Our 270,000-acre laboratory on the Olympic Peninsula

Can selectively thinning a forest build better habitat for animals? Could it make the forest itself more resilient to disease, insects, storms and other potentially destructive natural events? DNR foresters are working with scientists from the University of Washington and elsewhere to explore these types of questions. Their laboratory is the Olympic Experimental State Forest (OESF), a swath of more than 270,000 acres on the west side of the Olympic Peninsula in Clallam and Jefferson counties.

For more than 20 years, forested state trust lands on the western Olympic Peninsula have been a focal point for experimentation with innovative forest management techniques. The goal is to help forest landowners learn how to better integrate ecological values and commodity production across the landscape.

To guide these activities and address specific issues within the forest, DNR recently published the OESF Forest Land Plan. Developed with input from the scientific community and the public, the plan will guide foresters in implementing an experimental management approach called “integrated management.” This approach seeks to manage a working forest simultaneously for timber harvest revenue and ecological values. Specifically, the OESF goal is provide revenue to public schools and other trust beneficiaries while managing for ecological values including habitat for northern spotted owls, marbled murrelets and other native wildlife.

DNR will host a scientific conference, “Linking Science to Natural Resource Management,” on April 20 in Forks. Scientists from DNR, the University of Washington, the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station and The Evergreen State College will be on hand to share what they’ve learned so far from their work in the OESF.

The Olympic Experimental State Forest is a member of the U.S. Forest Service’s National Experimental Forest and Range Network. The 80 sites in the nationwide network are living laboratories that help scientists to better understand natural processes and provide useful information to land managers.