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Pacific Northwest Research Station
Blue Mountains National Resources Institute

Forestry and Range Sciences Laboratory
1401 Gekeler Lane
La Grande, OR 97850

United States Forest Service.

BMNRI Home > Research > Limber Jim


The Limber Jim Fuels Reduction Project is on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, La Grande Ranger District along a ridge-top between the Limber Jim and Hoodoo Creek drainages and the boundary of the La Grande Municipal Watershed. The project area is approximately 2,500 acres.


The Limber Jim Fuel Reduction Project demonstrates management of woody fuels to reduce the risk of catastrophic fire across the landscape while providing for habitat diversity and continuity, water quality, riparian health, and air quality. The project created a fuel break between two key watersheds by mechanically removing dead material that could help prevent the spread of a fire into or out of the Beaver Creek watershed, as well as allow firefighters a safe location from which to gain control of a fire. This site is close to the municipal watershed for La Grande. Fire in that area could create potentially serious water quality problems.

Lodgepole pine, grand fir, spruce, and subalpine fir plant communities in the Upper Grande Ronde and Beaver Creek watersheds have suffered extensive mortality over the last 15 to 20 years. Mortality is due to mountain pine beetle, western spruce budworm, and Douglas-fir bark beetle infestations in overstocked, drought- and disease-affected stands. Jackstrawed, heavy fuel accumulations are common. The potential exists for high-intensity, catastrophic fires. Wildfires have occurred in this area over the last 10 years. All the high intensity burns resulted in dramatic postfire sedimentations.

Recent Large Fires Within 20 miles of the Limber Jim Area

Clear 1986 6,400 1,885 $4,500,000 high (4) 6-8 feet
Tanner 1989 4,700 4,700 $3,524,000 high (4) 6-8 feet
Boundary 1994 11,000 8,363 $8,250,000 moderate (3) 4-6 feet
Sloan Ridge 1996 10,137 0 $7,700,000 very high (5) 8-12 feet
Tower 1996 50,600 50 $14,543,500 extreme (6) > 12 feet
TOTALS:   82,837 14,998 $38,517,500    

(Costs are for only fire suppression. Fire intensity is based on initial action recorded in the fire report. Flame length is
an indicator of fire intensity. Flame lengths of 4 feet and greater require air support and/or mechanical dozer assistance.)

Prevention of catastrophic losses to the Upper Grande Ronde and Beaver Creek watersheds is critical to protection and restoration of spring Chinook salmon habitat, protection of the La Grande Municipal Watershed in Beaver Creek, and protection of the habitat of wildlife dependent on old growth.

This project is an extension of research principles and findings developed on the Deerhorn Project where mechanical removal of fuel used a log processor and cable yarding system on flat ground to minimize ground disturbance. Economic feasibility, soil disturbance, fuel loadings, and effects on small mammal and ant populations were measured. The Limber Jim Project offered an opportunity to apply adaptive management to a larger area.

Before Treatment
After Treatment

Mechanical thinning done with proper equipment can reduce fuel loading with little damage to the stand or wildlife, and be economically viable. These two photos were taken from the same point before and after mechanical fuel reduction treatments.

US Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Research Station, Blue Mountains National Resources Institute
Last Modified: Monday, 16 December 2013 at 14:18:42 CST

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