Variable Retention Regeneration Treatment
Vision for the Moist Forest
In Moist Forests, stand replacement fires historically burned every 200-400 years, leaving a mosaic pattern of burned and unburned forest.
Under the Forest Bridges plan, the frequency of harvest in any wet forest area would average 200 years. For every acre harvested every 100 years, another acre would have to wait for 300 or more years, etc. This is the key to building structurally complex old stands eventually to 50% of the land area of the forest.
Further, they would retain trees on 40 % of the land in the treatment area. The leave areas would focus on legacy trees in areas of stream buffers, undisturbed retention blocks, and individual and clumps of legacy trees.
The remaining 60% of the land area would be harvested. This differs from the original concept of clearcuts, where no trees were anticipated to be retained in the harvest area.
The total acreage of Variable Retention Regeneration treatments to mimic fires would take place within the guidelines of the Forest Bridges Plan. The Plan calls for 4,593 acres to be turned into early successional forest or pre-forest per year. These acres would be the total of the 60% of each harvest unit planned for harvest.
All the trees in the forest area considered for a subsequent Variable Retention Regeneration Treatment (typically 200 years later) would be subject to re-evaluation at the next treatment entry, to find the best trees to take and the best trees to leave as legacy.
Over the planning cycle of 10 years, Variable Retention Regeneration Treatment in any 1 year could exceed the planned annual average, as long as the total treatment in the planning cycle was within 5% of the target for the planning cycle.
Vision for the Dry Forest
Review Chapter 13 of ECM and discuss modifications needed to this section (Have not read it yet)
The goal for the dry forest plan is to recreate the historic range of forest habitats across the landscape through active management and controlled burns. The present condition of the dry forest is far from historic conditions because these stands have missed several natural fire return intervals. Our plan does not propose any regeneration harvests in the dry forest. It does propose an aggressive restoration phase of intensive thinning to develop multi-aged, mixed conifer stands that are fire resilient. Periodic reentries and controlled burns are intended to maintain the stands. Stand inventories before and after each entry will feed a comprehensive program of monitoring and adaptive management. This vision for the dry forest lays out general goals and sideboards, but the development of site prescriptions and quantitative measures to meet these goals is left to research, the BLM, and the BLM Planning process.
Our plan proposes completing the restoration phase across the dry forest of BLM lands within 30 years. This is aggressive timeline would require bringing 30,000 acres per year to a desired level of fire resiliency. With average natural fire return intervals in the 15-30 year range, this aggressive schedule is required to reverse the decline in overall fire resiliency and the increase in crown and mega-fires especially in dry forests. Stands will be entered one or two times within the first 30 years to achieve the desired density. Prescribed burning each entry: piling needed? Take out ladder fuels on the first entry and leave more larger trees for the 2nd entry to prevent sunscald.
Fire Resilience, Forest Architecture and how much removal is enough
Forest Bridges proposes that the first entry under its plan remove enough wood, leaving skips and gaps (Franklin and Johnson 2012, 2013 (see EFM book) to preclude crown fires, 95% of the time, either through restoring the historic condition, or, where trees were not present historically, to leave a as much biomass as possible, yet meet the crown fire goal. A quantitative measure of this level of fire resiliency would be helpful on a site by site basis but does not currently exist. Such a model would likely consider more than a dozen factors including annual and summer precipitation, soil type and geology, aspect, slope, landform, elevation, ground cover composition, density and species, density size and species of trees, ladder fuels, and historical lightning strike patterns, and recent fire history. It is the consensus of Forest Bridges that fire does not respect species presence, and with very few exceptions, our proposal would not consider species presence, except as it influences treatment methods.
The goal is historic conditions in historically forested area, with the greatest long term benefit, including some short term costs. Fire resilient stands are those where fire can potentially play its natural historic role in the stand with a 95% probability that fires will not crown.
What trees will be left
Leave Tee selection in dry forest thinnings. Trees left after thinning a dry forest stand would be a range of densities from 40-80 trees per acre, a dramatic drop in some areas, required to reach the desired density in a single entry. This is sometimes referred to as a woodland. There would be skips where no trees are taken, and gaps, where all the trees are taken, modeling the patterns fire might create. Leave trees would be the full range of species and sizes present on the site, with the guideline to leave the best legacy trees, but not all large trees in an area overstocked compared to historic levels.
