FEATURED PROFESSIONAL: David Stalling, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

What’s Good for the Goose May Kill the Gander

The great pitfall of “forest health” lies in people’s tendency to over generalize. What works in one forest may prove disastrous elsewhere. For example, high-elevation forests like lodgepole pine evolved with less frequent, more intense wildfires. These burns created a patch of grass here, a small stand of young lodgepole there, and some dense old-growth nearby to form a classic mosaic, supporting everything from elk and deer to pine martens and owls. But years of fire exclusion and logging have allowed lodgepoles to grow into larger, more uniform stands with little diversity. Pine beetle epidemics and large wildfires are on the rise.

But thinning and burning the understory would be absurd here. Scattered clearcuts and more intense prescribed burns would more closely follow historic natural patterns of fire. In the high country of Idaho’s Selway Bitterroot Wilderness, for instance, large hot fires occasionally burn dry, south-facing slopes creating huge brushfields, while sparing the spruce and fir on moist north slopes. Viewed from above, the patchwork of trees and openings is difficult to distinguish from clearcuts in adjacent logged areas—except for the roads.

Foresters prescribe distinct treatments to different forests. Clearcutting ponderosas can be like amputating the leg of a heart attack victim. So can thinning lodgepole. But when economic and social pressures transcend genuine forest health considerations, land managers may prescribe the wrong treatment in the wrong place. That’s why clearcuts have a bad name, and why folks think selective cuts are always best. Clearcuts assault people’s senses, while a selectively thinned forest seldom draws attention. But aesthetics don’t always equate to good forestry. Selective logging has become synonymous with good forestry, yet if only large, valuable trees are selectively cut, it’s nothing more than high-grading.

Of course, logging plans must account for social and economic factors. Modern technology allows for logging that’s lighter on the land than past practices, but not without tradeoffs. Helicopter logging can eliminate the need for roads in some areas, but to make a profit, loggers may have to cut bigger, more valuable trees, like mature ponderosa pines and larches—often the very fire-adapted, fire-dependant species foresters are trying to restore. More traditional equipment like grapple skidders and feller bunchers cost less, but require roads and skid trails. Some state-of-the-art machinery, like harvesters and forwarders (that together form a “cut-to-length system” that cuts, limbs and loads trees on the spot) can range far from roads, reducing the number of roads required. Equipped with wide, rubber tires, the machines cause less erosion and soil compression than traditional equipment, and they can process small-diameter fir thickets that may be impractical to log otherwise. But together they cost about $700,000.

Every technique has benefits, each has faults. Much depends on the types of trees to be cut, when they are cut, the nature of the terrain where they grow, the going price of lumber and pulp, and whether the trees are on public or private land. Logging on private lands tends to have a more singular focus. Expensive, time-consuming thinnings and prescribed burns don’t boost the bottom line of timber company ledgers. And timber companies are in business to make money. If they don’t, a lot of elk habitat could be sold and used for other profit-making ventures—like subdivisions or exclusive hunting resorts.

In contract, agencies charged with stewardship of public lands may view logging to restore and maintain healthy forests as essential, even if they have to do it without making a profit—much like they use controlled burns to maintain healthy elk winter range. Like prescribed fire, logging can be an important way to restore natural vigor to a forest.

Silviculture – An Art and Science of Growing Trees

Many foresters were exposed to the art and science of silviculture in the college classroom and learned the methods of applying different practices in the forest. High yield forestry was the term often spoken about and guided forest management. Starting with good genes, fast growth, good vigor and high yield will produce a supply of wood products, a healthy forest, and economic gain. This sounded good, seemed to work well, and made sense.

Then came ecosystem management. A buzz word or a change. Most foresters who actually manage on the ground, did not see anything really new in the application of ecosystem management. One point that did arise was that management should be conducted on a watershed or large land scale basis, where possible. For ownerships that managed these vast acres, this could have advantages for water quality, wildlife and aesthetics. Smaller ownerships do not see the advantages and often have little impact when compared to the larger federal or commercial land holdings.

Just about the time we started to get our arms around ecosystem management, sustainable forestry came to the forefront with long-term resource management that considered the social, biological and economics of managing a forest. As sustainable forestry matured and management was specifically identified, Forest Certification became the method used to evaluate, measure and audit if the management practices of sustainable forests are actually occurring on the land.

In with sustainable forestry comes forest health, a situation we find ourselves in due to the management practices of the past, primarily caused by the suppression of wildfires and lack of any management on federal lands.

