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Interface Forestry

forest stewardship in the wildland-urban interface

Notes and Research

Managing for Forest Restoration

Forest Restoration is simply the long-term process of promoting a state of forest health on a forest or forest stand, including restoring natural ecological process, particularly low-intensity surface fires. On virtually all remaining forests, managing for forest or stand health will requires a long process of intermittent treatments, as a consequence of land use history over the last 100 years.

Managing and planning for forest restoration can unfold on the forest or stand level. On a forest level, planning involves distributing stand conditions to resemble a diverse, naturalistic landscape. Again, the forest planner must refer to a speculative landscape reference model based on historical and ecological evidence. On a forest or stand scale, the forester must design and implement silvicultural treatments at the stand level.

Forest Restoration on the Stand Level

The process of planning and managing for forest restoration involves several general planning steps outlined in the explanatory note, Forest and Stand Management Plans and forest treatments as outlined in the explanatory note, Administration of Treatments. In this context, a key step in planning and managing for forest restoration is to design the target stand, which operationally defines the desired, future stand conditions for a given forest cover type. In addition, we want to identify a corresponding fire regime, to guide our management approach. The steps include:

  1. We first identify the forest cover type that would occupy the stand subject to a natural fire regime. The cover type we identify depends upon the stand structure and composition of the present stand in light of what we know in regard to forest stand dynamics and shade tolerance. For instance, many stands in Montana are dominated by Douglas-fir mixed with a few ponderosa pine. Based on our knowledge of ecological history and stand dynamics, we are aware that ponderosa pine probably dominated these stands before fire suppression.
  2. After identifying the cover type, we attempt to reconstruct the structure of a stand under a natural fire-regime. Several studies have provided us with guides.
  3. The next step is to describe the fire regime that is characteristic of this cover type, in terms of behavior and fire interval or frequency. A common ponderosa pine fire regime in central Montana might include low intensity, surface fires at a rate of every five to twenty years. Several references are available in the northern Rockies, based on the research of fire ecologists.
  4. Based on our current knowledge of the stands potential (and assuming we've conducted a stand exam) and on the information we've acquired from the first two steps, we construct a hypothetical stand table. In the stand table, we specifically state the ranges of values we expect to attain for various measures of stand structure and composition. This stand table is the core of our target stand.

Once we have defined our target stand, we incorporate it into the larger stand plan and proceed from there.

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Forest Restoration on the Landscape Level

Planning and managing for restoration on the landscape level will largely appear as a sum of the stand restoration planning and management, and to some degree, it is. However, landscape planning also involves identifying priorities, which means deciding if some stands need to be treated specially or differently than other stands with the same cover type. For example, stands near burnable structures might require a more intense and immediate fuel reduction treatment than stands more remote from buildings. Other stands might require a lighter treatment or no treatment at all due to uses such as elk habitat. Other areas, such as riparian zones, might be legally off limits to treatments.

Further, in the case of multiple objectives, when objectives conflict, we will have to formulate rules for their resolution. Often this will require us to create special use-zones. For instance, a large property managed for elk populations might require some stands to be far more dense than a restoration objective would recommend.

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Agee, James, K., Fire as a Coarse Filter for Snags and Logs, (USDA, Forest Service, PSW, 2002). PSW-GTR-181 2002.

Arno, Stephen, "Forest Fire History in the Northern Rockies", Journal of Forestry, August, 1990, 460-465.

Arno, Stephen F., David J. Parsons, and Robert E. Keane, "Mixed-Severity Fire Regimes in the Northern Rocky Mountains: Consequences of Fire Exclusion and Options for the Future"(Missoula, MT: USDA, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, 2000). (RMRS-P-15-Vol-5.2000.)

Arno, Stephen, and Terry D. Petersen, Variation in Estimates of Fire Intervals: A Closer Look at Fire History on the Bitterroot National Forest(Ogden, UT: USDA, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, 1983). (INT-301.)

Arno, Stephen, Joe Scott, and Michael Hartwell, Age-Class Structure of Old Growth Ponderosa Pine/Douglas-fir Stands and its Relationship to Fire History, Ogden, Utah: USDA, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, 1983 (INT-RM-481).

Bull, Evelyn L., Catherine G. Parks, and Torolf R. Torgersen, Trees and Logs Important to Wildlife in the Interior Columbia River Basin (Portland, OR: USDA, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, 1997). PNW-GTR-391.

Everett, R., P. Hessburg, J. Lehmkuhl, M. Jensen, and P. Bourgeron, "Old Fores in Dynamic Landscapes," Journal of Forestry, January, 1994: 22-25.

Fischer, W., and Anne Bradley, Fire Ecology of Western Montana Habitat Types East of the Continental Divide, Ogden, UT: USDA, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, 1987 (INT-223).

Fischer, W., and B. Clayton, Fire Ecology of Montana Forest Habitat Types East of the Continental Divide, Ogden, UT: USDA, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, 1983 (INT-141).

Hann, Wendel, "Characterization of Biodiversity in the Northern Region," Proceedings: Northern Region Biodiversity Workshop(Missoula, MT: USDA, Forest Service, Region One, 1992), 15-20.

Hunter, M., Wildlife, Forests, and Forestry: Principles of Managing Forests for Biological Diversity(Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1990),

Lane, Eskew, comp., Forest Health Through Silviculture, Proceedings of the 1995 National Silviculture Workshop(Ft.Collins, CO: USDA, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, 1995).(GTR-267.)

Mehl, M.S., "Old-growth Descriptions for the Major Forest Cover Types in the Rocky Mountain Region", in M.R. Kaufmann, W.H. Moir, and R.L. Bassett, eds, Old-Growth Forests in the Southwest and Rocky Mountain Regions, Proceedings of a Workshop(Ft. Collins, CO: USDA, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiments Station).

Morgan, T., C. Fiedler, and C. Woodall, Characteristics of Dry Site Old-Growth Ponderosa Pine in Bull Mountains of Montana, Doctoral Dissertation, University of Montana, Missoula, School of Forestry, December, 1999.

O'Hara, Kevin L., Uneven-aged Management: Opportunities, Constraints, and Methodologies(Missoula, MT: Montana Forest and Conservation Experiment Station, 1995).

Oliver, Chadwick and Bruce Larson, Forest Stand Dynamics (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1996).

Proceedings of the Fire History Workshop, October 20-24, 1980, (Fort Collins, CO: USDA, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, 1980).(GTR RM-81.)

Read, D.J. "Plant-microbe Mutualisms and Community Structure," Biodiversity and Ecosystem Function, Eds. E.Schulze and H. Mooney(New York: Springer-Verlag).

Savage, Melissa, Tori Derr, Alexander Evans, Eytan Krasilovsky, Ken Smith, and Henry Carey, "Short Guide for Developing CFRP Restoration Prescriptions," New Mexico Forest Restoration Series (Las Vegas, NM: New Mexico Forest and Watershed Restoration Institute, 2008).

Unknown author, "Old-Growth Forest Type Descriptions," compiled from Forest Service Meetings in Spokane, Wa (June 11, 1991) and Missoula, MT (Oct.4, 1991), USDA, Forest Service.

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