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Forest health issues driving harvest project

Impact to view not lost on owners Prairie Tree Farms

A view of the Prairie Tree Farms property showing issues with dead and dying standing timber, and trees and debris stacked along the hillside.

Credit: Glenn Poxleitner
A view of the Prairie Tree Farms property showing issues with dead and dying standing timber, and trees and debris stacked along the hillside.

— Timber harvests under way south of Grangeville will address much-needed forest health and fire safety issues. The resulting work will impact residents’ scenic view of the mountain – that fact is not lost on landowner Prairie Tree Farms.

“People here think of that as ‘their mountain,’ and they’re [Prairie Tree Farms] very attentive to that, and to the public as this view being very important to them,” said Glenn Poxleitner, forester/log buyer for Idaho Forest Group (IFG) in Grangeville, which is providing timber management services for the company.

An estimated 80 acres of Prairie’s private timber ground will be harvested in an area stretching from the lighted cross and going west toward the section of already harvested state lands. Pineda Brothers Logging is conducting the line machine work and is expected to complete it in mid- to late-January, weather pending, otherwise to finish up later in 2018. Logs will be sent to IFG and other area mills for production into lumber and pulp.

“Twelve thousand trees are on order,” Poxleitner said, seedings – 18 months old and about a foot tall, at time of planting — that will be planted along the hillside in the spring of 2019. “These will be mostly larch, some Douglas fir,” he said, that will be more fire-resistant and, especially in the case of the larch, will do better at that high elevation.

It’s been a project under consideration by Prairie for the past three to five years, according to Poxleitner, that will address long-standing land management issues. The resulting harvest will clear the area in preparation for replanting, but the resulting cleared acreage visible from across the prairie they knew would be an issue for some who have long enjoyed the view of this forested hillside.

But the timing has come together on multiple issues for harvests to begin. Tree health is one.

“About two of every 10 trees up there are dead or dying,” Poxleitner said, with the remainder in poor health. The current stands in the project area are comprised of several species including alpine and white fir, lodgepole pine and some spruce.

Age of trees in these naturally developed stands, along with disease, is leaving dead and dying standing timber, and as well as many lying thick along the forest floor, according to Poxleitner. In many places, stands are thickly grouped — this is an issue for tree health, in trees with shallow root systems less able to withstand regional high winds. Though Prairie would prefer to leave some trees standing for seed and also aesthetics, those left would likely not be strong enough to stand the winds alone, and it would not be cost effective to go in later to remove these.

These tight groupings also aggravate wildfire spread.

“This is also for wildfire reduction,” Poxleitner said, to reduce fuels and provide conditions less conducive to wildfire.

From an economic standpoint, this is a good time to harvest as the current log market is “at its highest point as it’s been in almost forever,” he smiled. And, as the trees stand on the ground, as harvest is delayed, there is corresponding economic value lost in the logs.

“Prairie is trying to manage this timber in a positive manner,” he said. “They want to look out for the next generation, how this will benefit the people who come after us.”

“They want trees growing on this land, too,” Poxleitner continued, but they also realize it will not look like it did following harvesting for several years until seedings grow sufficiently to begin filling in the empty spaces. Meanwhile, the positives behind the harvest will see fruit in improved forest health and complement wildfire mitigation efforts implemented in Prairie’s lands and adjacent private and public properties.

This is a crop like any other agriculture product, he said, and one they want to manage for the future.

“From a forestry perspective, this is the best thing we can do,” Poxleitner said.

For questions about the harvest project, contact Poxleitner, 208-983-4190.


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