The word silviculture, the art and science of growing trees has not shown up since the first sentence of this article. Nor does the word show up in the many colorful terms used to describe these methods of managing forests. On a large scale basis (i.e. watershed or drainage) these new terms have a spotlight because they claim to improve the resource and its management. For the non-industrial private landowner (NIPF), forestry rates as only one of the top five reasons for owning forest, and it is not at the top of the list. Ecosystem management is difficult at best to implement anywhere and is even more difficult with multiple small owners in a drainage. Sustainable Forestry with social responsibility, biological integrity and sound economics is practiced by many small NIPF landowners already because they recreate and/or live on the land and work toward social, health, and periodic income balance. As far as forest health, most managed forests do not have a forest health issue and when they do it can be addressed quickly. The art and science of growing trees to maintain a healthy and vigorous forest happens when there is a understanding of the ecological and biological conditions of individual trees and the interaction with the plants and animals in these habitats. Well thought-out silvicultural practices and the understanding of new research will produce a sustainable forest for the benefit of wildlife, all the forest users, and water resources.

What is ACF?

The Association of Consulting Foresters of America, Inc. was founded in 1948 to advance the professionalism, ethics, and interests of professional foresters whose primary work was consulting to the public. The ACF is the only national association of consulting foresters. Currently, there are 22 state or multi-state chapters in most forested regions of the U.S.; with over 570 members.

The national office, in the Washington, DC area, pursues national level issues and interests with other organizations involved in forest management.

Many ACF members are general foresters while others have professional specialties within forestry. Our members focus their practices locally and/or worldwide.

The ACF is active in the areas of most interest to consulting foresters and their clients. These areas include but are not limited to:

  • Setting the standards for the consulting forestry profession.
  • Educating and assisting land owners in good forest stewardship of their lands.
  • Tracking legislation directly impacting private forestry.
  • Educating the public, legislators, and others on issues sensitive to private landowners.
  • Working with federal and state governments to protect private property rights.

A Consulting Forester “is a professional who devotes a majority of their working time each year to performing…technical forestry work… on a fee or contract basis” and whose services are offered “ to the general public rather that to a single employer”.

An ACF Consulting Forester serves individuals, banks, attorneys, accountants, industry, and others in the following capacity;

  • Appraisals of land/timber value
  • Acquisitions of forestland
  • Computer application
  • Environmental impact studies
  • Estimates of timber volumes-economic studies
  • Litigation – expert witness
  • Management of forest resources
  • Marketing forest products
  • Taxation counseling

The ACF sets strict standards for members. They are:

  • A minimum of a B.S. degree in Forestry from an approved college.
  • Eligibility for a status as a Candidate Member requires a minimum of 2 years experience. Full membership status requires a minimum of 5 years of experience in practical forestry.
  • A member’s principal business activity must be forestry consulting work to the general public on a fee or contract basis.
  • Members may not have an economic interest in a timber purchasing or procurement entity.
  • Members must be owners or partners of a forestry consulting firm, or salaried employees of an ACF member.

In professional ability, technical training, broad experience, honesty, integrity, and a desire to serve only the client, an ACF Forester is fully qualified to serve the needs and requirements of both individuals and businesses.

Save the Forests, Not Each Tree – By Patrick Moore


The battle over the fate of the nation’s forest—wilderness vs. wood—has been fought before, but it is once again raging as politically correct activists posture to preserve everything while using nothing. Nearly 100 years ago, John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, and Gifford Pinchot, first chief of the U.S. Forest Service, battled for the hearts and minds of Americans over the fate of the nation’s forests. In the end, a compromise was struck. Large areas of federal lands were designated as national parks, where nature was to be preserved and protected. Other large tracts were allocated to the national forest system, where timber could be obtained to provide for society’s needs. The legislators of the day understood the need for such a compromise. The people want wilderness, and the people need wood.

But now, it is so trendy to be opposed to cutting trees that many people find it possible to ignore the absolute necessity of using wood in their everyday lives. Many seem willing to forget that wood is, without questions, the most renewable and environmentally friendly of all materials used to build our civilization. Wood is the material embodiment of solar energy, created by photosynthesis in a factory called the forest, and whether we like it or not, wood can only be obtained from trees. It has become fashionable to suggest that logging be banned on all federal public lands, including the national forests and lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management. The Sierra Club has adopted such a position, one now supported by congressional legislation that would outlaw commercial forestry on all public lands in the U.S.. The authors of the bill claim that such a policy would “save taxpayers money, reduce the deficit, cut corporate welfare and protect and restore America’s natural heritage by eliminating the fiscally wasteful and ecologically destructive commercial logging program on federal public lands.” They are wrong, and their plan would result in a great deal of harm to the environment and economy they seek to protect.

