Climate Change

Ending the DNR Mandate Will Help Limit the Effects of Climate Change in E. and W. Washington 

Summer of 2014 - Methow River; Carlton Complex Forest Fire

Summer of 2014 – Methow River; Carlton Complex Forest Fire

Climate Change Predictions include: overall temperature increases, year round, increased precipitation in winter in western Washington (less snow, more rain), decreased total precipitation in eastern Washington

The dried up White River floodplain, Mt. Rainier N.P.

The dried up White River floodplain, Mt. Rainier N.P.

Likely Effects: W & E WA: Drought-stressed forests, increased insect outbreaks, and shifting species compositions. a) Western Wash. more frequent and intense river flooding–negative consequences for humans, as well as salmon and steelhead; b) Eastern Wash. – higher fish kills in dewatered streams, more forest fires, etc.

Trees are the best defense against climate change: A wisely managed, conservation driven, salmon centered forestry plan provides the best bulwark against the ravages of climate change – see below:

A Mandate-free DNR Could Signal New Priorities by Renaming the Current “TFW Agreement” (“Timber, Fish, and Wildlife”) the New “FWT Agreement” (“Fish, Wildlife, & Timber”)

Note: None of the principles or practices below are new — they are just rarely used/emphasized in our mandate driven, revenue focused management plans — That “TIMBER” is listed first in TFW says it all.

“FWT” Forestry Fundamentals: Principles for Foresty in the Climate Change Era:

  1. Establishing water as the primary forest resource
  2. Managing for conservation, preservation, and restoration of fish and wildlife trumps — timber revenue is last in line as an obj.
  3. Forest — fire mitigation is key — the DNR could pioneer new planting and harvesting regimes that maximize forest fire mitigation effects and switch personnel from timber trust sales to fire prevention, mitigation, and fighting.
  4. Managing for long-term environmental and conservation goals trumps short-term revenue seeking goals.

“New FWT Foresty Fundamentals:” Key Elements and Practices

  1. Mixed species forests – no more “mono-culture” crops of Douglass Firs to harvest like corn
  2. 80-150 year harvest rotations (“forest harvest intervals”), depending on species, elevation, growing conditions, location, etc. (instead of current 35-50 yr. DNR rotations) — Older trees use three times less water than younger trees and help retain it longer into the summer, according to EPA studies on the Nisqually River.
  3. Selective harvesting, with decreased clear-cutting
  4. Steep slope logging bans
  5. Double and triple sized stream vegetation buffers in drought prone-areas, etc.
Image result for dried up salmon in dry stream bed

Dead salmon in dried up river bed

Some groups are already addressing climate change’s impacts: for example, Forest and Water Climate Adaptation: A Plan for the Nisqually Watershed. Yet a DNR freed of fiduciary pressure to maximize tree harvests for schools would make such efforts far more widespread on the states 12.1% of state forestlands PLUS on Washington’s 35.6% privately held forestlands. (12.1% + %35.6% = 47.7%)

“Multiplier effect”: because private timber lands must follow DNR rules, almost half (47.7%) of our state forestlands would suddenly be managed in a FAR more progressive fish and wildlife friendly manner than they are currently. This “multiplier effect” is perhaps the single best reason to drop the DNR mandate.

“New FWT Foresty Fundamentals:” Restoring Cool, Steady Stream Flows

  • Salmon & steelhead need cold, clean water & adequate stream flows to survive
  • But DNR mandate style excessive logging of premature trees near streams:
    – Decreases water temperature
    – Decreases stream flows, especially non-peak, summer/fall flows

Other Results: decreased water retention and soil stability, unnatural hydrological water flow increase during run-off/rain, increased slope-side erosion and sedimentation of river bed, increased stream-bank erosion, channel widening and spreading, shallowing of overall stream depth, lost deep water pools, decreased cold-water refugia, decreased water surface effective shading.

Old Trees Save Water and Keep Streams Fuller and Cooler Longer!

Young vigorously growing forests can consume over three times more water than old forests according to field research report from the EPA on the Nisqually River (Moore et al. 2004).

Larger, older trees (100+ year rotations) consume less water, increasing flows, retaining water longer and decreasing stream temperatures because:

They provide more “effective shade” –a. which reduces water temperatures in main-stem salmon bearing streams and tributaries. which reduces water temperatures in smaller creeks, cricks, draws, and seeps, all of which contribute to lower main-stem water temps

Forest-wide and Statewide:

Summary/Review of: The benefits of the “New FWT Forestry Fundamentals” in the era of climate change

  1. Carbon sequestration: Larger trees and more of them increase carbon sequestration and mitigation of local carbon pollution as well as oceanic carbon-based acidification, which is likely a cause of plummeting salmon returns.
  2. Insect infestations: Multi-species forests are less prone to devastating insect infestations than mono-culture forests (JOAE), and therefore provide less consolidated fuel sources for forest fires.
  3. Cold water refugia for salmonids: Larger trees retain more precipitation/moisture & release it more slowly during dry periods, helping to sustain low flows in creeks and rivers, shade them, and keep stream temperatures below fish killing lethal temperatures over 70 F.
    • This is crucial on the East side of the mountains in dry areas, but also in Western Washington where summer droughts drain streams so low that stream temperatures often obtain salmon killing temperatures in August and September.
    • Crucial cold water refugia for salmonids is enhanced by presence of mature trees and their enormous root wads, whether standing/or providing shade at streamside or laid down in the stream, providing shade, cover, and cool water in our ever warmer watersheds.
    • Pools and current breaks formed around such trees form cold water refugia like “cold water stepping stones,” as in the Willamette River.
  4. Sediment delivery and in-stream sediment loading and scouring is mitigated by mature, multi-species tree stands, with large root wad systems that hold soils and slopes in place much, much better.
  5. Slide prone areas: Mature trees play a crucial role in limiting the intensity and severity of slide activity.
  6. Such mixed stands of mature trees and healthy, diversified forests provide a bulwark against the extreme weather patterns in the age of climate change.
  7. Flooding problems are mitigated by the “New FWT Forestry Fundamentals” especially on the west side of the Cascades and in the Olympics, where more intense rains are expected to make river flooding a common and severe problem.
Image result for forest fires washington

WA DNR photo, E. WA 1991 forest fire

Forest fires: Limiting the growing threat with the New FWT Forestry Fundamentals
  1. Larger stands of older trees often limit excessive undergrowth that fuels forest fires, and they do not burn as rapidly and explosively as smaller “stems” or trees — good practice for mitigation of the ever intensifying droughts and forest fires in Eastern Washington.
  2. Insect infestations: Multi-species forests are less prone to devastating insect infestations than mono-culture forests (JOAE), and therefore provide less consolidated fuel sources for forest fires.

“Part of the solution to all of the forest fire (sic) problems … is to restore the biodiversity and resilience of ecosystems so that they can once again tolerate fire … we must ensure that when forests burn (as they inevitably will) the fires will be of low enough intensity to cleanse the forest floor without roaring into the tree crowns and destroying everything in sight.” From Forest Fires: A Reference Handbook, by Philip N. Omi

Climate Change in Washington is already here and will only intensify — Nisqually River flood — Tacoma News Tribune photo

Climate Change in Washington is already here and will only intensify — Nisqually River flood — Tacoma News Tribune photo

Image result for washington state flooding rivers

Unknown WA river