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Gotchen Late Successional Reserve Study


Issue:  Large trees are an important element of wildlife habitat in western forests. Some of these trees, and the animals that use them, may be at risk from uncharacteristically severe disturbances in areas where wildfire suppression and selective logging have altered forest composition and structure.  At issue are the potential effects of different management activities.


Research: This study investigates the ecological and financial effects of variable-intensity management in the Gotchen Late Successional Reserve (LSR).  The 15,000-acre LSR was established in Washington State following adoption of the Northwest Forest Plan.  Structurally complex “late successional forest” currently covers about 50% of the LSR; the rest is younger or less-complex forest.
Image of Spotted Owl
Forest patterns and structures in the Gotchen LSR provide habitat for the northern spotted owl (photo above), but also create conditions favorable for western spruce budworm outbreaks and potentially severe wildfires.  This study compares the spatial patterns and total acres of forest in late successional structure and in high fire threat resulting from passive versus active management over time. 


Approach:  We use data from several sources to: 1) investigate historic, current and expected future forest patterns and structures in the Gotchen LSR, 2) simulate the effects of different management treatments, 3) test for significant differences among the treatments, and 4) evaluate net revenues expected from the treatments.


This bar graph shows the percent (y-axis is % area in acres) of the Gotchen Late Successional Reserve (LSR) projected to be in high fire threat in 2001, 2011, and 2021 (x-axis is years).   Three values are shown at each year, depicting: 1) no treatment, 2) treating 10% of the total LSR area per decade (1500 acres) and entering late-successional forest prohibited, and 3) treating 10% of the total LSR area per decade (1500 acres) and entering late-successional forest permitted.
Findings: Our projections indicate that, with no treatment, the area of the Gotchen LSR in high fire threat will increase sharply over the next twenty years.  If fire threat reduction is a goal, it is easy to explore potential treatment effects associated with different diameter limits and management intensities.  For example, treating 10% of the LSR per decade, with or without the ability to enter existing late successional forest, reduces the acres in high fire threat in 2021 by 13% and 9% respectively, when compared with no treatment (graph at left).  Directly treating old forest patches in the LSR might not be necessary because projections indicate that fire behavior within them is not of stand replacement severity.  Preliminary estimates of net revenues from fire threat reduction treatments range from –$1,000 to +$1,400 per acre. 

Contacts: Susan Stevens Hummel,(503-808-2084, shummel@fs.fed.us); Jamie Barbour (503-808-2074, jbarbour01@fs.fed.us).