RTI’s Timber-Rural Advisory Board
includes members representing non-industrial private forests
(east and west), community leaders, tribal forestry enterprises,
forestry consultants, Washington Farm Forestry Association,
The Olympic Natural Resources Center (ONRC), American Forest
Resource Council, Washington Contract Loggers Association,
Washington Hardwoods Commission, Columbia-Pacific RC&EDD,
Northwest Forest Products Workers, United Brotherhood of Carpenters,
Okanogan Communities Development Corporation, USDA –
Forest Service Cooperative Forestry.
RURAL ADVISORY BOARD SETS PRIORITIES
The Rural Advisory Board reviewed progress, proposed
new projects and established new priorities.
- Affordable forestry technology training and web-based
- Case studies to understand the economic and environmental
impacts of new regulations.
- Continued development of road management tools and GIS
- Development of scientifically credible habitat and instream
functionality models to support alternative management plans
demonstrating the impacts of different treatments.
- Shade and LWD modeling.
- Small Forest Landowner Office database development and
- Alternative plans for riparian management - e.g. thinning
in the core zone.
- Retrospective studies of prior buffers and thinnings to
validate treatment alternatives.
- Ag tree buffer pilot project preparation; alder growth
- More eastside support for case studies.
- Develop alternative strategies for design, layout, and
administration of fuel removal projects that incorporate
the use of risk assessments for landscape planning (completed
and published 7/03).
- Characterize non-market benefits of fire risk reduction
to support to support comprehensive cost/benefit analysis
of hazardous fuel removal investments (completed and published
- Develop alternate management strategies for fire risk
reduction in the South Deep Watershed of the Colville National
- Develop a carbon accounting system linked to forest management
and product processing (programming refinements are ongoing
but accounting system is operational).
- Develop a marketing report based upon purchaser surveys
and interviews to advise the WA DNR timber sale program
for dry forest areas at risk of insect, disease, and fire
- Develop a landscape management planning assessment for
the Bremerton Municipal Watershed.
- Conduct GIS assessments to support federal assurances
for the Forest and Fish Agreement that develop riparian
OUTREACH, EDUCATION, and PUBLICATIONS
In addition to training programs, findings are being
made readily available via web site, newsletter, Fact Sheets,
publications, and numerous presentations. Funded graduate
students working with faculty and Extension personnel receive
valuable training and assistance and enter the job market
with better technological skills.
- 7 short courses: GIS, GPS, LMS, Forest and Fish, and Innovative
- Development of roads training workshops for small landowners
in collaboration with WA DOE and WA DNR (implemented 2004).
- Collaboration with WA Community Colleges, Tribes, and
WSU Coop Extension to broaden higher education opportunities
for rural constituents
- 50+ professional presentations to 40 different groups.
- Testimony: WA State Legislature to present RTI economic
analysis of Road Maintenance and Abandonment regulations.
- Field demonstration sites were designed for buffer management
educational seminars. West side complete; East side in progress.
- Web information is extensive (newsletters, 23 project
fact sheets, presentations, papers, image archive)
- Technical tools are web available (road layout, culvert
layout, Landscape Management System software and tutorial,
conversion calculator, www.ruraltech.org).
- An annual review of activities and priorities generated
input from the RTI advisory board, participating faculty,
and extension personnel on how to do an even better job
- Many calls and letters of appreciation have been received.
RIPARIAN MANAGEMENT CASE STUDIES and ALTERNATIVE PLANS
Landowner concerns about regulatory constraints ranked
high on the advisory groups’ priority list. Case studies
provide detailed insights into the impacts of management alternatives
not possible from statistical studies. The opportunity to
both lower costs and provide better ecological protection
through site specific alternative plans is allowed, but only
available if it can be shown that environmental protection
is not reduced.
- Ten Western Washington small owner case studies show wide
disparities in Total Forest Value losses that could be largely
mitigated by adoption of the Forest Riparian Easement provided
by the state to mitigate extreme economic impacts, but only
if the funds available are increased substantially.
