Sustain Our Nation's Forests and Grasslands

Gifford Pinchot: Creating landscapes more resistant to wildfires


Photo: Two people tour the project area.
Work in the Upper White Salmon watershed is intended to create a landscape more resistant to wildfire. Forest Service photo.

WASHINGTON

—The southern slopes of Mt. Adams have experienced three large wildfires in the past decade. District Ranger Emily Platt, Mount Adams Ranger District on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, recently approved a project that identifies work over the next few years that’s intended to create a landscape more resistant to future wildfires.

The work, to take place on just over 7,000 acres in the Upper White Salmon watershed, includes timber stand thinning, prescribed fire, fuel break maintenance and other projects. The projects intend to alter the intensity of wildfire and decrease the severity of insect and disease outbreaks.

Recent fires burned mainly in areas already weakened by insect damage—at higher elevation in stands affected by mountain pine beetle and in lower elevation in stands affected by western spruce budworm and other insects. An increased dominance of grand-fir has also created forests that are denser and less resistant to wildfire.

“Reintroducing fire with prescribed burning will be critical in reducing the severity of wildfires,” explained Platt. “We want to change how fire will burn through this landscape. The combination of timber stand thinning and prescribed fire will help reduce the risk of losing old-growth characteristics.”

About 56 million board feet of timber will be harvested from the project area. Revenue from timber sales will be used to repair and maintain roads used for timber hauling. Those roads also provide access to hiking, hunting, camping and more. Stewardship sales will generate funds for restoration work, such as tree planting on national forest land affected by wildfire and reducing dead trees and downed branches that quickly spread wildfire over large distances.

Working with adjacent landowners, local communities and the South Gifford Pinchot Collaborative was valuable throughout the planning process. Working together allowed the forest to create a vision for the area and identify projects that will lead to a more fire-resistant landscape, be a benefit to forest visitors and have an economic benefit to local communities.

Thinning contracts and other work from this project will take place over the next five years. Prescribed burning will begin in 2019.