Susan Hummel, firstname.lastname@example.org, (503) 808-2084
Sherri R. Dodge, (503) 808-2137 or
Yasmeen Sands, (206) 732-7823, email@example.com
PORTLAND, Ore. July 23, 2008. A fire is
currently burning through a study area where projections were made
about fire behavior about 2 years ago. Managers used data and analysis
from the Gotchen Late-Successional Reserve (LSR) study in the planning,
analysis, and implementation of treatments near where the Cold
Springs fire is now active.
The Gotchen LSR, lies on the east slope of the Cascade Range in Washington, and
covers about 15,000 acres of the Mount Adams Ranger District on the Gifford Pinchot
National Forest. The Gotchen LSR was designated by the Northwest Forest Plan
to protect habitat for species associated with older forests. Susan Stevens Hummel,
a research forester at the Pacific Northwest Research Station, led a case study
of the reserve in 2006. Her findings suggested that the potential for compatibility
between fire and habitat objectives could be increased through a technique called
“Our intent in taking this approach was to expand silviculture decisionmaking
beyond a unit-by-unit approach and instead to consider adjacent units and landscape
objectives explicitly,” explains Hummel. She and her colleagues used a
combination of aerial photo interpretation and field sampling. Hummel focused
on changes in forest structure, or the arrangement and variety of living and
dead vegetation, a common denominator between fire behavior and owl habitat.
However, treatments that reduced fire threat or retained old-forest structure
often conflicted in a given stand. To reveal the trade-offs between them, Hummel
teamed up with David Calkin, a research economist with the Forest Service Rocky
Mountain Research Station in Missoula, Montana. Forest structure was used as
the shared currency between the conflicting landscape objectives. Through the
use of simulated treatments to develop the production possibility curves, Hummel
and Calkin identified multiple sets of solutions that could reduce the threat
of stand-replacing fires while maintaining the overarching goal of the reserve,
which is to sustain older forests.
Some the key findings of Hummel’s study are:
Fire threat is projected to increase sharply within the coming
decade in the Gotchen Late-Successional Reserve. Fuels are increasing
on hundreds of acres annually as trees die in association with
persistent insect defoliation.
Treating more area of young, noncomplex forest reduced fire threat
more effectively in the Gotchen Reserve than did treating structurally
complex old-forest patches.
Treatments sometimes lost money and sometimes made money at the
scale of an individual unit. However, when the treatments were
evaluated in aggregate for the entire Gotchen Reserve, they could
break even over the 30-year analysis period while supporting reserve
objectives for maintaining old-forest structure and reducing fire
threat. In contrast, requiring landscape treatments to earn a profit
negatively impacted both habitat and fire objectives over the same
In landscape treatments that generated revenue to offset implementation
costs in the Gotchen Reserve, wood volume came mainly from grand
fir in the 7- to 16-inch diameter classes.
“The methods we used—linking landscape dynamics and
patterns of forest structure to stand-level silvicultural treatments
by considering the treatments collectively rather than on a unit-by-unit
basis—could be used anywhere that multiple management objectives
share a common basis in forest management,” says Hummel.
Collaborators on the study include: James Agee, emeritus, University
of Washington; Jamie Barbour, Paul Hessburg, John Lehmkuhl, PNW
Research Station; Gifford Pinchot NF, Mount Adams Ranger District
staff; Forest Management Service Center, Fort Collins, CO.
The PNW Research Station is headquartered in Portland, Oregon.
It has 11 laboratories and centers located in Alaska, Oregon, and
Washington and about 500 employees.