Forest Research

Strategic Priorities

Olympic Experimental State Forest

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Olympic Peninsula Forest Collaborative

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Strategic Priorities

OLYMPIC PENINSULA FOREST COLLABORATIVE

The Olympic Peninsula Forest Collaborative will bring together stakeholders from the environmental community, the timber industry, and representatives from federal and local government around shared goals of increasing timber harvest from the Olympic National Forest while benefiting the environmental quality of our forests and watersheds. The Collaborative will work together with the federal officials to address issues that stand in the way of achieving the stated goals. Ultimately, the purpose is to show we can simultaneously create a more environmentally sound forest, provide for increased, sustainable timber harvests in the Olympic National Forest, and provide economic benefits to timber communities on the Peninsula.

STAND AND LANDSCAPE MANAGEMENT FOR BIODIVERSITY

Bringing biodiversity to managed forest is an over-arching objective, touching nearly every aspect of efforts to manage lands for commodity production and ecological sustainability. If biodiversity is fundamental to sustainability, forest managers must learn to preserve, restore and enhance--in short, manage-- for biodiversity at the stand and landscape level. This suggests a wide range of immediate needs. Descriptions of current levels of biodiversity, projecting trends and identifying gaps in biodiversity are important prerequisites for formulating biodiversity management objectives.

Managing for biodiversity across landscapes will require development and demonstration of theoretical models using Geographic Information System computer technology as well as practical demonstration of management techniques for stand manipulation. Restoring riparian forests and accelerating development of desired stand structures are important strategies for increasing biodiversity in stands and landscapes and must be better understood.

Habitat management, designed to increase biodiversity, must be evaluated in context of operational and economic feasibility. Cost effective alternatives need to be identified and evaluated. Demonstrating and monitoring options for retaining, restoring or developing structural diversity in stands is a pressing need and a key to providing landscape wide biodiversity, while producing commodities.

ACTIVE MANAGEMENT OF RIPARIAN AREAS AND WATERSHEDS

Riparian area protection and restoration may be the single most important requirement to sustain ecological values in forested landscapes. How to define and to carry out the appropriate level of protection are among the most contested of forest-related issues. Management practices in riparian areas need to achieve a balance between the protection of habitat for salmonid stocks and other wildlife, and timber commodity production. Management options for common benefit should be explored more thoroughly.

While protection and restoration measures are increasingly called for, little is known about the active management of riparian zones. Forest land managers need to know how to design and manage riparian buffers so that streamside forests are not vulnerable to winds. They need to be able to confidently evaluate the likely cumulative downstream impacts of forest activities adjacent to small intermittent streams. An understanding of the natural disturbance regime of riparian forests needs to be developed. Learning more about hydrologic processes, in rain dominated watersheds especially with regard to the interactions between the terrestrial and marine environments, is a critical priority.

Mutual benefits can be derived if new strategies are discovered that allow for active management of streamside forests at the same time essential riparian functions are restored and protected. Upslope, a similar effort should be made. If management, including roading and harvesting is to occur on erosion-prone slopes, investigations need to be undertaken to discover how to minimize or avoid potential damage to riparian systems, stream channels and fish habitat. Watershed level protection measures may be formulated that involve harvest scheduling and coordination across multiple forest land ownerships.

Riparian issues need to be understood and addressed at the landscape level across multiple ownership boundaries. Site specific management strategies to preserve key values need to be refined and demonstrated. This "landscape scale" thinking requires more comprehensive knowledge of living and non-living systems within the riparian zone. The effects of timber harvest on these systems must be assessed with scientific rigor. It is essential that we explore new strategies that may avoid conflict and fairly and fully test promising and innovative hypotheses.

LONG TERM SOIL AND SITE PRODUCTIVITY

Soil and site productivity are essential for both continuing commodity production and sustaining ecological systems. This fundamental reality is the basis for a wide range of questions. We need to know more about how natural and management disturbances effect long term productivity. Especially critical is the management of organic matter over time. Techniques for maintenance and enhancement of coarse and fine organic material need to be developed and demonstrated. Further research on harvesting impacts on long term soil and site productivity is required. Site productivity must be understood in terms of its contribution to landscape productivity and biodiversity.

Harvesting and other forest practice activities at the stand level have cumulative effects on a landscape scale and through time. These processes need to be better understood. Practical management techniques, designed to enhance long term soil and site productivity need to be developed and demonstrated.

THREATENED AND ENDANGERED SPECIES

No issue has caused more anxiety for conservationists and commercial forestland managers than the controversy surrounding the efforts to protect threatened and endangered species on forest lands. No other issue has created more public demand for sensible pragmatic solutions. Unfortunately, strategies to protect species can be confoundingly difficult: individual animals must be protected in the short run and entire populations in the long run. In the short term, individual animals need to be protected from injury or harm. Survival of a species over time entails the provision of food, adequate habitat and sufficient breeding populations. Resource managers often are faced with the need to secure species survival without full knowledge of basic ecological and habitat requirements. Imprecise and often ineffective conservation of species is a result.

In the Olympic region, the bulk of agency and landowner attention focuses on implementation of protections for spotted owl and marbled murrelet within managed forests. On the horizon is the likelihood that certain anadromous fish stocks in the region will be designated as threatened or endangered, triggering protective strategies that may affect every use of the landscape. In the past, with a single designated species to protect, managers could more easily avoid the harvest of critical habitat and forgo destructive activities near breeding sites. As more species are listed or proposed for future listing, choices for land mangers become more complicated and costly. The prospect of responding to an endless procession of new listings was particularly distressing to landowners. To reduce the need for repetitive review of land use practices as each new species is designated, Congress authorized the development of "Multi-species Habitat Conservation Plans." They have become the principal way for large land owners to anticipate and provide for wildlife conservation in managed forest lands. To be successful, these plans demand a sophisticated and specific understanding of species, ecology and conservation, often at the landscape scale.

Strategies for single animal protection as well as range wide species management and protection need to be developed and tested. Better habitat definitions, at the stand and landscape level, within a managed forest, need to be developed. Forest land managers and regulators need to better understand how to manage and harvest timber consistent with habitat needs. Much is not known about the capacity of species to adapt to human uses of forest landscapes. The limits of adaptability should also be better determined.

Multi-species, habitat-based conservation practices need to be designed and tested in practice. Such strategies should be developed at various scales: for a particular stand, an entire landscape and across ownership boundaries. Central to long-term conservation that accommodates economic development will be strategies that can meet the needs of wildlife through use of the full range of forest ages and structures in a geographic area. Methods for restoration and enhancement of critical habitat within a managed forest must be designed and demonstrated. By formulating a workable means to achieve habitat conditions essential to wildlife across the landscape and assuring that these conditions will be available somewhere within the landscape through time, managers may create the flexibility needed to balance commodity production while ensuring ecological sustainability.