The Nature Conservancy’s goal is to restore the forests of the Central Cascades to be more resilient to fire, disease and a changing climate.
The forest comprises a wide range of forest types, from the moist western hemlock and silver fir forests near the Cascade crest to dry ponderosa pine forests in the eastern foothills and rich riparian forests growing along mountain streams. The majority of these forests are young plantations less than 40 years old. Older forests, greater than 80 years old, are found scattered across almost 20 percent of thearea in riparian areas and other pockets where past harvesting was lighter and more selective. Weaving through this forest environment lies a web like network of 430 miles of road and over 50 miles of trails.
To restore the current landscape of dense and young forests active management will be used to develop a healthy and more resilient ecosystem that contains larger trees, more complex and variable habitats, and productive streams flowing with clean water. Active management is expected to include thinning in dense forest stands, logging to create openings and diverse forest structure, prescribed fire and management of forest fuels, planting to build forest diversity, repair of damaging roads and trails, and restoration of stream habitat complexity.
The forest management approach follows the principles of ecological forestry as originally developed by Jerry Franklin at the University of Washington and expanded upon by forest ecologists working throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Ecological forestry uses the structure, composition, and landscape pattern created by natural disturbances and other forest development processes as guide posts for management. It relies on the basic assumption that natural forest ecosystems provide and sustain the broad array of ecological functions that people currently want from many forests. Widely distributed large, old trees, provide a critical ecological backbone for forested landscapes. The goal is to restore and sustain core ecological functions while also providing for economic benefits and other social goods and services.
Working with partners in the Tapash Sustainable Forest Collaborative, The Nature Conservancy’s ecologists and foresters will follow the principles of ecological forestry to develop on-the-ground harvest prescriptions and restoration treatments. The Central Cascades Forest will be managed under a certificate of the Forest Stewardship Council, which ensures that our practices meet an international standard of sustainable forest management. Under agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service all forest management will also meet or exceed the requirements of a federal Habitat Conservation Plan designed to conserve a suite of threatened or endangered fish and wildlife species.