5 large trees per acre down, there is potential for bark beetle infestations. If this is the case, if the down trees are Douglas-fir, and if you do not expect to remove the trees, some forest managers will adhere a bubble cap of MCH to repel bark beetles. As for replanting, unless it’s red alder, which had become uncharacteristically more abundant in riparian forests due to past timber harvesting than any other species, I would stick with shade tolerant and moisture loving species such as western red cedar, Sitka spruce, and western hemlock. You might even try some redwoods!
Q: What are some online chainsaw safety, maintenance, felling, and bucking videos?
A: Here is an example that demonstrates a variety of felling techniques. For safety and maintenance, I use the Stihl website. During both the WSU winter schools and Forest Owners Field Days, we try to hold at least one clinic for saw maintenance where you will learn proper inspection, disassembly and assembly, cleaning air, fuel, electric, suspension, and cutting systems. Also, chain sharpening.
Q: I am interested in acquiring a plot to start with. What resources are available for newbies like to me to connect with sellers of land plots.
A: County assessors and consulting foresters both receive many communications from selling parties.
Q: What do you think about western Washington re fires and prescribed burns?
A: I think broadcast burning of debris is helpful for removing slash and clearing a site after a timber harvest. Sometimes you can accomplish this condition by whole-tree yarding and processing the trees into logs on the lands, then piling the slash until you burn, chip, or truck away from the site. But anytime you can leave small branches and needles on the landscape, you can slowly release the nutrients back into the soild through decomposition. Burning does create smoke which can impact air quality, though this can be planned for and executed at a time when the smoke will predictably lift, transport, and disperse into the atmosphere – thus reducing the negative air quality impacts on communities. The other concern I have with prescribed, broadcast burns are the risk associated with the fire escaping the site. With proper training and equipment, this risk should be manageable.
Q: Blackberry control?
A: Several herbicide controls are discussed in the PNW Weeds Handbook. Mechanically, blackberry can be mowed, and then either chemically treated, or covered to inhibit regrowth.
Q: What about forest roads…..how many and how do you determine placement?
A: Gather as much information about your land as possible, then walk the ground with your contractor. Chances are, you will know your land better than anyone else. Bring topographic maps and aerial photos. The construction locations and building considerations list is long. Use one of many guides to help you “check the precaution boxes” while planning construction. Generally, you will want a 12ft running area, and you should determine if this road will be temporary or a permanent road, and if it is permanent, will it be a seasonal or all-season road. Check with DNR for advice on protection and permitting concerns.
Q: I am new landowner of a sloped 20 acre east facing spot in western WA- what recommendations do you have for starting to build our forest management plan?
A: Determine what you love about your land (your values), what you want to accomplish with your property (your objectives), study what you have (inventory your forest resource conditions), then develop a game plan for achieving your management goals. I always suggest a walk-in-the- woods with a DNR forester. Get a professional assessment of your land and participate in the review. The DNR provides this service through their Forest Stewardship Program. Some conservation districts do too. Matt Provencher is your westside stewardship forester. I also encourage new owners to get connected to educational resources like WSU Extension Forestry.