Commercial and Noncommercial areas
Both Commercial and non-commercial areas require treatment, to create a fire resilient landscape across dry forest BLM lands. Financial support in commercial areas would come through the layout and logging costs, however, all noncommercial area restoration would be supported by Sustainability Receipts.
Wildland Urban Interface
In the interest of restoring natural forest habitats, Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) treatments that remove trees more than the historical natural distribution would be limited to areas where whole towns are potentially affected, with a fuel reduction goal.
Monitoring of Dry Forest Treatments
Variables to include frequency of stand replacement fires in treated stands, economic goals, aesthetic, biological and water quality/hydrological goals, pace of implementation.
Monitoring will also include a measurable standard of development of the forest toward the vision.
With all stands having similar age distributions, measures are needed that compare the average stand at a point in time with the starting condition average stand and the desired future condition average stand, in terms of density or distribution of ages and sizes of trees or tree counts….
Vision that Applies to both Moist and Dry Forest
Road guidelines, standards to keep roads narrow.
Standards and funding for Road Relocation.
Prescribed burning shall be used to reduce fuels following all wet and dry forest harvests. Burns to reduce fuels to mimic historical level, had the area been burned naturally. In determining when and how much to prescribe burning, the driving factors shall be fuel loads and moisture contents, to carry out managed burns. Smoke intrusion, in the interest of preventing heavy summer smoke, will not be a significant consideration. Safety and burning effectiveness are paramount.
Monitoring and Adaptive Management
Monitoring and adaptive management are essential to the success of our plan. Key monitoring variables will be identified that indicate the broad range of forest values. The management plans will be adapted to insure those values meet the plan goals. We realize that monitoring plans have frequently fallen by the wayside during periods of tight budgets. Legislative action will be required to insure the monitoring plan is fully funded and implemented.
Monitoring has been included in past BLM management proposals. Historically, adequate monitoring has not happened, because of inadequate funding. Under this proposal, institutionalized funding is provided through a diversion of a portion of the historic “non-county half” of O&C Harvest Receipts to a third party, who in turn shall distribute monitoring budget moneys to keep a consistent monitoring program operational.
The establishment of monitoring variables and their baselines were first outlined for Forest Bridges in a recommendation prepared by Oregon State University. Monitoring variables are intended to be measured, starting with the modeling results baseline then repeated regularly to assess adaptive management needs over time.
The monitoring fulfills three broad purposes:
- Public transparency and feedback to the BLM about adherence to the Plan and the condition of the forest as the Plan is implemented.
- Includes a plan for publicizing monitoring results regularly
- Aid in guiding plan changes under Adaptive Management.
- Build upon the body of relevant data when legal questions arise about the consistency of management actions with the Law and Plan.
The monitoring includes measures of:
- Aggregate acres and percentage by of broad seral (development) stages of forest stands
- Landscape patch sizes and fragmentation
- Habitat suitability for broad groups of species
- Water quantity and quality attributes
- Watershed health relative to historic conditions
- Dry Forest Silviculture monitoring, including fire resilience level of treated stands
- Life cycle assessment of carbon sequestration and waste
- Timber and wood volume production
- O&C County revenues, and monitoring/adaptive management/ restoration funds
- Job creation and distribution
- Levels of exotic and noxious weeds
Examples of monitoring results that lead to Adaptive Management Changes or Plan revisions:
- Sedimentation/large wood or lack thereof in creek
- Excess or shortfall relative to the balance of habitat types
- Fire Resiliency not meeting Expectations, despite historical distribution of trees and tree ages
- Slower rate of reaching habitat type distribution than expected
Examples of monitoring results that DO NOT lead to Plan Revisions.
- Higher/lower levels of Revenues or wood products than Expected, while plan is being followed
- Fire resiliency or habitat variables exceeding expectations
Third Party Accountability
- Monitoring shall be led by a third party. Information will be collected by third parties, through 10-year third party assessments, research studies as needed, and by BLM internally. It is conceivable the Forest Bridges will morph into a monitoring oversight board after the Forest Bridges proposals are in place.
