Plum Creek

A Day in the Life of a Forester

Written by Brian Mize, Field Forester
Photographed by Hannah Letinich, Volunteer Northwest Photographer

My feet are cold and damp.  My jeans are fighting my belt with the weight of water as I follow a line of faded pink flagging through the brush.  It has been a historically dry year, and I’ve missed the sound of rain falling through trees.

It is a good day to be a forester.

I am scrambling down the hill toward Dingbat Creek, a tributary to the West Fork of the Teanaway River.  This is a small piece of TNC’s Central Cascades acquisition in Kittitas County.  The previous owner, Plum Creek, had identified this hillside of trees for harvest.  They flagged the boundaries, buffered the streams, submitted a forest practice application, and named the project “Shaft” (not in homage to a famous 70’s detective, but a reference to a large air shaft that remains onsite, which allowed coal miners to breathe in the tunnels below).

Despite all the prep work, Plum Creek did not harvest this slope before the acquisition.  That is why I’m here, soaking wet, observing the current condition of this forest, thinking about the future, and asking a simple question, “Should we intervene, or let it be?”  Halfway down the hill, I answer this question for myself when I begin replacing the faded flagging with fresh replacements.  I understand doing nothing is always an option, but I have worked in the woods long enough to see that thoughtful, pragmatic and farsighted managers can achieve Aldo Leopold’s assertion that “a thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community.”  Washington can have healthy, resilient forests that provide clean air, water and wildlife habitat.  We can build sustainably vibrant rural economies that create jobs in the woods and mills.  There is much work to be done, and I know TNC is committed to this vision.  I’m proud to be a small part of it.

Forests for Our Future: Progress on a Plan

Management of nearly, 50,000 acres of forestland in the Central Cascades

Written & Photographed by Ryan Haugo, Senior Forest Ecologist

Last winter we celebrated the acquisition of 47,982 acres of forestland in the central Cascades from the Plum Creek timber company last winter with lots of high fives and back slaps.  Yet we knew that the “real work” still lay ahead of us. We knew that soon we would be very busy writing the Central Cascades Forests Management plan.

What does a management plan for the conservation of nearly 50,000 acres across the central Cascades look like? This plan will cover everything from our overarching conservation objectives to details on recreational access, timber management, and ecological restoration strategies.

Just over six months later and we are deep into the development of the Central Cascades Forests Management Plan. First off was a series of community outreach meetings, in Cle Elum, Ellensburg, Yakima, and Seattle. Now we are busy synthesizing everything we know about these lands and developing the framework to guide management for years to come.  Most certainly a daunting task.  Luckily, we are able to work with some of the premier ecologists and forest management consultants in WA State, Northwest Natural Resources Group and Stewardship Forestry, in drafting our plan.

What does it take to write a forest management plan for nearly 50,000 acres? Analysis of inventory data, field verification and surveys, ecological modeling, developing maps, and lots of discussion and creative thinking. While this inevitably involves (too much) time in front of computer screens, it also means that we need to get out and get to know these lands in person.

While I’m not sure if we can yet say that the finish line is in sight for the management plan, it is certainly getting closer. I know that the entire team is excited to soon be able to share the details of our plans for these lands. Time and again during the community outreach meetings, I was struck by the long history and deep personal connections that so many people across Washington have with these lands.  It is quite a responsibility and honor that we now have to steward these diverse and amazing lands.

Learn more about the Forests for Our Future.