They’re seeing the forest for the trees

When Bill and Karen Lane bought 20 acres of forested land in the McKenna Forest Reserve near Yelm, it was for their retirement home. But it has also turned into a source of income.
The land supplemented their income as they harvested one-third of their trees in an ecologically-based commercial thinning operation last winter with help from Northwest Certified Forestry. Many landowners have performed similar harvests with NCF and have worked with the program to restore and diversify their forests.
Before the Lanes bought it, the land had been cleared and replanted by Weyerhaeuser several decades ago and since then had grown into a densely stocked plantation of only Douglas fir. Single-species plantations are a way to simplify industrial logging, but may not meet the needs of smaller, family forest owners interested in more diverse, complex and natural forests, NCF officials explained. Homogenous plantations can also come with risks, including increased vulnerability to insects and diseases, and limited market opportunities.
“Before we did any thinning, it was very difficult to walk back here. It was a very dense, dark forest. It was beautiful, but it was unusable as far as we were concerned,” Lane said. “The forest has opened up a lot more, so it will get a lot more sunlight. The trees will thrive much more.”
Lane said that with the 20 truckloads of logs that were harvested, he and his wife netted about $8,000 after consulting fees, permits and taxes. They are planning to replant open gaps and the understory with a mixture of lodgepole pine, western red cedar and alder.
“Increasingly folks are buying former industrial timber plantations for either residences or to manage themselves,” said Kirk Hanson, director of Northwest Certified Forestry. “These plantations require continued management in order to stay healthy and productive, whether the objective is purely conservation or to produce sustained income. The ecological thinning we prescribe meets both objectives. In the case of the Lanes, we thinned an overstocked forest in order to improve the growth of the most dominant and healthy trees, opened the canopy slightly to stimulate more diverse understory vegetation, and retained enough timber that the owner can come back in eight to ten years and thin again to generate additional income.“
Forester Rick Helman, who also works forNCF, said current log prices are strong, which helps support an ecological approach to timber harvest.
“A thinning project like the one we conducted for the Lanes produces material for three different log sorts – a high-value export sort, a domestic chip and saw sort, and a pulp sort,” he said. “With current markets where they are, and working with a team of knowledgeable local logging contractors, we’re creating opportunities for landowners to conduct ecological thinning operations that build forest health and value over the long term.”
Northwest Certified Forestry was launched seven years ago to provide landowners with win-win solutions that help the environment and provide financial incentives to landowners. NCF is a program of the Northwest Natural Resource Group, a not-for-profit organization.

Bill Lane and his wife recently netted $8,000 in timber sales from 20-acre forest they bought and retired to in the Yelm area. (Northwest Natural Resource Group photo)
Bill Lane and his wife recently netted $8,000 in timber sales from 20-acre forest they bought and retired to in the Yelm area. (Northwest Natural Resource Group photo)