Grant to help reforest state trust lands scorched in wildfire

Table Mountain Fire scorched acres of State Trust Lands in Naneum State Forest
Table Mountain Fire scorched acres of State Trust Lands in Naneum State Forest

An Arbor Day Foundation grant will pay for 100,000 seedlings to reforest a portion of state trust lands in the Naneum Ridge State Forest, burned during the Table Mountain Fire last September. This is just the first step of many that will help regrow a healthier forest. The Table Mountain Fire damaged portions of 9000 acres of state trust lands in the Naneum. The wildfire burned so hot and fast that it scorched swaths of trees in its path.

The Arbor Day Foundation works in partnership with the National Association of State Foresters to identify reforestation projects that help support healthy state forests. Forests recovering from fire, storms, disease, and insect damage are candidates for grants to help pay for reforestation.

Washington State DNR was awarded $50,000 to buy 100,000 seedlings to be planted in October 2013. DNR plans to continue to apply for grant funding each year, as this will be a multi-year project.

Additionally, the DNR will purchase 350,000 seedlings from the Webster Forest Nursery at an approximate cost of $170,000 for planting in 2014. The availability of future funding will determine the ability to, and timeline for, reforesting the remaining burned acres that are not part of any salvage logging activity.

Currently, 1,800 acres of the burned area is being salvage logged before it is too damaged to be financially valuable. A portion of the trees will be taken to market, while some will be left as snags and down wood for future habitat and forest structure. As ‘school trust’ lands, they are managed to earn revenue for the state’s K-12 public schools, provide habitat for native species and provide recreation opportunities.

The forest that was heavily affected by the fire is vital to many species of wildlife including the northern spotted owl. The most important environmental benefits are to re-establish a healthy forest more resilient to fire events in the future, and to quickly reforest areas growing suitable habitat for the threatened owl.

The project will reforest approximately 850 acres of burned northern spotted owl habitat that is designated as Nesting, Roosting, and Foraging habitat under the state trust lands Habitat Conservation Plan. The owl habitat borders U.S. Forest Service ownership to the west that also burned. Rapid reforestation also will aid in the recovery to help reduce erosion risks and flooding downstream.

Acting quickly to establish tree seedlings, DNR will take advantage of the site preparation and the available nutrients that were provided by the burn. Plus, DNR will get a jump start on competing grass and brush vegetation, and prevent soil erosion and sedimentation of the area’s fish-bearing streams.