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Blue Mountains National Resources Institute

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BMNRI Home > Publications > Search For A Solution > Chapter 8


Search For A Solution: Sustaining the Land, People, and Economy of the Blue Mountains


J.J. Morell, Stanley Niemiec, Charles C. Brunner and Chris Jarmer


The Blue Mountain region faces an unparalleled incidence of disease and insect attack owing to combinations of long-term fire suppression, drought, and past management decisions, which endanger the health of large portions of the forest (Gast et al., 1991). Forest managers are faced with the need to make rapid decisions concerning silvicultural practices that can shift the forest back to a less susceptible mixture of species. This process will ultimately be completed using combinations of fire or harvesting. The Blue Mountains have a long history of periodic low-intensity fires, which favored the growth of more fire-tolerant species. Intermittent stand-replacement fires also occurred; however, long-term fire suppression has altered the mix of species present on many sites. These species are now experiencing extensive drought stress and insect infestation on an area approaching 810,000 ha (2 million acres). Although fire can effectively restore the forest, there are questions concerning the willingness of the public to tolerate landscape-level stand replacement fires as a restoration method. As a result, harvest of the timber resource must be considered as a viable method for restoring the forest structure.

This process will require extensive manual or mechanical manipulation of stands through selective removal of less-desirable species. Because it is also unlikely that the public will be willing to pay for all of the manipulations required, forest practices must ultimately be self-supporting through sales of timber or other forest products. While nontraditional forest products such as mushrooms, medicinal plants, and mosses are valuable, they are not typically present in sufficient quantities to support extensive stand manipulation. As a result, timber sales are likely to support the bulk of the forest site restoration effort.

The Blue Mountain region presents a wide array of ecosystems, resulting in the presence of a variety of commercial wood species including ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta), western white pine (Pinus monticola), western larch (Larix occidentalis), interior Douglas-fir (Psuedotsuga menziesii var. glauca), white fir (Abies concolor), and grand fir (Abies grandis). In addition, there is a largely untapped western juniper (Juniperus occidentalis) resource in drier portions of the region. The species present in this region are already employed to produce lumber, logs, ties, laminated veneer lumber, flake or strand boards, and paper. Substantial quantities of lower-grade material are also employed as hog fuel for steam and electricity generation. Despite this array of products, the volume of dead or dying timber present within the region will overwhelm existing production facilities, creating a need to efficiently utilize this wood and opportunities for adding value to what is largely seen as low-value, salvage materials. Portions of this material will likely move westward to meet the needs of timber-hungry mills west of the Cascades, but there will still be a need to encourage local utilization and stimulate economic development.

Although harvesting and utilization of dead and dying timber would seem a relatively simple process, effective and ecologically sound systems must be developed for removing the fuel load while providing value-added products that support regional economic development.

Contents of Chapter Eight:

  • Introduction
  • Harvesting of Timber in the Blue Mountains
  • Forest Planning
  • Development of Improved Management Strategies
  • Forest Roads
  • Salvage of Dead and Dying Timber
  • Harvests in Nontraditional Silvicultural Prescriptions
  • Commercial Thinning
  • Aerial Systems
  • Labor Force Issues
  • Utilization of Blue Mountain Species
  • Basic Material Properties
  • Effects of Decay on Wood Properties
  • Markets and Applications

US Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Research Station, Blue Mountains National Resources Institute
Last Modified: Monday, 16 December 2013 at 14:18:43 CST

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