Forestry Friday … Too Many Trees!

forests, forestry, forester artist, biomass, harvesting

After years of fire suppression efforts, our forest have become very dense.

One of the biggest problems in the western forests of the United States is that we have too many trees. It used to be, frequent fires kept the undergrowth clear without killing the older mature trees. Fuel loads weren’t allowed to get too high. With less fuel built up in the forests, fires burned at low intensity.

Much of our forestland is choked with thickets of trees. Timber stands have grown dense from a century of full fire suppression. These thickets are susceptible to insect attack and drought stress mortality. Fuel loads in the forest are huge. The fires of today burn at such high intensity that it is difficult for firefighters to fight them safely. We are now having larger and more destructive fires, such as the Rim Fire that burned into Yosemite National Park.

Thinning so many small trees was slow and expensive, but with today’s modern logging technology we now have the ability to thin these timber stands efficiently.

forests, forestry, forester artist, biomass, harvesting

Thickets like this provide ladder fuels that cause crown fires.

First, the sawlogs are harvested for lumber. Next, the biomass is harvested and put into doodles.  Biomass are the trees or tops of trees that are too small for products like lumber, poles or veneer. Doodles are harvested bundles of small trees.

forests, forestry, forester artist, biomass, harvesting

Doodles

The trees marked in white are the “save” trees that won’t be harvested.

forests, forestry, forester artist, biomass, harvesting

Thinning out the excess trees.

forests, forestry, forester artist, biomass, harvesting

Skidding logs.

Sawlogs being skidded into the landing.

forests, forestry, forester artist, biomass, harvesting

Log processor

The log processor manufactures the trees into logs.

forests, forestry, forester artist, biomass, harvesting

Chipper

The small trees are chipped into a van to be hauled to the co-generation plant and turned into electricity.

forests, forestry, forester artist, biomass, harvesting

Thinned stand

Thinning these timber stands leaves them more resistant to fire and insect attack. A healthy fire is the goal.

forests, forestry, forester artist, biomass, harvesting

Blitz, the canine wood chipper, says, “I’ll chip this doodle myself.”

20 thoughts on “Forestry Friday … Too Many Trees!

  1. Very interesting Tim, your work is fantastic. Out of interest, in those pine forests are dead wood habitats important and are some trees therefore left as they are in our deciduous woods for fungi and dead wood invertebrates? Or is the timber not really that beneficial for dead wood specialists?

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  2. As we are from completely different areas and use different techniques for restorations… I’ve wondered about how the fire loads are dealt with out there. It seems with the many wildfires out your way that this type of clearing would be a top priority out there. I’ve been driving out your way and have extinguished many fires along the roads from smokers throwing cigs out windows. Is there as many prescribed burns out there as we have here? We’re burning every day here now. I did get a chuckle from ‘doodles’, that term is a new one for me. 😃

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    • It should be a priority, but the cost is very high. So it isn’t done on a scale that would make it truly effective. Piece meal efforts don’t stop big fires. Prescibed burning is risky with the fuel loads so high, and with lots of people living in the wildland interface the liability is huge. If your fire gets away and the state has to help put it out, they will give you the bill for fire suppression cost, which can be pretty big once the air tankers shop up. It is quite a dis-incentive to use fire. Mechanical fuel reduction is very expensive. Thinning and chipping during logging operations can help subsidise the extra costs.

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  3. That was interesting and most informative, I was going to ask the same question as Mike Howe, so i’m glad to have an answer. We have forests of pine here in UK but on a mcuh smaller scale, though some bigg[ish] ones in Scotland. and apparently they’re not particularly ecologically friendly or useful habitats.

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    • Certainly, managing those elements of the forest important to wildlife makes a big difference to the habitat. Leaving snags, logs, hardwood trees and protecting wet areas help make a difference between fair habitat and great habitat.

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  4. Tim I know you can take pictures and show us how to maintain the forst trees, but waching along the painting sketchinng is amazing work! Blitz not going to change… I hope he paid for the toilets rolls in doing extra forest hours….

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  5. It’s really good to see responsible management. Where I live there’s always many fires in various directions every summer and we can often see the smoke in the distance. I hope the forests around here aren’t too overgrown…

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      • The southern part of northern california. The closest hillsides around me are mainly chapparal forest, but there’s pockets of pines and oaks scattered around and in the distance are taller and denser forests. I think it was last summer that there was a big forest fire a little ways to the north and my town was used as a staging ground for a whole army of fire fighting vehicles. The immediate danger to this little area is probably low due in part to the amount of agriculture, but when there’s a nearby fire one side of the sky will have a long streak of smoke across it and sometimes it’ll rain a little ash and the air quality gets low…

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