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Report: 9.5 Million Acres of Forests in OR and WA Need Immediate Thinning, Burning

Disturbance map

New study: more than 11 million acres of dry forest in Oregon and Washington are in need of restoration.


The study, A new approach to evaluate forest structure restoration needs across Oregon and Washington, USA, published in the peer-reviewed journal Forest Ecology and Management, is a comprehensive, data-driven analysis of where, how much and what kind of restoration activities are needed across the fire-adapted forest landscape of eastern Washington, eastern Oregon, and southwestern Oregon to restore historic conditions.

A team of ecologists from The Nature Conservancy and U.S. Forest Service Region 6 found that:
  • The scale of restoration need is big. About 40% of all forests within the study, 11.8 million acres including federal, state, and private forests, are in need of restoration. Restoration can include disturbances such as thinning and burning and or time to grow larger and older trees.
  • Restoration thinning and burning are immediately needed on about 9.5 million acres.
  • Thinning and burning alone cannot restore our forests. Following thinning and burning 5.7 million acres will subsequently need time to grow larger, older trees.
  • An additional 2.3 million acres of forest land do not require disturbance now, but simply need time to grow larger, older trees.
  • Restoration needs vary greatly with vegetation type and landscape context.
  • Ongoing maintenance, such as the use of regular controlled burns, will also be necessary to sustain healthy, resilient forests.
  • To be effective, restoration efforts must be regional in scale and collaborative across governments, agencies and land owners.
The study builds on earlier, separate work by each organization and brings together analysis of federal, state, tribal and privately owned fire-adapted forest lands in the two states.
“Healthy forests provide clean air and water, fish and wildlife habitat, recreation, timber and jobs,” said Ryan Haugo, a Nature Conservancy forest ecologist and the lead author. 
“This study demonstrates the urgent need for forest restoration and supports the current emphasis by the Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy and other partners to significantly increase the pace and scale of forest restoration in the dry forests of Oregon and Washington through ongoing and enhanced coordination across governments, agencies and landowners,” said Mark Stern, forest program director for The Nature Conservancy in Oregon and one of the study’s co-authors.
“With this effort we are pleased to be moving forward with a better understanding of landscape ecology through a partnership with The Nature Conservancy and other partners," said Tom DeMeo, a regional ecologist for the Forest Service and one of the co-authors. “Such cooperation will be essential to address the restoration needs and challenges of our common landscapes.”
Citation: Haugo, Ryan, Chris Zanger, Tom DeMeo, Chris Ringo, Ayn Shlisky, Kori Blankenship, Mike Simpson, Kim Mellen-McLean, Jane Kertis and Mark Stern. 2015. "A new approach to evaluate forest structure restoration needs across Oregon and Washington, USA." Forest Ecology and Management 335: (2015). 37-50.

LANDFIRE product application:
Researchers used the modeled reference conditions. A team of experts selected modes from both Rapid Assessment and LANDFIRE National to represent the HRV conditions for PVTs. They also used the stochastic variability of the VDDT models to look at a true range of variability for the HRV. These products allowed the team to compare the current conditions vs. some modeled historical condition and generate a difference or departure between the two. Chris Zanger says, "LANDFIRE products were critical. Without them we would have had to generate our own HRV values and that would have made this project too complicated or attainable."  

On December 2, 2014, LANDFIRE and the Northwest Fire Science Consortium hosted a webinar highlighting this study.
TNC Forest Conservation Director Mark Stern gave a brief introduction from his perspective as a TNC program director and participant in several forest collaboratives. TNC’s Chris Zanger, forest analyst, and Ryan Haugo, senior forest ecologist, handled the bulk of the presentation.  Watch the video on YouTube.