While there may well be need for reform in the way forestry is managed on public lands, this in no way negates the very positive benefits of forestry to society and the environment as a whole. These benefits include employment in rural communities, road access and facilities for public recreation, and protection from wildfire. The most important benefit, however, is the provision of wood as a building material and as a source of fiber for paper products. Practically no other use of public lands brings such an important environmental benefit as the use of that land for sustainable forestry.

Wood requires far less consumption of energy to produce than any of the substitutes—steel, concrete, plastic. By using more energy, we burn more fossil fuels, which in turn results in higher emissions of greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide in particular. Therefore, using more renewable wood and less steel, concrete and plastic will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, one of the main goals of environmentalists around the world. What has been lost here is balance. Forests serve a number of important functions, among them recreation, wildlife habitat, carbon storage, and timber production. It is not possible to have total preservation and timber production on the same acre of land. The only logical approach is to zone the land so that some of it is used for each of the many values forests provide. A single-minded, preservationist approach across the entire public estate is wrongheaded because it fails to address the complexity of multiple benefits derived from forests and trees.

Imagine if the people of the Polynesian Islands decided that all the palm trees must be preserved, that none could be cut for building houses or canoes. Their culture would be destroyed. It is not that Polynesians don’t love the trees—they practically worship them, since the palms provide so much of what they need for food and shelter. But they do have an intuitive understanding that so long as the palms are sustainably harvested, there will always be trees for future generations.

We need to find this same wisdom and to oppose the preservationist agenda that would deny the environmental benefits of using part of the public’s land to produce some of the public’s wood.

(Patrick Moore was a founding member of Greenpeace (the preservationist organization) and later founded Greenspirit (the conservationist organization), where he presently employs his time. www.greenspirit.com

FEATURED PROFESSIONAL: Larry Van Rinsum, Executive Director, Montana Carbon Offset Coalition

The Montana Carbon Offset Coalition, or MCOC, is another group exploring carbon sequestration opportunities in the US. The MCOC approach to sequestration is a purely private market based program that allows CO2 emitters the opportunity to purchase carbon emission reduction credits or “CERC’s” from a wide variety of forestry projects scattered across the US.

The EPA recently chose the MCOC as one of three efforts in the US to develop planning templates for forestry sequestration projects. Under this EPA grant, the Coalition is also beginning the framework to incorporate soils and Agroforestry into mainstream sequestration efforts. The MCOC is in the process of developing the scientific baseline data needed to sell CERC’s from Agroforestry and soils based projects.

The Inland Northwest Newsletter has published several articles on the Carbon Sequestration Ptogram. Recently the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in Montana transacted the first trade in greenhouse gas emissions reduction offsets involving carbon sequestration efforts on Native American Lands. A total of 47,972 tons of CO2 equivalent will be .sequestered over an 80 year period through reforestation of 250 acres of high-altitude pinelands on reservation lands. The carbon storage on the site will be maintained for 100 years. At the end of the eighty years all offsets shall be owned by the Tribes.

The Coalition is proud to have the best technical people in the country working with our effort. Neil Sampson, president of the Sampson Group is our lead advisor. Neil is also one of the lead authors of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for the UN. Marketing of the CERC’s is handled by Environmental Financial Products Ltd. of Chicago. EFPL is a brokerage house in Chicago headed up by Dr. Richard Sandor, the man most responsible for establishing the sulfur dioxide trading market.

For more information please contact Gary at Northwest Management, Inc. (406) 543-6668 or Larry Van Rinsum, MCOC, 406-857-2285.

Selling Burned Timber

Trees that have been burned in a fire have varying degrees of wood damage depending upon the duration and intensity of the fire. Trees that are killed by a low intensity ground fire often retain their bark for 12 to 24 months and may have minor damage to the wood. Trees that have been scorched 20 to 40 feet from the base, but still have the needles attached can also have minor damage to the wood. If the duration and intensity of the fire is greater, the trees will check and lose bark shortly after the fire. If the checks extend deeply into the wood, the tree may not be useable for studs and boards within the damaged length.

When trees have been severely burned with black bark, with the needles burned off and some branches burned, they often will check soon after the fire. Some of these trees have deep cracks to the heart of the tree that may spiral up to the top of the tree. These trees have been cooked to the point of drying the sapwood. This type of damage makes these logs unfit for lumber, and most pulp facilities do not want burned bark or wood in their processing operation.