Traditional BLM Appropriations:
Policy would require that they be kept as is, include funding of the Collaboratives as part of the Forest Planning Process.
Forest Bridges Sustainability receipts: The Sustainability receipts are that portion of O&C revenues and any other revenues from BLM timber sales, that have previously gone to the U.S. Treasury. Sustainability Receipts are a new funding source for western Oregon BLM forests, an original proposal of Forest Bridges, that recognizes and promotes the actions and costs of ecological forest management. These funds would be in addition to the BLM Congressional appropriations for operations which need to remain at traditional levels for the Sustainability Receipts to meet their intended purposes. Sustainability receipts would be controlled by statute, and require collaborative approval (NEED TO REVIEW). These BLM funds are dedicated to:
- third party monitoring of forest actions, and reporting
- adaptive management as knowledge and conditions change
- invasive weed removal and control
- restoration on BLM lands and in cooperation with neighboring landowners on their lands, for road systems, forest retention, restorative actions in financially non-productive forest areas.
Rick: I think an estimate of the breakdown of these moneys is eventually needed, in order to justify using this fund. How far will the money go, and what will it cover? How much is needed to cover current stewardship work? How much to additional restoration, eg roads, noncommercial stands, etc.? How about a robust monitoring program? And a noxious weed plan? Without modeling all of this, some detailed conversations with expert BLM folks could provide sufficient background.
Legal Implementation Concepts.
Forest Bridges Principle:
“Implementation will require a timely path through the legal system. Legal consistency standards among laws (our legislation which includes standards and a requirement for harvest), plans (new BLM plans written in conformity with the our legislation), and proposed actions (eg, resiliency thinnings and Variable Retention Harvest, under a litigated and successfully defended, plan) shall allow both legal challenge (at the Plan level, under the status quo) and a streamlined resolution process (for legal challenge of actions under the plan) for (timely) implementation.”
Laws governing protests of BLM proposed actions: NEPA, FLIPMA, ESA and the APA (Administrative Procedures Act). (outlined in Ecological Forest Management book)
- The BLM writes a new 10-year management plan, consistent with the New Policies and Regulations
- This Plan is open to traditional litigation and standards, and then it is implemented
- During the development of the new 10-year Forest Plan there would be a step of collaboration with pre-established sideboards so that the outcomes support a forest plan consistent with policies developed by Forest Bridges. Legal precedent is becoming established for collaboratives as part of the planning process.
- Actions developed under the new BLM 10 year plan must be consistent with the new BLM Plan
- These actions are open to challenge based on not meeting defined measures of consistency with the Plan, or an unaddressed site-specific issue. In addition, a higher bar is set for remanding the Action back to the BLM prior to implementation.
- Measures of consistency: Habitat goals, road standards, plan harvest levels, etc.
Re Plan Harvest levels, there is a goal of even harvest per year, but under extenuating circumstances, each year could vary be as much as 100% from the standard in the 10-year plan, but at the end of 10 years, variability must be within 5 percent of the 10-year plan target.
- BLM forestry team would have the discretion to use professional judgment to design site specific Actions within the parameters laid out by the Plan.
- BLM forest management actions and plans are excluded from the Interior Board of Land Appeals process.
Management Summary (is this the right term?)
- While an exact estimate of harvest volume is not available at this time, a rough projection of acres has been madee. Harvest will come from thinning for fire resilience and fire resistant trees in the dry forest, from regulated Variable Retention Regeneration Harvests in the moist forest, as well as thinning in the moist forest to promote structurally complex forests over time.
Thinning acres in the moist forests perhaps should be doubled. A doubling to 10,000 acres would mean an entry for thinning in moist forests every 100 years.
Scenarios of Harvest Volumes and growth Volumes for 6 decades
Decade VRH Thinning Total Growth Net Growth Structurally Complex
Year 0 18%
*Megafire conditions that burn in Moist Forests could absorb a portion or all of the Variable Retention Harvest for the following season.
Decades Thinning Total Growth Net Growth