Department of Natural Resources issues plan to guide West End forest management

“This roadmap for experimentation, research and monitoring will help DNR find new and better ways of reaching its timber harvest goals and ecological objectives …”

FORKS — The state Department of Natural Resources has released a blueprint for forest management in western Clallam and Jefferson counties.

The Olympic Experimental State Forest, or OESF, Forest Land Plan will help guide DNR management of more than 270,000 acres of forested trust lands on the West End of the Olympic Peninsula, officials said.

The 171-page document is available on the DNR website, www.dnr.wa.gov.

“Thanks to the extraordinary commitment of many citizens, local landowners, user groups and others who provided their input, we have a plan to launch a new era of management for this forest,” DNR Deputy Supervisor of State Uplands Kyle Blum said in a news release.

“This roadmap for experimentation, research and monitoring will help DNR find new and better ways of reaching its timber harvest goals and ecological objectives within the same forested landscape.”

Help foresters

DNR officials said the new plan will help foresters implement “integrated management,” an experimental strategy where working forests are managed for both timber harvests and ecological values like habitat for northern spotted owls, marbled murrelets and other wildlife.

There is currently no timeline for when any management changes might be implemented.

Revenue generated from DNR timber sales support trust beneficiaries such as timber counties, schools and universities, local hospitals and fire departments.

DNR spokesman Bob Redling said the OESF forest plan will result in minor changes to current forest practices based on new scientific information about the landscape.

“It’s more site specific instead of one size fits all,” Redling said Thursday.

Buffers removed

Wind buffers, for example, will be removed in areas that don’t get much wind, he said.

The site-specific approach will help DNR manage West End forests for the simultaneous benefit of the environment and trust beneficiaries, Redling said.

“It won’t be a major change for how we manage the forest, but it gives us — for today and the future — much more certainty about what the policies are,” he added.

Clallam County Commissioner Bill Peach, a retired forester who serves on DNR’s Board of Natural Resources, said the OESF plan was the result of a nearly-decade-old settlement agreement.

DNR was sued by environmental groups over its last 10-year sustainable harvest calculation and settled the litigation in 2007.

Under the terms of the settlement, DNR was restricted from harvesting timber older than 50 years and was required to selectively harvest, or thin, half of its volume, state Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark has said.

“[Another] part of the agreement said: ‘There shall be forest plan for the OESF,’ ” Peach said.

“I think it’s a really positive thing that the plan has finally been developed.”

Forks City Attorney and Planner Rod Fleck, who has closely monitored DNR trust land management, said the OESF plan has been “decades in the waiting.”

“Commissioner Goldmark and his staff deserve praise for bringing this to final completion,” Fleck said.

Redling said the OESF Forest Land Plan will put new tools into action.

“One of them might be integrating computerized databases like GIS [geographic information systems], and then land data and tree growth data and then past research and monitoring data into kind of a dashboard that the foresters would have access to much, much faster when they’re planning, say, a timber sale,” Redling said.

“They could have it on their notebook and be using this data right there in the field, designing it quicker and more accurately. That’s an example of a new tool.”

The Olympic Experimental State Forest is part of the U.S. Forest Service’s National Experimental Forest and Range Network.

The 80 sites in the network are “living laboratories that help scientists to better understand natural processes and provide useful information to land managers,” DNR officials said.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].

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