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Redwood Forest Foundation

Spring 2013 Newsletter

RFFI Moves Forward with 2013 Priorities
by Tom Tuchmann

Tom Tuchmann
Tom Tuchmann
RFFI Acting Executive Director,
US Forest Capital

Spring is in the air and the Redwood Forest Foundation is gearing up for another productive year of riparian restoration, timber harvest and some exciting new ecosystem service opportunities. Most importantly, the Foundation has begun its search for a new president, as Kathy Moxon describes in her column.

In last fall's newsletter, I described RFFI's extensive fiscal and resource management modeling efforts, the results of which will guide our management decisions for the next 5 to 10 years. Unfortunately, our debt was significantly increased as a consequence of the US economic recession and the resulting three-year delay in selling the easement. But the good news is that our fiduciary responsibilities have been restructured by the Bank of America based on the amount of funding RFFI received for the conservation easement. This has been an intensive and frankly difficult effort, but now we do have a new path forward that will preserve and protect our forest and allow us to meet our fiduciary responsibilities.

At the heart of all RFFI's forest management decisions is the fact that past logging practices have left our young forest in strong need of restoration. More specifically, nearly 38% of Usal's volume is now comprised of tanoak, with Douglas fir contributing another 36% and redwood just 26%. RFFI would like this species mix to be reversed, with redwoods resuming dominance and hardwoods receding to no more than 20% of total volume. To achieve this, the Foundation has determined that using variable retention in the coming decades will help restore these forests along with servicing our debt.

Variable Retention

This silvicultural approach to timber harvesting retains some amount of the pre-harvest stand - based on structural elements or biological legacies (trees, snags, logs, etc.) - for integration into the post-harvest stand in order to achieve various ecological, social and geomorphic objectives. The size and amount of the timber retained will vary depending on RFFI's ecological goals for a particular stand.

As Drs. Jerry Franklin and Norman Johnson write in their highly recommended December 2012 Journal of Forestry article, "... one specific objective of these [variable retention] harvests is to provide for continued creation of diverse early seral ecosystems..." Our objective is to restore Usal stands that are dominated by tanoak to their original redwood and Douglas fir dominance; however variable retention will not be required in all stands, and those that are already redwood-dominated will be harvested through selection. It is also important to note that variable retention will only be implemented through the first 60-year harvest cycle. Indeed, our conservation easement requires a move to full selection harvest by the end of the first rotation.

While variable retention will allow the Foundation to reduce the amount of tanoak, we also must find techniques to retard its return and that of other brush species after timber harvest. This is no small task. To determine how to best move forward on this issue, the Foundation has established a vegetation management committee, chaired by Dr. Greg Giusti, that will report back to the board in the 3rd quarter of 2013 on various options.

Making a vegetation management decision also allows RFFI to move forward with drafting a safe harbor agreement and the Forest Stewardship Certification and Option A planning documents. More on this in coming months, along with the results of the vegetation management approaches.

Finally, under the leadership of board member Richard Gienger, the Restoration Committee has identified three restoration projects where we will be working with Trout Unlimited, Pacific Watershed Associates and our other partners to apply for cost-share funds. The South Fork Usal and Anderson Creek are the focus for placing large, woody debris in-stream to improve survival conditions for young salmonids, and Phase V of the Standley Creek restoration project will finish up after the Foundation's successful Phase I-IV efforts to restore the fish habitat and reduce sedimentation.

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