When considering selling burned timber, assessing the degree of damage caused by the fire and selling the burned timber as soon as possible are two important factors. Generally, the wood of fire killed trees begins to deteriorate shortly after the fire and may become un-useable within 12 to 18 months. Douglas-fir may show signs of sap rot after 12 months. The pines and spruce will often blue stain within 6 to 10 months resulting in a decrease in value of the burned timber to fall to less than half of the value of the un-blued timber. In some situations larger Douglas-fir and larch that have minimum damage can retain value for up to 24 months after the fire.

FEATURED PROFESSIONAL: Ross Hasseltine, FireSafe Spokane – Creating a Fire Safe Environment

Creating a Fire Safe Environment

Do you live in Ponderosa Pine Forests? If so your home may be at risk from wildfire!

In fire prone Northeast Washington – Spokane, Stevens, Ferry and Pend Oreille Counties Fire Safe Spokane, in cooperation with Department of Natural Resources, Avista Corporation, Inland Power and Light Company and your local fire district are using a $1,300,000 Forest Service Grant to create a Defensible Space zone around your home at no cost to you.

Zone 1: This is a 30-foot radius around your home which needs to be “Lean, Clean and Green” It is a non-flammable zone. Lean – minimal dead woody vegetation. Clean – free of pine needles, firewood and other flammable litter. Green – Lawn is best.

Zone 2: “Trim and Prune” This zone extends from zone 1 up to 300’ from the house on very steep ground. Slope, aspect and fuels all affect the size of this zone. The “trim” is aimed at precommercial thinning, spacing the trees to at least 5 feet between live crowns. The “prune” is to eliminate ladder fuels allowing the fire to climb into the crowns. Pruning height is usually 8 to 10 feet. Debris is either chipped or burned (by homeowner). Depending on time of year, larger material may need to be treated to minimize risk of Ips beetle infestation.

If your timber is larger and more suitable for commercial removal you will probably not qualify for this grant. A consulting forester can discuss the alternatives if this is your particular situation. Commercial thinning this year and applying for grant monies next year may be an option.

As fire is a natural part of the environment in Northeast Washington, addressing the potential hazards and creating a defensible space around your home is essential. Fire Safe Spokane is a program developed to help landowners protect their property and homes prior to a wildfire occurring. The target for this year is to protect 1200 homes.

Protecting Your Property From Wildfire

Six Considerations That May Improve the Survivability of Your Property Against Wildfires

Is your property protected from wildfire? As you look out your window at the snow-covered landscape have you asked yourself, “what is the possibility of a wildfire threatening my property?” Even with 2’ of snow on the ground this is a valid question. In fact now is the best time to consider this issue… As the fire approaches your fence line it most likely is too late. Several measures for improving the survivability of your property are briefly described below.

The size of a defensible area required to protect your property depends on several questions. How steep is the property? The steeper the slope, the greater the area that must be treated. Which way do the prevailing winds come from? Treating the areas where the wildfire is likely to approach your property and home will improve the survivability of your property. What kind of vegetation is on your property? The type of vegetation greatly affects the type of treatments and how defendable your property is against wildfires (the vegetation is the fuel in a wildfire).

Look around at the dead vegetation on your property. This includes snags, branches, shrubs, dry grass, and leaves or needles. In most cases, removing as much as possible of this type of debris is recommended.

Is there continuous dense cover? A heavily stocked timber stand with a large number of the tree crowns intertwined has a greater chance of carrying an intense crown fire. A stand with 5’ to 20’ between the trees is more likely to have a more controllable ground fire. The distance between crowns should increase as the slopes increase.

Controlling the fuel ladder on your property will help to avoid a crown fire. A fuel ladder exists when the grass is in contact with the shrubs that are in contact with the small trees that are in contact with large trees. The fire can climb up these fuels into the canopy of your timber. Pruning and thinning can help alleviate this problem.

A treated area of 30’ or more around each structure will improve its chances of surviving a wildfire. This area should be clean, green, and lean, essentially removing most of the burnable fuels around these structures.

Maintaining the defensible space around your property is an on-going process. If you do not maintain the defensible space by implementing some of these practices, it is possible that your property will not survive a wildfire. Several programs are available to help with the expense associated with improving your defensible space.

For more information contact our foresters Dennis Thomas at our Moscow Office, our Coeur d’Alene Office, or Brian Vrablick at our Deer Park, WA office.