Coastal old-growth coniferous forest habitats in the Pacific Northwest have been extensively converted to young even-aged stands over the last century as a result of commercial timber production. These young-managed forest stands contain highly simplified forest habitats (uniform, evenly spaced tree canopies and little understory structure or plant diversity) that provide poor habitat for many species dependent on old-growth forest habitats. Managed forests also contain high densities of forest roads that fragment wildlife habitat, route sediment to streams, and significantly alter the timing and duration of water runoff to a stream system. Today, young-managed forests dominate the 700,000 acre Willapa Bay watershed of southwest Washington where less than 1% of the original old-growth forests remain. The loss of old-growth forest habitat and continued impacts from intensive forest management threaten remaining populations of a wide diversity of species, including the Federally threatened marbled murrelet and northern spotted owl, Federal candidate coho salmon, and numerous invertebrate and amphibian species of concern.
Forest management techniques such as variable density thinning, under-planting, and the promotion of large woody debris (snags and downed logs) have been scientifically shown to accelerate the development of complex habitat conditions in young forest stands. Such techniques will be used in conjunction with road abandonment to complete on-the-ground restoration actvities that span approximately 15,000 acres of forest and stream habitats across both U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Willapa National Wildlife Refuge) and Nature Conservancy (Ellsworth Creek Preserve) properties.
By cooperatively managing forests across ownership boundaries, great strides can be made to maintain the rich biological legacies remaining within this area of southwest Washington and recover these resources for the future.