- However, bare-land values are reduced to near zero or
even negative values with any substantial share of acres
in the riparian zones as the riparian easement program only
mitigates losses in standing timber values, not land value.
This will ultimately contribute to increased land conversions
since sustainable forestry is not economic.
- To date, many small owners are choosing to do no management
in the riparian zone, the worst case both economically and
environmentally short of conversion. Both lack of knowledge
about the alternatives and their complexity are contributing.
- Case study findings have contributed to improved interpretations
within the rule making process and implementation by the
DNR Small Forest Landowner Office (SFLO).
- Alternative plans are being evaluated that include reducing
excessive tree densities, hardwood conversions, placing
large wood in streams, designing asymmetric buffers that
afford equivalent protection while better complementing
road layouts. Templates are needed to reduce costs, complexity,
and acrimony that characterize the present ID team process.
- Ten East-side case studies show similar disparities and
economic impacts. However, the regulations prevent multiple
entries that are needed to reduce fire, insect, and disease
risks prevalent in Eastern Washington forests. Alternate
plans can improve upon the chances of restoring old forest
conditions but so far have shown little improvement in economics
or motivation to sustain good forest practices. Templates
are needed to reduce costs, complexity, and acrimony that
characterize the present ID team process.
- A pilot project was developed to test the hypothesis that
hardwood riparian buffers on agricultural lands can provide
an opportunity to improve salmon protection by reducing
effluent run-off and increasing shade while providing harvestable
timber to increase the income potential of the land to agricultural
DESIRED FUTURE CONDITIONS for WILDLIFE and RIPARIAN FUNCTIONS
The credibility of the relationships used to show the
impacts of forest management on habitat and stream conditions
is a central issue to the future of successful management
decisions and especially for the opportunity to demonstrate
improvement through alternative plans. Habitat, shade, woody
debris and other models can be used to measure improvement.
- The Habitat Evaluation Procedure (HEP) developed by Washington
Fish and Wildlife has been mechanized and linked to stand
structure information from the Landscape Management System
allowing ready evaluation of management treatments. A range
of Habitat Suitability Indices (HSI's) have been incorporated
and demonstrated on a number of forests and NIPF properties.
Projections of habitat suitability have become routine outputs
for characterizing management alternatives.
- Instream functionality indicators have been developed
for shade, woody debris, and particulate matter as the more
important functions impacted by forest management. These
measures are being used and evaluated to support alternative
- East side models have been developed to estimate thresholds
of fire risk and insect infestation based upon Stand Density
Index (SDI) metrics that are being developed into a look
up table based upon average diameter (DBH) and trees per
acre (TPA) to serve as a density guide for forest land owners.
- Demonstrating no degradation in function for a reasonable
number of important indices is possible and may ultimately
become an acceptable procedure.
- An assessment procedure to test whether alternative plans
are significantly different and less desirable than the
distribution characterized by old forest stands holds promise
as the most foolproof defense for alternative plans. Doing
nothing is generally much worse than managing stands for
desired conditions and more costly. While complex, once
acceptance is established, templates can be developed for
easier identification and implementation.
- A literature review has been conducted that reveals a
growing consensus in the scientific community that active
management in young forests is more likely to produce older
forest conditions quicker than no management. This review
has been summarized in an RTI fact sheet “The Emerging
Consensus for Active Management in Young Forests”.
DRY SITE THINNING AND FIRE RISK REDUCTION TECHNOLOGIES
A century of fire suppression has resulted in many forest
stands east of the cascades that are overstocked with suppressed
small diameter trees with a high likelihood of catastrophic
fire. Efforts to reduce fuel loads are hampered by low product
values, high harvest costs and other environmental concerns.
- Working with the Okanogan, Wenatchee and Fremont National
Forests, supplemental funding was received to examine how
harvest unit design efficiencies might reduce operational
costs of small diameter fuel reduction activities.
