It didn’t get much press attention at the time, but a Trust Land Transfer approved in early June by the Board of Natural Resources came with some interesting strings attached. And those strings might help save part of Washington’s forest heritage someday.
The transfer of the Tukes Mountain parcel in Clark County to the City of Battle Ground will now provide 30 acres to the city to be used to develop the cities park programs. The Common School Trust will be reimbursed for the land through a legislative appropriation.
Although this land is now property of Battle Ground, DNR will keep the rights to protect a portion of the parcel that contains a viable gene pool reserve. This reserve contains native trees that haven’t been managed or harvested. By reserving this landscape, DNR is preserving the original genetic makeup of forests in this area. ….
DNR maintains a system of these gene pool reserves representing many areas throughout western Washington. They serve as a kind of insurance policy, providing a pre-management seed source in case a discovery is made that managed forests are having problems within their genetic makeup.
Trees genetically adapt to the climatic conditions of the areas where they grow. For example, a Douglas-fir tree growing in Montana might grow well there, but not so well in coastal Washington. Maintaining this adaptation when new trees are planted is important to keeping forest habitats healthy. DNR and other forest landowners use carefully developed guidelines to ensure that they choose the right seed sources when they replant after logging or fires.
Jeff Debell, a natural resource scientist for DNR, says “We are very careful with our choices of seed source for replanting forests, but it is important to have some way to recover if we should learn that our understanding of appropriate seed sources is wrong.”
The trees on Tukes Mountain, and their counterparts in dozens of other gene pool reserves around Washington, provide that extra protection of our forest’s genetic heritage for the future.