A professional forester from Port Townsend met me at the property for an informative and enjoyable five hours walking through the entire 15 acres. I emphasized that my primary aim for the evaluation was to assess current forest health and determine an action plan for any areas needing proactive attention. He adapted and focused on that. It was a pleasure working with him.
Interesting / fun notes:
- 145′ tall trees: He measured one tree that looked like a healthy representative of the upper canopy, and he estimated it was 145 feet tall.
- Surviving nearly-logged tree: He found a tree (by the east property boundary near the southeast corner) that had the scars of two separate springboard notch in it plus the very visible healed-over remnants of an undercut. The tree was on the imminent verge of being cut down over 80 years ago, but for some reason was not felled and is now looking very healthy, seemingly recovered well from those early serious cuts near the base.
- Fire: There are visible remnants of charring at the base of some older trees with thick bark. Both deliberate and natural forest fires did occur in the area. So, this was not surprising. The forester even initially looked to see if he could find evidence of that history, which he did.
- Snags: There are a large number of beneficial snags (dead standing trees), creating important supportive habitat for woodpeckers, other birds, insects, and small mammals.
- Identifying hemlock versus Douglas fir: At ground level, it can be difficult for a novice to differentiate between Douglas fir and hemlock without seeing the needles or cones up close. One way to determine the difference at ground level: put a knife into the bark and peel out a chunk; this will reveal a uniform red color for Douglas fir or a mottled red and white cork-like pattern for hemlock.
- Site index: Soil survey maps indicate a site index of around 88-94, but Mike estimated that my site productivity is likely higher than that at around 100.
Action items for forest management:
- Thinning: The southerly flat portion of the property was thinned well during its last thinning perhaps 20 years ago, and it is now naturally thinning itself. It does not currently require additional thinning in that large area. The northerly sloped portion of the property does require thinning. Trees there should generally be about 8 or more feet apart, depending on local conditions, crown, and light competition. Since the northerly portion may involve significant logging and thinning for a building site, solar access, and view expansion, this may take care of itself although the boundaries. The east/west sides there will still need to be thinned appropriately.
- Diseases present: There are pockets of laminated root rot in the forest, and it is taking out trees in places. This frequently occurs in Washington forests, and is not easily avoidable. Planting disease resistant trees (summarized below) and providing healthy living conditions for current trees will help counteract the laminated root rot effects. The fruiting bodies / shelf fungus on the bark of trees were also noted as red ring rot. This can create valuable hollowed-out cavities over time because the red ring rot attacks a tree from the middle. Many trees can withstand its effects for a long time, and the amount seen on the property did not indicate an area of concern regarding long term mortality for the majority of the current forest stock.
- Watering and fertilizer: The best defense against root rot and other diseases is a strong tree. For special trees warranting extra protection, watering and applied fertilizers (including manure) can help. Even if a tree has root rot, a large strong tree can resist it for a very long time.
- Hemlock unhealthy: The hemlocks on the property are doing poorly. Hemlocks are susceptible to drought, and they may have been weakened by the low rainfall volume of the Coupeville area. Many hemlock are dying off on the property, and they should not be re-planted.
- Douglas fir healthy: The Douglas fir are generally healthy, except for a few pockets of root rot.
- Cedar, maple, grand fir, and madrone for planting: Western red cedar and big leaf maple should do well in the shaded understory and are resistant to root rot, so they will make excellent candidates for new tree plantings. Cedar lives a very long time and can become a succession species over centuries. Maple will provide more structural diversity within the higher older coniferous trees and provide additional habitat, with lower level branches and deciduous characteristics of more lateral branching. Grand fir can also provide some forest diversity and a moderate amount of disease resistance. For my personal preference, madrone should also be planted. However, they are very finicky and difficult to grow from seed or shoots. Western white pine may also be a good addition for the site conditions, but the species is vulnerable to western white pine blister rust disease.
- Alder re-planting: since the site’s alder are generally coming to the end of their natural longevity, alder could be replanted around the perimeters of clearings that will be created for a building site. They will bend toward the light, and will do better in that scenario than in shaded areas of the property. They should be positioned so that the phototropic bend of the trunk does not cause the tree to become a danger tree for structures.
- Pacific dogwood: This species would be a good candidate for re-planting in areas that I would like to maintain low height trees (for surrounding view or solar access), but the species can be difficult to initially survive.
- Planting spacing: If trees are protected, monitored, and maintained after planting, then initial spacing of 16 to 20 feet can be done. If trees will be left on their own, then closer spacing may be needed to allow for higher mortality percentages and ensure that some survive through early growth stages.
- Deer repellent: Deer repellent can be important in protecting young shoots that deer like to browse on (especially for cedar), and can be more effective than tree skirts. Plantskydd is a good brand (lasts about 6 months), and there are others. This can be purchased from commercial nurseries.
- Understory to add: Several bushes were noted to not be widely present and were recommended for habitat and understory diversity. These included Indian plum, pacific ninebark (area may be too dry, though), and western flowering dogwood or pacific dogwood (can be difficult to transplant and establish).
- Referrals: The report also included specific contact referrals for seedling sources, restoration specialists, and forest contractors for logging, clearing, milling, and tree work.