- A dry site thinning training module for designing treatments
appropriate to a wide variety of stand and local market
conditions has been developed. Requests for supplemental
funding to initiate technology training for risk assessments
and hazardous fuels reduction planning have been submitted
to the BLM, Forest Service, and the BIA.
- Market and Non-market values from fire risk reduction
(fire fighting costs, property and lives lost, water saved
regeneration costs, public value of lower fire risk etc.)
that are often overlooked in cost/benefit analysis of investments
in hazardous fuels removals, while variable by area, have
been shown to be much larger than the cost of mechanical
thinning of small diameter trees to reduce the fire risk.
- Analysis of alternative strategies shows that aggressive
thinnings, while leaving a large tree overstory, are essential
to effectively lower fire risks and restore older more sustainable
forest conditions. While removal of some merchantable trees
reduces the treatment cost as the limiting factor, it increases
the resistance from those that are against removals. The
inability to offer long-term contracts for fire risk treatments
without litigation is a primary constraint on fire risk
reduction on public lands but is being addressed by Stewardship
End Result Contracting authorities newly granted to federal
- Small diameter trees if removed to reduce fire risk could
provide economic development opportunities for rural communities
that include establishment of cogeneration facilities to
produce green energy from forest biomass.
Forest and Fish regulations require landowners to develop
road management and abandonment plans (RMAPS) that avoid the
potential of slope-failure and unwanted sedimentation. Road
design, distribution, and decommission can be improved with
software to quantify benefits and costs. Requiring upgrades
with minimal benefits can be costly and undermine compliance.
- A web available road layout extension program supports
computerized road pegging.
- A companion culvert placement model is being tested to
assist culvert placement by assessing potential sediment
loads under various culvert mapping strategies.
- Statewide cost estimates for road requirement were developed
contributing to recognition that program changes would be
required before compliance would be likely.
- Economic impacts on small forest landowners for a range
of road requirements were published.
- Findings were present to the State Legislature resulting
in passage of regulatory relief for small forest landowners.
- A field guide for road management has been developed for
assisting road upgrade activities.
- A series of Road Maintenance training seminars is being
developed for 2004 in collaboration with WA DNR and DOE.
CARBON STORAGE ACCOUNTING AND INCENTIVES
Carbon credits can be a potential source of income complementary
to environmental protection and timber growing. Credible biomass
predictions of timber growth and carbon storage in the forest
and forest products will be necessary.
- With supplemental funding support from Columbia-Pacific
RC&EDD a comprehensive carbon storage model has been
developed and linked to the Landscape Management System
for carbon accountability in response to management alternatives,
and economic performance.
- Using the findings of the Consortium for Research on Renewable
Industrial Materials (CORRIM) carbon tracking was extended
through product storage, biofuel displacement and product
- Results show that while long rotations can increase carbon
storage in the standing forest biomass the magnitude of
the carbon consequence from product substitution that results
from failure to produce lumber from harvested trees more
than offsets losses in standing forest biomass.
- Given the importance of increasing carbon storage in the
near term, results show more intensively managed but short
rotations significantly increase carbon storage at no or
little cost increase and reduce reliance upon fossil fuels
to produce energy intensive product alternatives.
SMALL FOREST LANDOWNER OFFICE DATABASE
The Forest and Fish Agreement recognized that small landowners
would need help in complying with complicated regulations
and mandated creation of a supporting Small Forest Landowner
Office and development of a database to report on the impacts
on small owners.
- There has been no database sufficient to even count the
number of small forest owners let alone to analyze changes.
Under interagency agreement a data processing program was
developed for the SFLO to bring county level tabular information
from tax records into a common framework and, where available,
integrate GIS spatial information. Definitional differences
were harmonized and reports on ownership patterns developed
(Tabular report completed and submitted to WA DNR; Spatial
analysis is ongoing county by county as funding becomes
- Given the inconsistent quality of data across counties,
a validation study on two counties with generally good GIS
information was completed to better understand the uncertainty
and character of data errors. In spite of the data deficiencies
the new integrated database on small owners provides better
source information than was previously available.