FORESTRY INFORMATION

Introduction

The mission of the Forestry Branch is to "provide good stewardship of the forested training lands of JBLM by ensuring the continued existence of a healthy forest that supports military training, sustains native plants and animals, and benefits local communities." JBLM has 61,000 acres of forest, woodland, and savanna, most of which are actively managed for military training and for commercial and non-commercial uses.  Forest management activities are carried out by on-site professional foresters and technicians. These activities include forest improvement, reforestation, forest protection, and maintenance of forest access roads.

Background

Over the years, JBLM’s forestry program has evolved in response to mission needs, land management philosophies, and environmental stewardship requirements. A formal forestry program was established at Fort Lewis in 1953. In 1961, Federal legislation established the Army’s reimbursable forestry program, allowing installations to use proceeds from timber sales to support forestry activities. By 1964, the age and canopy structure of most forest lands on Fort Lewis were the result of one or more harvest entries or post-settlement wildfires, and 90 percent of the forest was less than 70 years old. Standing commercial wood inventory was only 430 million board feet, about one-fourth of the current inventory. During the next 20 years, much of the timber harvest was pulp and firewood because of the small average size of trees. Since 1984, with larger trees, logging has removed primarily sawtimber (larger stems used for lumber), with an annual average treated area of 2,000-3,000 acres. Starting in 1992, the primary harvesting regime shifted from traditional thinning, which creates more uniform forests over time, to variable-density thinning, which creates more structurally diverse forests over time. The current inventory is nearly two billion board feet.

Army forestry programs act relatively independently, with no timber harvest targets or uniform management requirements. These programs typically pay part or all of such installation services as wildland fire suppression, dirt road maintenance, and manipulation of forest stand structure to support military training and provide ecosystem services. Under the Sikes Act, each installation with significant natural resources must have an Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan (INRMP). The JBLM INRMP was created in 1999 and revised in 2007. A new revision is under review that incorporates McChord Field. The Forest Management Strategy was finalized in 1996 and became a component plan of the INRMP. It was revised in 2001 and 2005. A new revision is currently under review by the USFWS.

Timber Sales

The Timber Sale Program designates areas for commercial wood harvest, determines how much wood is available and the harvest method to be used, and marks trees to be cut. Actual timber sales are sold and administered by the Army Corps of Engineers, which maintains an office on JBLM. These sales are bid on mostly by local loggers and sawmills, contributing to the local economy. From time to time, special harvests occur to accommodate military training needs. In addition, much of the logging debris is removed from sales so as not to inhibit troop movements. Annual harvest in recent years has been about one-third of estimated annual forest growth. Forty percent of net revenues is sent to Pierce and Thurston Counties to support schools and roads, and the balance supports Army forestry programs at other installations.

 100 years of forest growthThis image shows the change in basal area per acre over the next 100 years (excluding any future management).

Stand Development

The Army requires a continuous canopy for aerial and terrestrial cover for training purposes on the base. The Stand Development Program oversees the re-establishment of forest cover in areas that were harvested or died naturally due to disease. These areas are planted with different species that will reestablish the forest and add diversity to the environment. The program also seeks to develop multi layered canopies by planting in gaps created by variable density harvest. JBLM hosts a unique population of Ponderosa Pine. This uniqueness offers seeds for forest that are increasingly unavailable due to urbanization of the area. JBLM is assisting state and local agencies in maintaining that seed bank.

Fire Management

The Wildland Fire Management Program is responsible for prevention and suppression of wildfires. Forestry personnel are assisted by the JBLM Fire Department, and sometimes the Washington Department of Natural Resources and adjacent fire districts, for suppression of wildfires, almost all of which are started by military training (exploding shells, pyrotechnics). Forestry personnel also assist the JBLM Fish and Wildlife Program and the Center for Natural Lands Management in carrying out prescribed burns to reduce fuels, control Scot’s broom, and restore prairie habitat.

Ecology

The Ecology Program is responsible for implementation of the Forest Plan in an ecologically sound manner, specialized forest inventories, ecological restoration, and research. Plan implementation has two components: a) annual reviews and periodic revisions of the Plan, and b) review of proposed individual forest management projects for conformance to the Plan. Ecological restoration is conducted in Oregon white oak and ponderosa pine woodlands and savannas. Oak woodlands are a declining habitat in southern Puget Sound that many wildlife species depend upon. The pine is native, and, where the understory is native prairie, forms a globally unique plant community found only on and adjacent to JBLM. The purpose of restoration is to move these woodlands/savannas back towards their pre-European condition, reintroduce fire as a natural process, and improve habitat for wildlife. JBLM Forestry has supported forest ecology and management research for more than 20 years conducted by the U.S. Forest Service and  faculty members at academic institutions.

Wildlife and Wetlands

The northern spotted owl was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1992. While currently there are no owls on the installation, nor any designated critical habitat, the Army must manage portions of its forests to create owl habitat in the future. The western gray squirrel is listed as threatened by the State of Washington, and its habitat needs affect the design of many timber sales and ecological restoration projects. The Forestry Program maintains buffer zones around lakes, streams, and wetlands, within which little or no timber harvest occurs.

Sustainable Forestry Certification

In 2002, Fort Lewis became the first Federal ownership in the US to be certified as a sustainable forestry operation by the non-profit Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Each certification lasts five years, and there are annual audits. Fort Lewis was recertified in 2007 and again (as JBLM) in 2012. To be certified, forest ownerships must meet all of the applicable Principles and Criteria of FSC. In addition, US ownerships must meet the specific requirements of the FSC-US Forest Standard. These principles, criteria, and standards cover a broad spectrum that includes biological, economic, and social considerations.

Inventory and Monitoring

Forest inventory measures the current status of the forest. Forest monitoring tracks how this status changes over time. At JBLM, there are several types of inventory and monitoring, accomplished in-house or by contract. Each of these projects must have appropriate experimental design and field protocols to assure accurate and repeatable measurements. Once collected, the data must receive quality assurance, then be analyzed to produce timber volume and other forest metrics. For more information, reference the JBLM Monitoring Summary.

 

Contact Info

To report wildfires, call 911

To report nuisance smoke, call
253-912-2049

Information on firewood

Services

PW Sharepoint

Sustainable

Housing

Environmental

FYI